Their love was born amid the chaos and fast-paced world of college sportscasting, she an Indiana University grad and he a former Notre Dame basketball player.
Jordan Cornette looked at Shae Peppler as he worked alongside her at Campus Insiders in 2014 and felt something strange and amazing.
“I felt like I was looking at a much better looking, female version of me,” he said Tuesday, laughing. “I don’t know what that says about me.”
Jordan Cornette (left) calls his wife, Shae, “a much better looking, female version of me.” (Photo: The Cornettes)
But he really liked it. He liked Shae’s outgoing, gregarious personality. How “she would talk to the pumpkin on the door step if it would talk back to her,” Jordan said.
Shae liked Jordan’s big personality and how he made her laugh — all the time.
“It’s still what draws me to him every single day,” she said. “We make each other better. He 100% makes me better at work, at home.”
Those two facets of the couple’s lives, work and home, recently collided in a major way, making history at ESPN.
Jordan and Shae Cornette — they said their wedding vows in June 2019 — are the first married couple to host a show on ESPN Radio. “GameDay” airs Sunday during football season from 1 to 5 p.m.
“I had reservations at first, I was like, ‘We are going to kill each other,'” said Shae, an NFL radio host for Sirius XM. “We live together, we work together. But we have so much fun on Sundays. It’s really the highlight of my week.”
Big brother Joey
Kobe, the 9-month-old golden retriever born on the day Kobe Bryant died was romping about, wreaking havoc as Jordan, 37, and Shae, 34, passed the phone back and forth to answer questions.
In the background, the one not on the phone would tease and make jabs. Jordan, also ACC Network’s “The Huddle” host and college basketball analyst, joked that after IU’s win against Penn State last weekend, Shae is suddenly all in on the Hoosiers football program.
Shae joked back that “we can’t all be Notre Dame (football). Let us have our time.”
Cornette, who played basketball for Notre Dame from 2001 to 2005, was a two-time captain and holds the program’s career record for blocked shots. He is the younger brother of Joel Cornette, a Butler basketball player who died in 2016.
Jordan said Joey, the name his family called him, played a big role in his and Shae’s relationship early on. He lost Joel about the time he and Shae had started to take their relationship to the next level.
“Joey had just gotten to know Shae,” Jordan said. “That was short lived, his time on this earth was short lived.”
Joel, 35, was a sports agent in Chicago when he died from coronary atherosclerosis, a condition that slowly narrows and hardens arteries of the heart. It is commonly called coronary artery disease.
The 6-10 Joel played forward and center for Butler and was credited with helping to put the Bulldogs on the national map, leading the team to its first Sweet 16 in nearly 40 years in 2003. He was beloved by teammates and his family.
“He just carried on in his own authentic way,” said Jordan, “and people adored him.”
When Joel died, it crushed Jordan and turned his world upside down. Shae was his rock, Jordan said.
“I got to see what the depth of our relationship could be,” he said. “I saw this woman is the anchor of my life, the anchor of my family.”
Before he died, Joel told his brother he really liked Shae. It means so much to Jordan that Joel got to meet his future wife.
“I feel like the lucky one,” Shae said.
‘You really have a gift of gab’
Shae was born and raised in Chicago amid a family of sports nuts. There were dogs named Ernie Banks and Wrigley. The family had Bulls season tickets. But Shae never had an inclination to make a career covering sports — until her first college class at IU.
It was an 8 a.m. public speaking class and to get things going, the teacher asked each student to go up front and talk about a random object in the room. Shae talked about a chair.
The time required was two minutes. She went more than four.
“Afterward, my professor said, ‘You really have a gift of gab. You seem to know how to speak about random things with ease. Maybe you should consider a career in broadcast journalism,'” said Shae. “I’d never really thought about that.”
But then she did.
Shae had season tickets for college basketball all four years. At IU, she said, “that was a religion” and her love of sports only grew.
Then came her first break. Her senior year in 2008 when Kelvin Sampson was forced to resign due to NCAA violations, she went about campus to do man on the street interviews. She asked students what they thought about the coach’s firing.
The Big Ten Network was fairly new and didn’t have the resources to send reporters to all the campuses when big news broke. Shae took her package and sent it to the network. Big Ten ended up running it.
“That was kind of my first, ‘OK. I can do this,'” she said.
From there, Shae built contacts with industry leaders who would come to IU. She networked, landed an internship for MTV Networks and Showtime Networks in New York and was a production assistant for Chicago Bears games that were broadcast on CBS.
After graduating with a degree in broadcast journalism and a kinesiology minor, Shae’s sports broadcasting career took off.
“It was all because of IU,” she said. “That’s how it all started.”
‘One of us succeeds, we both win’
From a young age, Jordan said, he had a deep interest in broadcasting. Raised in Cincinnati, he remembers watching Michael Jordan play but being just as enthralled with listening to the broadcasters Marv Albert and Bob Costas.
“Ahmad Rashad was as much of a celebrity to me as any of the athletes,” he said.
A standout athlete himself, Jordan headed for college at the University of Notre Dame. He went there with a mission to get everything he could out of college experience.
Jordan said he used the time to network. To ask questions. To soak in everything he could about TV production.
After graduating with an English degree — and a few credits shy of a film and TV degree — Jordan had a choice. Play professional basketball overseas or start his career. He didn’t want to waste any time.
He started as a production assistant at the Big Ten Network in 2007, doing a little bit of everything.
“It came to a point where I had hit my ceiling with that,” he said. “After prodding from a few close friends of mine, I got in front of the camera.”
From there, his broadcasting career flourished. He’s had gigs as a co-host on “Kap&Co” on ESPN1000 in Chicago, and as host of “The Jam,” a local morning news program. Before coming to ESPN, Jordan spent two seasons as a college basketball analyst with CBS Sports Network.
Jordan has enjoyed all the stops along his career path, he said, but there is one that easily ranks at the top — his Sunday radio show with Shae.
“The No. 1 thing we all know is chemistry. So many studio execs are tying to find that when looking for partners to work together,” he said. “We have it. We can trust each other. There is no ego. If one of us succeeds, we both win.”
Something for everyone
Jordan and Shae say “GameDay” is successful because it isn’t all about football or sports. It’s about every day life and relationships, too.
“One of the things that’s really cool and unique, it’s honestly something for everyone,” said Jordan. “Even if you’re not necessarily the biggest sports fan, you may still pick up other stuff.”
Diehard fans born and raised in Chicago may feel a connection to Shae. Those from Ohio might connect with Jordan. There is the basketball aspect of Jordan and the football side of Shae.
“And I don’t try to look at things through a black and white lens, but it’s something that’s got to be said in this world we are navigating,” said Jordan. “She is white. I’m black. And it’s all good. There are lessons in so many ways for us.”
On air, the banter is magnetic. The comfort level is easy. And the chemistry shines through.
“I know his strengths and weaknesses. I know a lot of times what he is thinking,” Shae said. “If we are going somewhere (a topic) I know he has a strong opinion on, I let him talk.”
There are only a couple of downsides to having the show together. “We are both such big personalities, we need to get out of each other’s ways,” said Jordan.
And the constant pull to talk about work, even when they’re not working.
“If we work together, live together and breathe sports, when we go out to dinner, I don’t want to talk about if the Dodgers won last night,” said Shae.
But the couple say they feel lucky to have found a radio niche. It’s incredibly rare to have a married couple host a sports show.
“We know, ‘Hey, we’ve got something special here,'” said Shae. “Let’s see where this goes.”
Follow IndyStar sports reporter Dana Benbow on Twitter: @DanaBenbow. Reach her via email: [email protected]