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It was 25 years ago when I first met Carroll Hoff "Beano" Cook. I was a freelance researcher for "College GameDay," which was an in-studio show in Bristol, Conn., back then. Times have changed.
Part of my job was picking up a 12-pack of diet Dr Pepper and Mr. Cook, delivering both to the ESPN studio.
Over the years, I was fortunate enough to work on several assignments with Beano. My favorite role was typing his dictated chats for ESPN.com. Each of those chats had a spontaneously funny line or quip from Beano.
I consider myself lucky to have known Beano, sharing many conversations about college sports and life. He always made me laugh; that was a trait that will always live on. He made many people crack up. I remember when he had the ESPN newsroom in stitches when he and Tim Brando broke out in song, changing the classic "The Way You Look Tonight" so that "lovely" came out as Bob Ley, honoring the ESPN original Frank Sinatra-style.
Beano was extremely knowledgeable about college football, its great history and tradition. He could talk at length about specifics involving a game in the 1940s as if it had been played yesterday.
He was also well versed in many other subjects, including politics, history, and most importantly, people. Beano had a lot of opinions about a lot of individuals over the years.
I do know from experience that if you were a friend of Beano's, you knew he would always have your back, would always be there for you. He had many close friends, people he would speak to constantly. I know how tough his passing is on Ivan Maisel, Ernie Accorsi, Mel Kiper Jr., Mike Vettor, Barry Sacks and many others.
There were other characteristics that stood out. He hated political correctness, and in the early days of our relationship, he said some things people would be fired for in about 30 seconds today. He honestly didn't care, and people around him wouldn't be offended because it was Beano.
The man was old-school in a lot of other ways, too. It drove me crazy that he never had an answering machine. He said that if people wanted to find him, they would.
He was very organized and always had his clipboard close for making notes.
You always knew where you stood when you spoke to him. If he did not like you, he would make that clear. If he did, you would feel that, as well.
I can remember many years ago, going to breakfast with Beano and a few others. My wife, Jodi, was there, and Beano said that the over/under on our marriage was six years. He called Jodi a saint for putting up with me. I am glad I covered that one. He made the same remark to Mel about his wife, Kim, but he only gave them a year, as Mel told me. Wow, Beano was off on that one, too.
He always poked fun at himself. He poked fun at others too. Whether it was Penn State or the Big Ten, he would take a jab, but it was in part out of respect.
There are so many things I would love to say. It is difficult to say goodbye to somebody you spoke to so many times over the years.
This would have been a great weekend for Beano. His true love, the University of Pittsburgh, is playing at home. Army is home on an October Saturday, something he adored. Michigan, playing "Hail to the Victors," is at Ann Arbor. Notre Dame is hosting Stanford (no Ron Powlus winning two Heisman comments, please), and LSU is home on a Saturday night. And the Tigers face South Carolina and Steve Spurrier, who was one of his favorite coaches.
I know that Beano will be watching this weekend from heaven.
God bless. We will all miss you.