Oklahoma State has suffered another incredible, unimaginable tragedy and some of my first thoughts were for Bill and Nicki Hancock.
They’ve already lived this -- this horrible loss of life. Bill, as you might know, is the executive director of the BCS. He has been called by many, without hesitation, the nicest man on the planet. Nicki is his wife, a loving traveling and life partner. They seem to be inseparable.
I can’t imagine what they’re going through today. Bill and Nicki are from small-town Hobart, Okla. Bill went to Oklahoma and worked for the Big Eight and the NCAA in his wondrous career. Their lives will never be the same.
Two Oklahoma State coaches were killed Thursday in yet another small plane crash that will strike again to the soul of the friendly university in small-town Stillwater. Bill and Nicki are forever part of that soul.
All the pain will come flooding back. It was 10 years and 10 months ago that 10 persons from the Oklahoma State family were killed on the way back from a men’s basketball game. Players, staff, loved ones. In a snowy Colorado field, their small private plane went down.
On Thursday it was Cowboys women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna as well as two others. They were on a recruiting trip. The plane went down in central Arkansas. In the days and weeks ahead, we will hopefully find out how one school can suffer the same tragedy the same way. Probably not. We thought we would have closure at some point after 2001. This is a wound that will never heal.
That’s why I thought immediately of the Hancocks. A lot of us in the profession knew Will Hancock well. As a sports information guy at Oklahoma State, his career track was paralleling his father’s. Bill oversaw the Final Four for the NCAA for more than a decade. Will was a younger, just as friendly version of his dad who made Cowboys basketball pop with his knowledge, story ideas and stats.
The Hancocks’ bright, wonderful son was among those killed in that first crash. It hurts so much now to have to differentiate between the two tragedies.
One impacted the Hancocks directly, the latest no doubt will add to the bottomless sadness they feel each day. Now the pain is back in real time.
There is plenty of sympathy to go around today – to the families of Budke and Serna, to Oklahoma State. But somewhere a saddened, loving couple will be reliving a tragedy that will never leave them.
Pray for them too when you pray for the latest to perish at Oklahoma State.