College Sports

USC's beef with Corso is misguided

COLUMBIA -- It's with a great deal of head-scratching that I attempt to understand South Carolina's latest marketing campaign, aimed at ESPN analyst Lee Corso.

I can see why USC would do this kind of campaign -- give Gamecock fans a chip on their shoulders and maybe they'll open their pockets a little more. The $200 million that's budgeted for a massive facility upgrade ain't just lying around.

I just don't see why it's against Corso. I never paid much attention to what he said before he popped off about USC's slim-to-none chances of playing major college football, and I still don't.

USC's already proven Corso wrong on many of the things he said that fateful day. The Gamecocks under Steve Spurrier have beaten Tennessee, Florida and Clemson -- not consistently, but Corso never said "consistently."

Corso also said Spurrier wouldn't be able to recruit to USC. Spurrier's at least on the right path -- his last recruiting class was ranked by Corso's employer, ESPN, as the fourth-best in the country.

So now the next step is apparently to keep playing short videos before home kickoffs, featuring Spurrier encouraging the USC faithful to show up Corso. The thinking seems to be Corso will completely retract his comments if USC has a few more big, beautiful buildings to show off.

My view is an SEC or national title would shut Corso up just as well, with or without the buildings. And why is USC so intent on showing up Corso in the first place, when it's completely unnecessary?

Gamecock fans will give money to the university and the athletic program without being asked or provoked. How else do you explain 80,000 people packing Williams-Brice Stadium six or seven times per year to watch a team that just recently rose above .500 for its entire 114-year history?

As for Corso, are his comments really that hurtful? It's hard for me to be stung by anything the guy says when I see him place a mascot's stuffed head over his own every Saturday.

It just seems like a waste of time, money and resources for USC to pursue this campaign when it could be doing something else useful. Like, say, buying dynamite to blow the granite out of the ground over at the will-it-ever-come new baseball stadium, before Ray Tanner says the heck with it and leaves town.

Athletics officials argue it's all in good fun and Corso wasn't that offended, even when the Web site "letsshowcorso.com" sprung up and featured an online game where users could throw a football at Corso's head. ESPN said it wasn't happy with the move and it could affect USC's future appearances on the network's flagship college football show, "College GameDay," although ESPN also said the importance of the game would far outweigh the potential hostile reaction of USC's fan base.

These same USC officials, contacted last week, said there hasn't been a substantial spike in revenue since the videos began. Granted, it's only been three weeks, but I dare say a win Saturday at LSU would do a lot more wallet-opening than another childish, bush-league attack on Corso.

The latest one had highlights of USC's 16-12 win over Georgia, cut to the tune of Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind." It shows a clip of the USC fans cheering and the words, "Thank you, Gamecock Nation."

Then it shows Corso doing the "GameDay" wrapup later that evening, discussing the upset and saying, "This guy can coach."

Then the phrase "And Thank YOU, Mr. Corso" appears.

Like I said, I suppose this could be considered all in good fun. That's fine, as long as the university doesn't kick itself out of future appearances on "GameDay."

It all seems to be a rather poorly thought-out game of one-upmanship, and despite Corso's less-than-stellar coaching record, I'd give him the edge if this turns into a heavyweight bout.

The only knockout blow USC can deliver is a championship, and while this season has begun better than most, there's still plenty of rounds to go.

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