Why the Big Ten Conference Needs to Honor Bump Elliott

Bump Elliott is a unique man, solid, with a low center of gravity, a winning smile, and a persona which draws people to him. And

Coach Bump Elliott and All-American halfback Bennie McCrae

Coach Bump Elliott and All-American halfback Bennie McCrae

a fantastic football player, with his brother Pete, on Michigan’s ‘Mad Magicians’ of the late 1940’s.

He also has stronger ties with the more Big Ten schools than any person — academic or athletic — in history. He enrolled in the Marines just before his 1943 high school graduation in Bloomington, Illinois, and was assigned to the V-12 Navy College Training Program at Purdue, where he played halfback and lettered in football, baseball and basketball in 1943-44, before being called up to active duty in China in late 1944.

After the war, he enrolled at Michigan, where he starred as the Big Ten’s most valuable player, and All-American, from 1946 – 1948, on a Fritz Crisler-coached team which some say was Michigan’s best ever.

After graduating, he served as an assistant coach at Iowa, Michigan, and Oregon State, before being appointed head coach at Michigan in 1959, where he served for ten years, winning the 1964 Rose Bowl with a team which included 12 players who would later play in the NFL.

In 1970, he began what would be a 21 year career as Iowa’s Athletics Director, during which time he hired and oversaw perhaps one of the most coaching “trees’ ever generated at one school: Vivian Stringer, Hayden Fry, Olympics coach and legend Dan Gable, Lute Olson, and Dr. Tom Davis.

Bump passed through Purdue, for a year. He was a Michigan legend, as coach and player. And he had perhaps as much impact on Iowa athletics as anyone has ever had while at Iowa.

More important: I don’t know if you will ever find anyone who wouldn’t say that he was top-drawer. He had a knack for gathering fundamentally decent, principled and highly competent people around him. (There’s a great old story about his trip from Ann Arbor by car, to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, to recruit high school phenom quarterback Joe Namath. As the story goes, Bump and an assistant didn’t find Namath at home when they arrived there, and drove downtown, only to have someone point out Joe Namath, sitting on the hood of a car, drinking a beer. Bump never bothered to stop — just turned the wheel around and headed home.)

Bump Elliott was the sun, and people loved being around him. The Big Ten will never see another like him, and needs to recognize his impact, with a Bump Elliott award.

About brewonsouthu

lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
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