(USA TODAY) -- Beano Cook, a fixture of ESPN's college football coverage since 1986 and one of the leading college football historians of his era, died Wednesday night in his home in Pittsburgh, Pa. He was 81.
Cook's passing was confirmed by the University of Pittsburgh, where he served from 1956-66 as the school's sports information director.
To generations of fans, Cook was the grandfather of college football - at times delighting, at times infuriating, always entertaining.
His knowledge of the sport's history earned him a well-deserved title as the "Cardinal of College Football."
Beginning in 1986, Cook served as one of ESPN's lead college football analysts. One of his more famous on-air moments came in 1993, when he said that then-Notre Dame freshman quarterback Ron Powlus would "win the Heisman two times and be the greatest quarterback in the history of Notre Dame."
In recent years, Cook co-hosted, along with colleague Ivan Maisel, a weekly college football podcast on ESPN.com.
"Beano loved college football, and he had the encyclopedic memory to prove it," said Maisel. "More than that, he loved people. He collected friends like some people collect stamps. People would say they don't make them like Beano, because of his ability to be so quotable. But Beano was one-of-a-kind in his friendship. I think all of us who valued that quality in him are very, very sad."
On Oct. 1, Cook wrote on his blog that "health issues hit me at the worst time - start of college football season. Everything except recovery takes a back-burner now. I won't say I'll be back to the blog by a certain date, as some businesses might 'promise,' but I do hope to return soon."
"I think when God created college football, He intended for it to played on grass at 1:30 in the afternoon," Cook said in a recent interview on ESPN.
"A fall Saturday afternoon in late October, the leaves are now on the ground... I think if God comes back and plans to attend one game, it won't be the Super Bowl."