His real name was Carroll — Carroll Hoff Cook, to be exact.
But to generations of college football fans, he was known simply as Beano, a nickname derived from his early childhood in Boston.
Cook, the lovable curmudgeon whose knack for being quick with a quip or a hilarious anecdote made him one of ESPN’s most beloved personalities during his 27 years at the network, has died. He was 81 years old.
The University of Pittsburgh, his alma mater, announced Thursday that he had died in his sleep.
Upon moving to Pittsburgh at age 7, Beano got his nickname from a boyhood friend because of his Boston roots. His new home would become the city with which he was most associated, though college football fans might suggest South Bend, Ind., was his second home.
Cook was admittedly charmed by Notre Dame, and famously — or infamously — once predicted that touted quarterback Ron Powlus would win two Heismans. Cook made the declaration before Powlus, who came up two Heismans short of the prediction, had ever played a game.
“Beano Cook was an American original,” said ESPN host Chris Fowler in a statement. “His passion, depth and breadth of knowledge, and humor were unique. He was an invaluable early mentor to me and friend. His imprint can still be seen on ‘GameDay’ each week.”
Cook graduated from Pitt in 1954, served as sports information director at the school from 1956-66, and worked various jobs in media relations and at newspapers before joining ESPN in 1986.
“He was one of a kind,’’ said ESPN executive chairman George Bodenheimer. “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.’’
Jon Meterparel, who has handled the “Sports Flash’’ updates on WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan’’ morning show since 2000, is expected to depart the station soon, according to industry sources. Meterparel did not comment when reached by phone Thursday afternoon and did not respond to further requests. Meterparel, whose first love is play-by-play, will continue to call Boston College football and basketball games . . . If you watch ESPNNews — and you should, since it’s essentially “SportsCenter’’ without the annoying bells, whistles, and cold, hard nonsense — maybe you noticed that there’s something of a NESN alumni club forming among its hosts. Jade McCarthy, who left the regional network in August 2011 after less than two years as a host of “NESN Daily,’’ debuted on ESPNNews in late September. She joins former NESN hosts Cole Wright and Randy Scott on ESPNNews’s roster of anchors. No sign of Uri Berenguer yet, however.
No going back
Terry Francona, hired as manager of the Indians earlier this week, will finish out his one-season respite from the dugout as an ESPN analyst when he contributes to the network’s on-site World Series coverage. According to an industry source, it is very unlikely that Bobby Valentine, ousted after one epic mess of a season with the Red Sox, will return to ESPN . . . NBC Sports Network announced that it will broadcast 18 Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball games this season, including the conference semifinals and championship. Northeastern is booked for one regular-season appearance, Jan. 3 at George Mason . . . ESPN hired comedian and former “Fox NFL Sunday” contributor Frank Caliendo to contribute periodically to “NFL Countdown.” Caliendo is a talented impressionist who is funny in moderation, but it may be wishful thinking to expect ESPN to use him right. Moderation isn’t always their thing, especially when Chris Berman is involved . . . Tom Brady will be featured on NBCSN’s kids-centric “The Whistle’’ program at 4 p.m. Friday. The Patriots quarterback will discuss how his leadership style was influenced by his being selected in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft. It’s a worthwhile lesson for kids, to be sure, but for any older fans who want to revisit how one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history became a Patriot, the recommendation here is to go to your DVD rack, TiVo, or even YouTube and watch NFL Films’s brilliant “The Brady 6’’ one more time. Who knows, maybe NFL Films will follow up on this in a few years once Brady retires. Don’t you wonder how Giovanni Carmazzi’s goat farm is coming along?