TIREY: Two former coaches talk UK-UL Football

Lee Corso used to coach Louisville. Fran Curci used to coach Kentucky. Now these two guys work for two of the biggest sports media companies in the world. And they spend their days traveling the country watching college football every weekend. Not a bad life, is it?

Lee Corso used to coach Louisville. Fran Curci used to coach Kentucky. Now these two guys work for two of the biggest sports media companies in the world. And they spend their days traveling the country watching college football every weekend. Not a bad life, is it? But more than that, they each know a thing or two about coaching a program that is down and trying to win where everybody says you can't. And they each have different ideas about how to turn things around at Kentucky in football, the Kentucky-Louisville series, and football in general.

Corso now mugs every Saturday on ESPN's College Gameday broadcasts, traveling to a different campus every weekend, and being adored by college fans everywhere. And he gets to see a little football, too. His first three weekends this season will have him traveling to the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh matchup, followed by the Texas-Ohio State tilt, with a SEC matchup following that with Tennessee visiting Florida. His humor and style have made him the Dick Vitale of the college football world. You know you are an icon when you have a catch phrase embedded in the lexicon of American pop culture, like his "Not so fast, my friend" has become. Not only did he coach at Louisville, but he also coached another Kentucky rival, Indiana.

When Kentucky and Louisville hook up on September Fourth, Corso will find a television to watch. "I look forward to watching that game every year," said the former coach. "Kentucky has had a tough situation with Rich Brooks. He's in the toughest league in America. I don't think the people in Lexington understand how tough that league is. He's got a "building" season going on. I hope they let him continue to build his program." Corso thinks that the game is tough for Kentucky to live up to. "Kentucky has a tough time with Louisville. Louisville now has one of the top ten teams in the nation coming back."

So how does Kentucky build their program to what Louisville now enjoys? Do you fire the coach and start over? Was Kentucky doing the right thing when it hired Hal Mumme? Not according to Corso. "Not so fast, my friend. There is a different way of building a program. It's a lot easier to build a program if you want to cheat. I could have won at Indiana if I had cheated. It's a lot tougher when you do it the right way." Corso preaches patience. "The mentality at Kentucky better be that the Hal Mumme days gave them wins, yes, but also a lot more problems, psychologically, and reputation-wise all over the country." Corso says to give Rich Brooks the rest of his contract, and a firing decision won't have to be made. "If Rich Brooks is an honest, hard working man with integrity, and they give him his full opportunity, whatever the original contract was, and he doesn't win, you don't have to worry about it. He'll leave. I think it's very important for Kentucky or any school to do it the right way. If you give him enough time, and get off his back, and let him have whatever he's got left on his contract without the threat of losing his job…that's what I would do if I were the athletic director."

Did Corso ever want to play Kentucky when he was coaching at Louisville? You bet he did. "I begged Kentucky to play me. In fact, the athletic director told me ‘Coach, we'd like to play you, but we want to play a big name opponent'. They signed Villanova. Are you kidding me? We were too good for Kentucky to play us then." That's what the situation is now in the series, according to Corso. "The reason they don't want to play Louisville now, is because Louisville is very, very good. If Louisville were lousy, Kentucky wouldn't mind playing them in the opener."

Who is Corso picking in the big game? Will Louisville have trouble with Kentucky? "Oh, yeah," said Corso. "First of all, and most important, they're not supposed to have any trouble. A-ha! Number two, Rich Brooks is a good football coach. He knows what to do. He's had some time to prepare. I think last year, Louisville shut them out. Two years ago, they scored a lot of points on UK and won. But that's a perfect situation for an upset for Kentucky. Louisville – top ten in the nation. Kentucky – forget about it. A-ha! Watch out."

Fran Curci is still remembered for one of the most successful seasons in Kentucky football history. He was head coach of the 1977 Wildcat football team that went 10-1. And even though his reign as head coach ended with the taint of scandal, he is still one of the more popular coaches in Kentucky history. Now Curci does radio commentary on the Westwood One Radio Network and their coverage of college football. He did the Miami – Louisville game last year, and doesn't give UK much of a chance this year. And he thinks he has a good idea what could turn around the Kentucky program.

According to Curci, it all comes down to recruiting. "You have to have athletes," said Curci. "It still comes down to athletes. You have to recruit and you have to control your own state first, which Kentucky has not been able to do." After that, some traveling is in order. "Then you go out and hit the Floridas, and places like that. But first, you get the four or five that are in the state here." It never hurts to raid another state for a couple of their better players. "We had great luck in New Jersey with guys like Art Still and Derrick Ramsey. You have to steal a few."

Recruiting can be a complicated thing. But to Curci, it boils down to a common thread that Kentucky just does not have right now. "It's all about good perception. Somehow you have to turn the thing around where people believe this is the right place to go. I firmly believe that UK is the state school. It's got the law schools and the med schools and all that kind of stuff. It should be able to attract the kids. The kids should want to come there. But you also should be good enough, that they would want to be there. I don't think that's working out. It's a tough situation."

What are his thoughts on the coaching staff and the job they are doing? "Rich Brooks, obviously, knows football. He knows what to do. He has to sell that to the young kids and have them be a part of it. It's a hard thing. You got three or four years, and if you don't get it done, it works the other way against you." Curci takes a different approach, as he thinks that the situation would be the same for anybody at Kentucky. "It's not Rich Brooks. It could be anybody. He certainly did not have a strong position to recruit when he came there. You have to have numbers and you got to have players. You do whatever you have to do to get the players. I know Joker is doing that. I'm sure the head coach is doing that. We'll see how this all turns out. I really want them to do well."


Kentucky Football Media Day Photo Gallery by Clay Jackson. Read more about Media Day with Larry Vaught and Jim Tirey.

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