Beano Cook, irreverent college football commentator, dies at 81

October 13, 2012

Beano Cook, a longtime television commentator on college football who had an encyclopedic knowledge of the sport and a gift for irreverent quips, died in Pittsburgh, where he lived. He was 81.

The University of Pittsburgh, where Mr. Cook was the sports information director from 1956 to 1966, announced his death, saying he died Oct. 10 or 11 in his sleep.

Mr. Cook had diabetes, and his health had been failing recently, as he mentioned in a recent blog post.

He was a studio commentator for ABC Sports’ college football telecasts from 1982 to 1985, then began working at ESPN in 1986. He was a studio commentator for the all-sports network for many years before working primarily on ESPN Radio and podcasts in recent years.

Carroll Hoff Cook was born Sept. 1, 1931, in Boston and moved with his family to Pittsburgh when he was 7. A neighbor in Pittsburgh said, “Oh, from Boston, like the beans,” and Mr. Cook became forever known as Beano.

He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1954 and served two years in the Army before becoming the university’s sports information director until 1966.

At Pitt, Mr. Cook did publicity for the 1963 football team, which went 9-1 and finished No. 3 in the final polls. His favorite players at Pitt were All-American end Mike Ditka, who later became an NFL coach and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Don Hennon, an All-American basketball player in the late 1950s.

Mr. Cook once tried to arrange a joint photo with Hennon and Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine. The headline of the picture would have been: “The World’s Two Greatest Shot Makers.”

Salk would not agree to pose for the photo.

“The picture would not have made every paper in the country,” Mr. Cook told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2006, “it would have made every paper in the world.”

He later held publicity jobs at ABC Sports and as a writer or media representative for the St. Petersburg Times, Miami Dolphins, the Mutual Radio Network and CBS before becoming an on-air commentator in the 1980s.

Mr. Cook never married and remained close to the Pitt athletic department until his death. The media room at the university’s athletic center is named in his honor.

Mr. Cook was an unapologetic defender of college football and wasn’t shy about touting its superiority to the pro game.

“On Sundays, they play for money,” he once said.

“On Saturdays, they play for passion, for the love of the game. I think that’s why it’s our greatest sport.”

— From news services
and staff reports

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