Jim Corno, president of Comcast SportsNet Chicago, passed away Tuesday morning at the age of 66 after fighting a long battle with cancer.
Corno, a Naperville resident, was a leader in regional sports networks in Chicago, having worked with every station here for nearly 30 years since he came to Chicago in 1984.
"Jim battled his cancer to the very end with both courage and determination," Phil Bedella, vice present and general manager of CSN Chicago, said in a statement to the media. "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.
"The sports television world may have lost one of its brightest stars, but the world has lost one of its greatest people."
Corno got his start in Chicago running SportsVision, and later took a lead in establishing SportsChannel, Fox Sports Net and eventually Comcast SportsNet.
"Jim Corno's impact on Chicago television has been nothing short of monumental," said Jeff Nuich, CSN Chicago senior director of Communications in a tribute to Corno on the company's website. "He was a visionary, a pioneer, a man who loved knowing that his network was being watched by thousands of viewers each and every night."
Under Corno, SportsVision became the first regional sports network in the country to go 24/7, Nuich said, noting other accomplishments such as establishing the first all-local sports news show airing seven nights a week, and developing the groundbreaking "Sports Writers on TV" as well.
At Fox Sports Net Chicago, which launched in 1998, Corno negotiated to have 70-plus Cubs games a year move from WGN-TV to his network starting in 1999. And with support from the Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox, Corno helped to launch Comcast SportsNet Chicago in 2004.
"The average fan may not immediately recognize Jim's name, but I think perhaps no one else in this city has done more over the past four decades to impact the Chicago sports landscape," said Jerry Reinsdorf, chairman of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox. "No matter the situation, Jim always thought about the sports fan first. Whether the game was baseball, basketball or hockey, Jim's focus and obsession was always on how to improve the experience for the viewer sitting at home."
When the Blackhawks offered to bring the Stanley Cup to Jim's house so he could see it one last time, Nuich said Corno and his family had the Cup brought to the Cancer Center at Edward Hospital in Naperville, where he had been receiving treatments over the past year. Corno wanted to give the other cancer patients and caregivers a chance to enjoy their own moment with the Cup.
Corno is survived by his wife, Carolyn, two children, (Jim Jr. and Christina), a daughter-in-law (Lori) and son-in-law (Bennett), and his grandsons )Jackson, Max, Mitchell, Joseph and Scott).
In lieu of flowers, the Corno family has asked donations be made to the Oncology Fund at The Edward Foundation, 801 S. Washington St., Naperville, IL 60540 in honor of Jim.