Fifteen years after his son’s death, Bill Hancock stands as a symbol of hope

Editor’s Note: This story appeared on on April 30, 2016. Bill Hancock, an FWAA member, is the Executive Director of the College Football Playoff.  Author of the story, Vahe Gregorian, is also an FWAA member. 

By Vahe Gregorian/

Bill Hancock of Prairie Village is one of the most influential men in collegiate sports, having run the NCAA Tournament as it was blossoming into a phenomenon and now as executive director of the College Football Playoff.

You’d never know that from the folksy, humble, kind and gentle demeanor of Hancock, who despite those high-profile and at-times controversial jobs, is one of the most popular and appealing people in the sports industrial complex.

But for all there is to admire about Hancock, the most amazing part of his life-affirming radiance is that it survived the unbearable tragedy of the death of his son Will in the Oklahoma State plane crash that killed 10 members of the Oklahoma State family on Jan. 27, 2001.

For all he has achieved, maybe nothing is more important to him now than being a symbol of hope for those in despair even as his own mourning never ends.

That’s why Hancock periodically speaks to groups grieving life’s calamities and why he wrote a book about his own path to coping.