With Missouri blowing out Texas Tech on Saturday, Bill Cocos was able to head out early. He left athletic director Mike Alden’s suite and boarded the elevator on the way to his bus.
“How about the win?” a fan asked in the cramped elevator.
“The last one’s the best one,” Cocos replied.
The loyal 76-year-old MU fan has had plenty of chances to utter that phrase. Since he started to play the trumpet in Marching Mizzou in 1948, Cocos has never missed a home game.
That’s 337 consecutive contests.
But the streak doesn’t end there. Since 1969, Cocos has only missed two away games. Counting home and away games since 1969, that’s 439 out of 441.
His excuses? He went on a trip with friends on the Colorado River when the Tigers played at Oklahoma State on Oct. 7, 1972, and he was in the hospital when they played at Iowa State on Nov. 27, 2004. In between were 367 consecutive games.
Cocos said he didn’t get any grief for missing the OSU game. “Nobody even paid attention,” he said.
But after returning from the trip, Cocos started his streak with two of the most memorable games he’s attended. The first was a 62-0 blowout loss to then-No. 6 Nebraska in Lincoln, but then the Tigers rebounded to defeat then-No. 8 Notre Dame 30-26 in South Bend. Those games were the start of the roller-coaster ride he’s rarely gotten off.
“To enjoy a team, you have to support them win, lose or draw,” Cocos said. For the record, since 1969, that’s 201 wins, 233 losses and 7 ties.
MU football isn’t the only part of the university Cocos supports. Starting in 1979, he served on the UM System Board of Curators for seven years and was its president in 1983. He’s made a living with his family’s successful plumbing contracting business, which has been in the family for 82 years and through four generations.
“He would be a true friend of higher education, not just a friend of intercollegiate athletics,” said Joe Castiglione, Oklahoma’s director of athletics who left the MU athletic department in 1998 after 17 years in Columbia.
“Whatever recognition goes his way is well-deserved,” he said.
Castiglione had the chance to recognize his friend four years ago in Norman, Okla. When he was hired in 1998, Castiglione established the Sooner Salute, which honored an Oklahoma fan during every home game. But in 2003, he started to do the same for the visiting team.
Who was the first honoree? Cocos, of course. And when the Tigers returned to Norman two weeks ago, the crowd cheered Cocos again when his name was announced.
Cocos has traveled with the MU football team to road games since the early 1980s, but to get to Faurot Field, he and his family get on his bus. He bought it several years ago after renting it out for trips. Everyone sits up front, and the food is in the back.
“We eat well. All you have to do is look at me,” he joked. For the Tech game, the menu was prime rib, twice-baked potato, green beans and salad.
Although the bar is well-stocked with beer and liquor, Cocos doesn’t drink before the game, but he does enjoy “a victory drink” afterward. Like a true gentleman, he always sports a black sport coat with a gold tiger pin he’s worn on his lapel since 1968. His style has become more casual with the times. He used to wear a dress shirt with a tiger tie.
Cocos has watched many MU teams, of course, but he says it’s premature to compare this team with others halfway through the season.
As for the streak, is he still going strong?
“Well, I don’t know how strong I am, but I’m still going,” he joked.