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Beano Cook: An Unforgettable Man and Mentor

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Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated

The following entry was written by Senior Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations, and dear friend of Beano Cook, E.J. Borghetti.


On the day of his passing, the name "Beano Cook" was a trending topic on Twitter.

It was a humorous irony that I know he would love. 

Beano didn't use Twitter. He likely had no idea what it was. He didn't own a computer or cell phone.

The man formally known as Carroll H. Cook, born in 1931, was a product of a different age - and I say that intending to give him the highest possible compliment.

Beano was far too colorfully complex to be described in a mere 140 characters. His stories - and his wisdom - could never get their just due in a Facebook status update.

In the year 2012 we can communicate with each other at light speed in so many different ways. But do we really know each other? Sadly in my profession, we are often only known by our email address or, yes, our Twitter handle.

There was a reason Beano Cook was the greatest publicity man of all time. If you met Beano, you remembered him. He made an indelible impression that was impossible to forget.

When Beano was spreading the word about Pitt Athletics from 1956-66, he did it with a handshake, a phone call, a personalized handwritten note - all with his unmistakable original flair.

If Pitt was playing at UCLA, he would fly to Los Angeles days in advance to visit the city's newspapers and television stations.

Legendary New York sports editor Dan Parker called Beano "the greatest publicity man since Barnum -- and, on second thought, Bailey, too." In describing his first meeting with the Pitt press agent, Parker wrote that Beano "barged into my cubbyhole and granted me permission to listen while he interviewed himself."

A larger than life personality? You bet. He will always be remembered for his sharp wit and one-liners. But behind the sound bites was a deeply insightful and intelligent man. Beano could wax eloquent about World War II history just as effectively as he could about The Four Horsemen. He was a man of diverse knowledge and passions.

I consider Beano a dear friend and invaluable mentor. I won't use past tense in saying that because when people are an integral part of your life they will always be part of it, even when they pass on.

I've had the honor to occupy his S.I.D. chair at Pitt for nearly 15 years. And make no mistake, that chair was, is and will always be Beano's.

During that time he imparted numerous pearls of wisdom to me, some that's printable and some best left unsaid. Beano's most important lessons had nothing to do with work. ("Talk to your mom and dad as much as you can. Someday you will want to speak to them and they won't be here anymore.")

He incessantly preached to me the benefits of bachelorhood, so much so that when I got engaged in 2005 my father's first words after "congratulations" were "How are you going to tell Beano?"

(In later years Beano would regularly say, "Lauren really got the short end of the stick by marrying you." In other words, he approved.)

I know the many tributes being written about him say he died having never married and with no children. That didn't mean Beano was without family. Legions of people throughout the sports world considered themselves honorary sons, nephews and grandsons to him. That reflects how deeply people respected and cared about Beano.

Everyone has Beano stories and I'll close with one of my favorites.

Four years ago, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg suffered an arm injury and had to wear a sling for several weeks. Beano got word of the Chancellor's ailment and sent him a note.

Written in his barely legible scrawl were the following words:

"Better you than LeSean McCoy."

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