Beano Cook, a college football historian and ESPN college football studio commentator, has died at the age of 81.

Cook, a longtime staple of the Pittsburgh sports scene, had worked for the sports network since 1986 and was the sports information director at his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh, from 1956 to 1966. The university confirmed early Thursday that Cook had died in his sleep.

"He was one of a kind," ESPN executive chairman George Bodenheimer said in a statement. "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."

Cook grew up in Pittsburgh before graduating from the university in 1954, and was known for his quick wit, frequent historical references, and his affinity for college football played in the Upper Midwest and Rust Belt states.

''Beano Cook was an American original. His passion, depth and breadth of knowledge, and humor were unique,'' ESPN host Chris Fowler said. ''He was an invaluable early mentor to me and friend. His imprint can still be seen on GameDay each week.''

Holding many titles throughout his career, Cook was ABC Sports' press director for the NCAA after leaving the SID job at Pitt, later working as a writer or media representative for the St. Petersburg Times, Miami Dolphins, the Mutual Radio Network, and CBS before joining ESPN.

''Beano was a unique human being and he was college football at ESPN. I am indebted to him. Beano was a tremendous help at the start of my television career and I would not be where I am today without him,'' ESPN analyst Lee Corso said. ''I am forever grateful to Beano and the time we spent behind the GameDay desk.''

One of his most famous quotes is "Haven't they suffered enough?" after Bowie Kuhn, the Major League Baseball Commissioner, offered the returning hostages from the Iran hostage crisis lifetime baseball passes.

Born Carroll Hoff Cook, he received his unusual nickname at the age of seven from a neighbor in Pittsburgh, as a reference to his recent move from Boston (nicknamed Beantown).