She's of Scottish-Welsh extraction and has a daughter but no grandchildren. But that doesn't prevent WXFL-TV in Tampa from billing Carolyn Cross, the 81-year-old widow who serves as the station's pigskin prognosticator, as "Granny the Greek." This week the white-haired retired schoolteacher will be starting another season providing weekly on-the-air picks of five NFL and five college games. According to the station, her accuracy rate since her debut in the middle of the '81 season has been a solid 75% for the pros, even higher for the colleges.
Granny began closely following football in the early '20s after taking a job teaching English and Latin at Lynch (Ky.) High School. She and her late husband, C. Austin Cross, a safety inspector for U.S. Steel, rooted for the University of Kentucky and rubbed elbows with Wildcat coaches and players. A Florida resident since 1963, she was "discovered" by WXFL sportscaster Dick Crippen. "She'd called me with questions about games," says Crippen. "The more we spoke, the more I realized she knew what she was talking about. I thought, 'I wonder if she can pick football games.' "
Crippen's prot�g�e takes in as many games as she can on TV—"Mercy, yes, I like to watch football," she says—but relies less on stats than on seat-of-the-rocking-chair intuition. "Granny's not above picking St. Louis because she likes red birds," says Crippen. She also is faithful to her favorite coaches, and it doesn't hurt her accuracy average that they also happen to be winning coaches. Bear Bryant was high on Granny's list because he used to coach at Kentucky, and she's partial to Miami Coach Howard Schnellenberger because he once played there, and to Michigan Panther Coach Jim Stanley, whose team won the 1983 USFL title, because he was in Granny's senior English class at Lynch High. "I picked the Panthers right from the start," she says.
Granny recognizes that her growing following includes bettors, but she refuses to help those who call her at home for tips. "If that's what they want it for. I just don't give it to them," she says. But she quickly adds. "Not that I'm a goody-goody or anything."