Beano Cook, Colorful College Football Guru for ESPN, Dies at 81

Beano Cook Headshot - P 2012
Courtesy of ESPN

Beano Cook Headshot - P 2012

A favorite son of Pittsburgh, he entertained fans and covered the game for the cable network since 1986.

Beano Cook, the folksy “Cardinal of College Football” who worked as an ESPN commentator for the past 26 years, died Thursday in his sleep, the University of Pittsburgh announced. He was 81.

Cook served as an ABC Sports media director from 1966-74 and did studio commentary for the network from 1982-85 before joining ESPN in 1986. Most recently, he and senior college football writer Ivan Maisel did a weekly podcast.

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“He was one of a kind,” ESPN executive chairman George Bodenheimer said in a statement. “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.”

One Beano quip, tweeted Thursday by USC: “It’s unfair that the USC Song Girls only appear at USC games … They should visit other teams across the country.”

And once asked on the radio during a discussion about popular music to name his favorite band, he replied, “Ohio State.”

A native of the Steel City for more than 70 years, Cook began his career as a sports publicist at Pittsburgh, his alma mater, in 1956. After a decade there, he worked as a publicist or journalist for a number of organizations, including the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, The St. Petersburg Times, the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, the Mutual Radio Network and CBS Sports.

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The media room in Pittsburgh’s Petersen Events Center is named after him.

Born on Sept. 1, 1931, Carroll Hoff Cook received his nickname soon after his family moved from Boston to Pittsburgh. A neighbor said, “Oh, from Boston, like the beans” and called the 7-year-old “Beano.” He was a die-hard supporter of teams from the Northeast.

Cook, who never married, suffered from diabetes and had been in poor health.

“Sorry to say that health issues hit me at the worst time — start of College Football Season,” he wrote Oct. 1 in the last entry on his blog. “Everything except recovery takes a back-burner now. I won’t say I’ll be back to the blog by a certain date, as some businesses might ‘promise,’ but I do hope to return soon. Thanks for your support and encouragement. Enjoy the season! — Beano.”