inducted February 18, 2006
Tens of thousands thrilled to the football exploits of Columbia All-American Lou Kusserow. Tens of thousands more cheered him during his years in pro football. But those crowds were pittances compared to the hundreds of millions who watched Lou Kusserow’s productions during his years as the leading sports producer in television.
Kusserow wasted little time making his presence felt in Columbia athletics. He came out of Glassport, Pennsylvania, to become Columbia’s starting halfback as a freshman, scoring an amazing 15 touchdowns. Nor did his impact lessen in later years.
Playing both halfback and fullback in Coach Lou Little’s famed winged-T offense, and a full-time safety on defense, Kusserow set numerous school records and still held eleven until Johnathan Reese ‘02CC posted record-breaking numbers from 1999 to 2001. He still holds six marks:
- season rushing average (5.9 yards per attempt, 1948)
- career touchdowns (45)
- career scoring (270 points.)
- pass interceptions in a game (4, vs. Yale, 1945)
- career pass interceptions (16)
- longest kickoff return in Columbia history (100 yards, vs. Dartmouth, 1948)
In 2000, Reese broke his record for career rushing yards (1,992), 52 years later. Among Kusserow’s greatest accomplishments was leading the nation with 193 all-purpose yards per game in 1948, the year he led all major-college players with 108 points and scored at least one touchdown in every game.
Kusserow is best remembered for his starring role in one of the biggest upsets in college football history, the Lions’ 21-20 defeat of Army in 1947, snapping the Cadets’ four-year, 32-game unbeaten streak. Although Kusserow’s second-period touchdown was the first allowed by Army all season, the Cadets held a comfortable 20-7 lead in the fourth quarter.
But a spectacular catch by Bill Swiacki of a Gene Rossides pass pulled the Lions within a touchdown. Minutes later, following another Swiacki reception, Kusserow drove through Army's line for his second touchdown of the day. Ventan Yablonsk kicked the extra point that gave the Lions a 21-20 lead, and Kusserow cemented the victory by intercepting a pass at midfield during Army's final possession of the game.
Allison Danzig, a sports writer for The New York Times, nicknamed Kusserow and Rossides the "Goal Dust Twins," a counter to Army's "Touchdown Twins" of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis.
Named an All-American, Kusserow went into pro football following his 1948 graduation. He played 11 games for the New York Yankees of the All-American Football Conference and 11 games for the New York Yanks of the National Football League. He served in the military for two years, then played four years for the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League, earning all-star recognition each year and leading the team to the Grey Cup championship.
Kusserow retired from football in 1957 and went to work for NBC as a business manager; after six months, he became a producer when the network told him that doing so would double his salary.
His television credits included six World Series, five Super Bowls (including the first one), 15 years of professional golf coverage and 12 years of baseball's "Game of the Week." Kusserow was responsible for two innovations in television coverage of sporting events — fixed TV timeouts and multicolored sand traps for golf (it lasted one telecast). By the time he retired from NBC in 1972, Kusserow had won three Emmys.
After leaving NBC, Kusserow managed and lived at country clubs in the Palm Springs, Calif., area. Columbia honored Kusserow with the Half-Century Award in 1990. In 1999, a panel of judges named him among the 10 greatest Columbia athletes of the 20th century and he was selected to the Lions' "Team of the Century" in the fall of 2000.
Kusserow passed away on June 30, 2001, in Rancho Mirage, California. He was 73.