Hancock’s Olympic dash started with his boyhood dreams

By Michael Smith
Bill Hancock, here with his wife, Nicki, at the Tokyo Games, his 14th Olympics.Courtesy of Bill Hancock

While Wilma Rudolph established herself as the darling of the 1960 Olympics with three gold medals and three world records, a 10-year-old boy in Hobart, Okla., was consuming every detail of her dominant performance.

 

It was those 1960 Games in Rome that thrilled little Bill Hancock from afar and ignited in him a desire to one day be a part of the spectacle.

“That’s when I fell in love with track and became a ‘track guy,’” said Hancock, now the executive director of the College Football Playoff.

Hancock, who admittedly was not a standout athlete, was never going to make it to the Olympics on performance, although he ran track during his schoolboy years in Hobart. Later in life, his love of track was the impetus for him to begin exploring endurance sports like long-range bicycling and running — he’s completed 15 marathons.

When he was a member of the Big Eight staff in 1984, he joined the USOC for the Los Angeles Games, working in media relations. It was the start of a can’t-miss streak that has become a passion for Hancock. He returned from Tokyo earlier this month, working his 14th Olympic Games, all as part of the media relations staff that distributes credentials and tickets.

With close to 6,000 members of the media normally covering the Games, it often amounts to a logistical challenge trying to prioritize who sits where. But Hancock’s knowledge, connections and poise have made him an important part of the staff. Naturally, the job was less stringent in Tokyo because so few fans were admitted.

“The press boxes at some of these venues just aren’t big enough for everyone who wants to cover the really big events, like gymnastics or Michael Phelps,” Hancock said. “For those media who want to cover the event, but there’s no space in the press box, the IOC allocates tickets. My job is to take the USA allocation of tickets and determine who goes. Are you covering a hometown athlete, for example?”

Occasionally, a member of the media from a U.S. outlet will be surprised to walk into the media headquarters and see someone of Hancock’s stature distributing credentials and tickets. But in his typically humble way, Hancock brushes it off. Why shouldn’t a regular guy who loves track and soaks in the Olympics, the son of a newspaper man, be a part of the USOPC staff?

“Some of the raised eyebrows are funny,” he said. “I’ve been going since L.A. This year is No. 14 for me.”

And it all started with Wilma Rudolph 61 years ago.

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