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Archive for Monday, January 29, 2001

MONDAY WOODLING COLUMN

January 29, 2001

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I had heard about Will before I ever met him.

His dad and namesake Bill Hancock was director of the Big Eight Conference service bureau back in the early 1980s and, in that role, he ramrodded the conference Skywriters Tour.

I can remember at least a couple of times when, after the day's work at one of the league's football stops, Hancock and I would talk about our children. He had two boys. I had two girls.

Hancock's oldest son Will was a year younger than my oldest daughter and, it turned out, they both played in their respective high school bands. Later, when my daughter and Will were both Kansas University band members, I would jokingly accuse him of spending more time at KU -- he was an assistant commissioner by then -- than at the other Big Eight sites.

Young Will Hancock also worked in the Kansas University sports information office while a student on Mount Oread. He was a classic chip off the old block. Old Bill and Young Will were cut from the same cloth, both quiet, yet possessed of low-key wit and humor.

Bill Hancock grew up in Hobart, Okla., the son of the owner of the city's newspaper, the Democrat-Chieftian. Bill had little ink in his veins, however. He became intriqued with sports information after working under the legendary Harold Keith at the University of Oklahoma in the mid-'60s.

Will was, of course, interested in sports information, too. After graduating from KU a decade ago, he worked as an SID aide at Arkansas-Little Rock and Evansville before becoming communications director for the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.

Five years ago, young Hancock returned to the state of his roots, signing on as an assistant SID at Oklahoma State. His primary job was men's basketball so I'd see him every time the Jayhawks and Cowboys played, and at the Big 12 preseason media days and postseason tournament.

Kansas and Oklahoma State are scheduled to meet a week from Wednesday in Allen Fieldhouse and I'm sure KU officials will have a moment of silence at that time for Will Hancock; trainer Brian Luinstra, another KU grad; and the eight others who perished in that snowstorm-related crash.

Everyone connected with sports who travels in the winter -- be it coaches, players, administrators, writers or broadcasters -- knows the weather is always an X factor.

A week ago today, when J-W writer Gary Bedore and photographer Earl Richardson and I were in Boulder to cover the KU-CU game, we noted how little snow was on the ground, and reminisced about the many times we'd been in the Denver-Boulder area -- and elsewhere -- when we hadn't been so fortunate.

Saturday's tragic accident will no doubt heighten awareness of the dangers of winter sports team travel and strengthen the unwritten rule that it's better to be safe than sorry.

Today I grieve for all the friends and relatives of the people who died Saturday, but mostly for Bill Hancock and his wife Nikki, who must bury a child, and for Will Hancock's wife Karen and their baby daughter who will never know her father.

-- Sports editor Chuck Woodling can be reached at 832-7147.

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