PITTSBURGH — The folksy ESPN college football commentator Carroll "Beano" Cook has died.
The 81-year-old commentator had worked for the sports network since 1986 and was the sports information director at his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, from 1956 to 1966. The university announced Thursday that Cook had died in his sleep.
"He was one of a kind," ESPN executive chairman George Bodenheimer said. "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."
Cook grew up in Pittsburgh before graduating from the university in 1954, and was known for his love of the college game and, in particular, championing the cause of northeastern teams including Penn State and Pitt before either school was a nationally known power.
"Beano Cook was an American original. His passion, depth and breadth of knowledge, and humor were unique," ESPN host Chris Fowler said. "He was an invaluable early mentor to me and friend. His imprint can still be seen on GameDay each week."
Cook was ABC Sports' press director for the NCAA after leaving the SID job at Pitt, and later worked four months in 1974 as a writer at the St. Petersburg Times. He left the Times in July 1974 to become public relations directo of the Miami Dolphins and later worked for the Mutual Radio Network and CBS before joining ESPN.
"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," ESPN analyst Lee Corso said. "I am forever grateful to Beano and the time we spent behind the GameDay desk."
Cook received his distinctive nickname as a youth, when his family moved from Boston to Pittsburgh. A neighbor of the Cook family said, "Oh, from Boston, like the beans" and tabbed the seven-year-old "Beano."