- ABOUT US
Bill Hancock is one of the most prominent figures in the sports world, but he doesn’t let that keep him from helping his hometown.
By Greg Echlin
Published September/October 2018
Bill Hancock stands center stage at the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship.
PHOTO BY CFP IMAGES
As the executive director of the College Football Playoff, Hobart native Bill Hancock might be one of the most powerful figures in college sports. But that’s only a recent gig in comparison to his longtime career as columnist for his hometown newspaper, the Hobart Democrat-Chief.
Hancock writes about various topics—many times, ideas pop into his head on a plane while he is traveling to and from his office in Irving, Texas—on what he calls “Hobart history nuggets” in “Speaking of Sports” each week.
That column was Hancock’s introduction into the sports business. Ransom Hancock, Bill’s father and the former owner of the paper, gave Bill a job to write about sports as a high school junior in 1966. That might sound like a step up from working as a janitor, but Bill says sweeping floors at the paper’s downtown Hobart office wasn’t so bad.
“The best promotion I ever had was when I was fifteen and my dad said, ‘I want you to become the janitor,’” says Hancock, who started throwing papers when he was twelve. “So I didn’t have to deliver papers in the heat and the snow.”
After climbing the ladder at the Hobart paper, Bill worked for the Sports Information Office at the University of Oklahoma. In 1978, Chuck Knight from the Big 8 Conference, whom Bill knew from OU, invited him be the Big 8’s director of communications. After eleven years, he went on to work for the NCAA Basketball Tournament. He then joined the Bowl Championship Series in 2005 and became the executive director of the College Football Playoff in 2012.
But Bill never completely left his hometown behind. He has taken on another role in Hobart despite making only one or two trips back each year: that of the town historian. He welcomes any question about Hobart or the surrounding southwestern Oklahoma landscape he loves. In 2016, a widow came to him after finding an inscribed baseball in her late husband’s belongings.
“She wanted to learn about the baseball and emailed me,” Bill says. “I remembered that he was a veteran and had been heavily involved with the Hobart American Legion team in 1964. Maybe like a coach. I told her about some players on that team. She intended to put the information in a box with the ball, so her grandchildren and great-grandchildren could know about her husband’s life in 1964. Helping her really made me happy.”
To Hancock, it’s all about preserving the names and personalities of people like his childhood best friend, Johnny Hughes, who died of cancer in 2001. Shortly thereafter, Hancock lost his own son Will in the plane crash that claimed the lives of the Oklahoma State basketball team traveling party.
Preserving those memories, along with the rest of Hobart’s history, is important enough to Hancock that it’s not unusual to find him spending time at the Oklahoma History Center poring over microfilm newspaper articles from Hobart and other small towns in Oklahoma.
“Frankly, that’s one of the things I enjoy doing the most,” he says. “Whatever I can do for my hometown, to try in some small way to thank them for what they did for me, that’s my goal.”
Bill Hancock’s column “Speaking of Sports” appears in the Hobart Democrat-Chief every Thursday. hobartdemocratchief.com.