Jim Corno, one of the pioneers in the regional sports network business and a fixture on the TV sports scene in Chicago for nearly three decades, died on Tuesday morning after a long bout with cancer. Corno was 66.
Corno, since 1984, had led the four RSNs that have provided sports programming to fans in the Chicagoland area: SportsVision, SportsChannel, Fox Sports Net and most recently Comcast SportsNet. Corno had served as president of CSN Chicago, which counts the Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks, Bulls and Comcast/NBC Sports as owners, since its inception in 2004.
He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Carolyn; his children, Jim Jr. & Christina; daughter-in-law Lori and son-in-law Bennett; and grandsons Jackson, Max, Mitchell, Joseph and Scott.
Born in St. Louis, Corno got his TV start in the mailroom at KPLR-TV, working his way through the station’s various disciplines. He joined Post-Newsweek Stations as operations manager at CBS affiliate WTOP-TV in Washington, D.C., before being promoted to director of corporate operations. In 1978, Corno joined NBC affiliate WDIV-TV in Detroit as program manager. Six years later he became general manager of SportsVision.
A member of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Silver Circle, Corno won multiple Emmys.
His influence, though, extended well beyond the Windy City environs. Under his leadership over the years, Chicago TV viewers became the first to have access to stand-alone sports news and around-the-clock programming and got fans closer to the players via locker room and postgame press conferences -- all of which are RSN programming staples today.
Read CSN senior director of communications Jeff Nuich's tribute to Corno here.
CSN Chicago vice president and general manager Phil Bedella issued the following statement on Dec. 10:
“I am deeply saddened to share the news that our leader, mentor and dearest friend Jim Corno, Sr. passed away this morning. He was 66. Jim battled his cancer to the very end with both courage and determination.
Jim has been the leader of every regional sports network in Chicago TV history dating back to 1984. He was a pioneer in our industry in every sense of the word. He was also a gifted executive, but his everyday common man approach to business is what set him aside from everyone else. It didn’t matter if you were his peer or just someone trying to break into the industry. He treated everyone he met with respect and there’s no question when he spoke to you, you knew you were the most important person in his life at that moment.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim’s greatest loves, his wife, Carolyn, his children, Jim Jr. & Christina, his daughter-in-law Lori, his son-in-law Bennett, and his grandsons Jackson, Max, Mitchell, Joseph and Scott."
Noted NBC Sports Group president Jon Litner: “All of us who had the pleasure of working with Jim Corno have had our lives touched by his passion and enthusiasm. Jim’s distinguished career left several impressive marks on the sports television industry, and his love for the Chicago sports community—its teams and fans—was captured every night under his leadership at Comcast SportsNet.”
In lieu of flowers, the Corno family has asked that donations be made to the Oncology Fund at The Edward Foundation, 801 S. Washington St., Naperville, Ill., 60540.