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5 Names ESPN Can Turn To When It’s Time to Replace Lee Corso

“Corso is 86 years old and as much as I don’t want to see him leave the show, it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.”

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Between Amazon getting in the mix for NFL games, Tom Brady signing with Fox, and Troy Aikman and Joe Buck moving to Monday Night Football, we’ve seen a lot of movement recently in the football broadcasting industry. Networks are putting more and more emphasis on the personalities and voices surrounding the game than ever before and football’s biggest/best pregame show is going to need a major replacement soon as well. 

In 1987 Lee Corso was hired by ESPN to be an analyst on their college football pregame show known as College Gameday. In 1996 the product hit a whole new level of popularity with one simple addition to the close of each show: headgear. October 5, 1996 was the very first time Lee Corso would famously don the headgear of the team he thought would win at whichever location ESPN was broadcasting from that day. The game was Ohio State vs Penn State in case you find yourself answering some trivia in the near future. Brutus Buckeye got the nod. 

Lee Corso has been wonderful for ESPN and college football fans everywhere love him unconditionally. But, all good things must come to an end at some point, and ESPN needs to find a seamless replacement for the lovable character we welcome into our homes every Saturday during the college football season.

Corso is 86 years old and as much as I don’t want to see him leave the show, it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. Lee has been propped up for the last couple of years by ESPN producers limiting his exposure on TV, Kirk Herbstreit acting as an on-air caretaker, and we let the mistakes slide because frankly, we all love him so damn much. But, again, his time left on the show has to be limited, unfortunately. 

With that, I’m sure ESPN has been scrambling to figure out who is going to be the “next” Lee Corso. It felt like they were grooming Pat McAffee to be that at one point, but I don’t think the audience took to him the way ESPN was hoping. Pat is no longer a part of the show. Since then, it doesn’t seem like they’ve figured out an answer for this very difficult conundrum. 

That’s where this article comes in, I’ve got some ideas. First and foremost, the replacement for Corso can’t feel like a replacement. It can’t and won’t work.

Whoever the network chooses will have to be universally beloved, they have to be willing and able to provide some comic relief, and they have to have a history in the game of college football at the highest level.

This won’t be easy, but I think I’ve got a list ESPN can work with.

  1. Peyton Manning– This might be a little pie in the sky, I mean, who doesn’t want Manning on their broadcast? But I figure he’s already got a working relationship with ESPN doing the ManningCast, so he’s shown a willingness to stay involved in the game, but in an unconventional way. This would be perfect and he’d be great at it. 
  2. Lane Kiffin- If they could ever pull him away from coaching, you know Lane would be A+ on television. He’s charismatic, opinionated, funny, and he knows the game having coached alongside Nick Saban for all those “ass-chewings” as he called them. 
  3. Ed Orgeron– This is my favorite option. Ed is currently out of coaching, so the timing couldn’t be better. Ed is a national champion and has a dynamic personality. I can just picture his grovel-voiced Cajun draw firing away on why he thinks Bama will beat Auburn. He’s the guy they should target when it’s time to replace Lee. Ed Orgeron is college football.  
  4. Jimmy Johnson– Since we’re in the age of pilfering broadcasting talent, why not Jimmie? Jimmie’s worked on the Fox NFL Sunday pregame for years, but he’s got a rich history in the sport of college football from his days at Miami. Jimmy has the personality for it, he’s likable, and he’s aging well. 
  5. Ricky Williams– This one may seem more out of leftfield, but Ricky’s actually done a lot of work on the Longhorn Network over the years and he’s long past his days of dealing with a crippling level of social anxiety. Since his playing days, Ricky has become a companionable personality, very thoughtful and entertaining, and he’s of course got that Heisman Trophy in his past to anchor the credibility needed for that role. 

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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