By Zach Barnett, FootballScoop.com
There was a time when college football was not as popular as it is today. Instead of the Saturday smorgasbords we are treated to on a weekly basis, there was one televised game a week. No matter who was playing, you watched what the network showed and liked it.
Many people deserve credit for the evolution of college football’s popularity, and at the top of that list is Beano Cook. Cook got his start in the business as the sports information director at the University of Pittsburgh from 1956 to 1966. From there, he moved to New York to publicize college football on ABC and CBS. It was his foresight and knowledge of the game that convinced ABC network executives to move the 1969 Texas-Arkansas game from October to December 6. The moved paid off fabuously for ABC, as a nationwide audience watched the top-ranked Longhorns defeat No. 2 Arkansas 15-14 in one of college football’s first Games of the Century.
Cook moved in front of the camera in 1982 for ABC and then later transitioned to ESPN, where he most recently co-hosted ESPN’s College Football Podcast with Ivan Maisel. Born in 1931 and known for a wit quicker than DeAnthony Thomas, Cook waged a lifetime war against baseball. Those two facts collided in 1981 when, upon news that Major League Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn would give recently released American hostages lifetime MLB passes upon their return from Iran, Cook retorted, “Haven’t they suffered enough?”
Cook passed away Oct. 11, 2012, and gave all of his 81 years, save for a two-year tour of duty in the U.S. Army, to the betterment of college football. Now, his alma mater is giving back to his memory.
On Day 1 of fall camp, the football program released this photo:
It’s hard to imagine another FBS program naming its practice fields after a sports information director but, then again, it’s hard to imagine a sports information director as deserving as Beano Cook.
Zach Barnett is an FWAA member.