This is the fifth in a series of columns on the greatest coach in Louisville history. The first post in the series was on Charlie Strong. Click here to view that post. The Louisville SportsReport’s Jack Coffee is taking a look at each of the Louisville football coaches since Frank Camp.
Lee Corso was the antitheses of his predecessor Frank Camp in every way except one, wide-open football. Corso was brash, publicity seeking, loud and off-the-wall. He rode an elephant, waved a white flag while being trounced at Memphis and, at Tulsa on Thanksgiving Day in1969, he sent a turkey to midfield for the coin toss. This was an unconventional coach with a few hang-ups.
His coaching mirrored his devil-may-care attitude. He was as likely to run for a first down as punt on fourth down. Kick a field goal? No chance. In his first game as coach, Louisville tied Drake 24-24 when Corso went for a touchdown instead of kicking a 37-yard field goal with plenty of time on the clock. And it worked. Corso’s wide-open style and gambling attitude drew the attention of Card fans and attendance started to climb with the help of some much-needed promotion. The coach generated excitement and his teams were fun to watch.
Corso was more than gimmicks and trick plays; he could coach. Coupled with his success as a recruiter, his teams were winners. In his second season he went 8-3-1 and won the school’s first Missouri Valley Conference Championship. That same year UofL went to only their second post-season bowl game, The Pasadena Bowl. The school’s first bowl in 13 seasons. It was the first time that Louisville had played more than 10 games, and the first time UofL won eight games since the Sun Bowl season of 1957.
Corso brought good times to Louisville fans. In four seasons he elevated Cardinal football and made it a fun game to watch. After losing 31-13 to North Texas State in his first season he defeated the Mean Green 56-6 in his last year.
Like many that came after him, Corso didn’t last long in The River City. He was way too ambitious to coach at a so-called “small college”. After four years he jumped to Indiana and the perceived “big time”. But as a premonition to those future coaches, he didn’t do well, leaving after nine seasons with a losing record.
Corso gets a B for his win-loss record and a B for “advancing the program”. Although the program went backward in the years that followed, it was not Corso’s fault but more a result of an administration that wanted to de-emphasize football. He created a hunger that didn’t go away for many supporters until the arrival of Howard Schnellenberger.