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Longtime ESPN college football commentator Carroll H. “Beano” Cook – known as much for his caustic wit as for his encyclopedic knowledge of college football history – passed away in his sleep overnight at the age of 81 in Pittsburgh, Pa.
One of the sport’s most memorable commentators, Cook had appeared on ESPN as a college football studio analyst since 1985 after four years at ABC Sports. In addition to college football programming, SportsCenter and ESPNEWS on television, Cook was a fixture as a guest on ESPN Radio and had a popular podcast on ESPN.com.
“He was one of a kind,” said George Bodenheimer, ESPN executive chairman. “There never was and never will be another Beano. His combination of humor, passion, love of college football and his engaging personality left an indelible mark on the sport and touched anyone who knew him.”
Prior to ABC, Cook worked in public relations for CBS Sports from 1977-82. From 1974-77, he worked as sportswriter for the St. Petersburg Times, the director of public relations for the Miami Dolphins, public relations director for Mutual Radio Network, and toured with VISTA. From 1966-74, Cook served as ABC Sports NCAA press director.
Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Ivan Maisel and Howie Schwab – ESPN personalities who worked closely with Cook over his career at ESPN – provided the following memories:
Fowler: “Cook was an American original. His passion, depth and breadth of knowledge, and humor were unique. He was an invaluable early mentor to me and friend. His imprint can still be seen on GameDay each week.”
Corso: “Beano was a unique human being and he was college football at ESPN. I am indebted to him. Beano was a tremendous help at the start of my television career and I would not be where I am today without him. I am forever grateful to Beano and the time we spent behind the GameDay desk.”
Maisel: “Beano loved college football, and he had the encyclopedic memory to prove it. More than that, he loved people. He collected friends like some people collect stamps. People would say they don’t make them like Beano, because of his ability to be so quotable. But Beano was one-of-a-kind in his friendship. I think all of us who valued that quality in him are very, very sad.”
Schwab: “Beano was extremely passionate about a lot of things, most notably college football. He was also extremely intelligent in many areas ranging from history to the television industry. He cared about people. If you were a friend of Beano’s you always knew he had your back and would always be there for you. Miss him already.”
Mike Ditka, a player with the University of Pittsburgh when Beano was the SID, added, “He was special. We became really good friends the years I was in school at Pitt. I don’t know that anybody loved that job and loved Pitt more than he did.”
Cook will always be remembered for his sense of humor. Over his ESPN years, he gave many memorable quips, such as:
- I’d like to do the last scoreboard show and then go. I don’t want to die in the middle of the football season. I have to know who’s No. 1 in the last polls. (1988)
- The three things that mean the most to me in life are my parents, Casablanca and college football – not necessarily in that order. (1987)
- You only have to bat a thousand in two things – flying and heart transplants. Everything else you can go four for five. (1988)
- You’ll never have a 16-team playoff in college football. The most that could happen would be four teams in the next century. But after that, I’m dead, so who cares? (1992)
- Colleges spend more money on the promotion of the Heisman than the Pentagon spends on toilets. (1990)
- Argentina invaded the Falklands because they had ESPN and the Argentines wanted to get the late scores. (1986)
- ESPN is like your family, it’s always there. The networks are like your mother-in-law. They are there on the weekends. (1988)
- When they list the great things of the 20th Century, they’ll say, penicillin, Sophia Loren, jet travel and ESPN. (1992)
- Known for his fear of flying, he would often point out that the first word you see at an airport is “terminal.”
Cook was graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1954 with a bachelor of arts degree. He also served 21 months in the Army, and upon his return, became his alma mater’s sports information director from 1956-1966.
Born September 1, 1931, Cook’s family moved from Boston to Pittsburgh when he was seven. One of his new friends gave him his nickname, “Beano.” Never married, he resided in Pittsburgh the rest of his life.