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Bill Hancock: A Hall of Famer in Any Book

Bill Hancock, a.k.a. The Nicest Man in the World, was introduced as one of this year’s inductees into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame on Thursday.

He and six others will be formally inducted this fall.

I can’t think of a more deserving inductee, though, than Bill.

The sports world currently knows the Hobart native as the executive director of the College Football Playoff, but he’s also been the executive director of the BCS and the director of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and the Final Four. He was the first person to hold all three of those prestigious jobs.

But the thing that makes him deserving of the hall isn’t his powerbroker status in the world of sports. He is deserving because of how proudly he waves the flag for his home state.

He is an unabashed Okie.

Bill tells anyone who he meets that he’s from Hobart, a small town in Oklahoma. That’s because he sees that town and this state as crucial to who he’s become.

And who he is is one of the most competent administrators in sports and one of the nicest folks on the face of planet Earth. He is always willing to stop and take time to share a smile and a handshake and a story.

All of this reminds me of one of the last long conversations that I had with Bill. It was a year ago at Big 12 football media days. Bill was there to talk about the soon-to-be started College Football Playoff. He did a presentation for all of us in the media, then he wandered around the area talking to anyone who asked.

My good bosses at Oklahoman world headquarters wanted me to do a profile on Bill. I never turn down a chance to talk to Bill, but I have to admit, I was concerned. We have written a lot about Bill over the years. Lots and lots. And rightfully so. Not only have his jobs over the years warranted stories, but Bill is also the proud papa of Will Hancock, who was one of the men killed when a plane carrying members of the Oklahoma State men’s basketball traveling party crashed. With his life experiences, we are all better people for sitting at the knee of Bill Hancock every once in a while.

But my worry was this — what was left to write about Bill?

There wasn’t much ground that hadn’t been tilled. But I figured that I could come up with something.

So, at media days, I told Bill that I wanted to chat about how it was that he got to this point in his career, what those moments were along the way that he believed changed the course of his career. We sat down to chat, and literally less than five minutes into our chat, Bill said the words that make every reporter’s heart go pitter patter.

“I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody this story,” he told me.

What followed was a story about a dirty diaper Bill changed that then changed Bill’s life. It became the starting point for one of the most interesting pieces of my career.

In case you missed it, here’s that story:


Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›