As a football coach, Mike Kramer figures he has worked with about 10 sports information directors, and nine of them, he said, would resemble Dave Cook.
“All the SIDs have a common thread,” Kramer said. “Loyalty to the school, and a sense of eternal favor to the coaches, because the coaches are always so emotionally dangerous. Dangerous to themselves and the institution.”
Kramer remembers some of his early years at Eastern Washington from 1994 to 1996, when the football team went 13-20 during his first three seasons. As a young head coach, Kramer said, “A win or a loss, you take it personal.”
“Dave made me understand there’s a level of appropriateness,” Kramer said. “He didn’t mind me being semi-controversial and funny, but he made sure I didn’t crawl into the ditch and make it hard for everybody.”
The next season, in 1997, the Eagles went 12-2 and reached the I-AA semifinals, a level of excellence the program often reached again in the subsequent 23 years.
Cook won’t be around for the next one, though, at least not in the position he has held since 1990. As of Wednesday, he’s retired.
And though Cook, a Yakima native, said he plans to stay in Cheney and to find ways to still be involved in the university, he is hanging up many of the hats he wore as the sports information director for Eastern Washington’s Department of Athletics.
“We’ll be in Cheney for a long, long time till they kick us out,” Cook said, “and I’ll be hanging out at Eastern till they take away my keys.”
Among the sports information directors in Eastern Washington, Cook is the longest tenured – but just barely. Steve Flegel has been at Whitworth University for 27 years and has bumped into Cook many times.
Flegel remembers one particularly busy weekend at Whitworth, when it was hosting a baseball regional tournament and also had a track meet at home. Cook, an avid baseball fan, was attending the game.
“He just happened to be at the baseball game, and I told him what was going on,” Flegel said. “(Cook) said, ‘Oh, I’ll run the meet for you.’ ”
Cook worked as the primary SID for the higher-profile sports, football and men’s basketball, but he also was the point person for cross country and track and field, sports that mirror his passion for running: Barring a setback, at the end of July, Cook’s string of daily runs will reach 10 years, he said.
In 1996, Cook and Jerry Martin, who spent 18 years as Eastern’s track coach, helped bring the WIAA Track and Field Championships to EWU. Cook coordinated entries and results at the event each of the past 24 years. EWU also hosted the Big Sky Track and Field Championships in 1992, 1997, 2006 and 2015.
Cook often helped with various visiting events as well, such as every few years when the NCAA Tournament would host first-round games in Spokane.
“He’s really good at what he does, and it shows with the work he’s put out and the effort he’s put in, and not just for Eastern,” said Bill Stevens, who has been the SID at Washington State the past 14 seasons. “He’s endeared himself to the area. Any big events, he’s always there … whatever he can do to help. No job too big, no job too small. He just likes to be a part of it.”
The job of an SID requires an ability to balance many things at one time, Flegel said, and a person needs to be able to multitask.
Technology has also changed significantly over the past 30 years, and SIDs have needed to incorporate social media and video streaming. Cook has been through all those changes at Eastern Washington.
“The fax machine’s gone,” Cook said. “Good communication skills. I think that’s the most important part. I’m not a very verbal communicator; that’s why I like to write. When email came along, it really helped a lot.”
Cook has also devoted much effort to preserving – and sometimes resurrecting – stories from before his time at Eastern. Since it inducted its first class in 1996, Cook has served on the executive committee for the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame.
Greg Gavin, who was inducted into that hall in 2014, said Cook has been intentional in welcoming the previous generations of Eastern athletes back to campus.
“He’s been really the bridge between say the ’60s and ’70s when the whole thing started transitioning from NAIA to Division II,” said Gavin, a member of the 1967 football team that reached the NAIA title game.
Gavin said Cook bridged that gap in tangible ways, like introducing older players to the current ones before and after games, and in helping put together a 50-year reunion for the 1967 team. For that event, Gavin said Cook set up reservations at hotels, organized a social event and had commemorative T-shirts made.
“Without Dave being in the middle of that, I don’t think it would have ever happened,” Gavin said.
Cook, who can also list off dozens of people who have worked on game-day crews the past 30 years, said he hopes to remain involved at the university in some capacity. But his days of fetching water for media members, arranging interviews and meeting the various demands of an SID have come to a close.
Now, he said, he can spend more time being a fan.
“I still have a great love for Eastern,” Cook said, “and now I’ll steer my way toward being in the stands a bit more.”