Bump Elliott, leader of Iowa’s athletic department for 21 years, dies at 94

The Hall of Fame former Iowa director of athletics oversaw 29 men’s Big Ten Championships.

Robert Read, Assistant Sports Editor

Chalmers “Bump” Elliott, who guided men’s athletics at Iowa for 21 years, died Saturday.

He was 94.

“For over 75 years, Bump epitomized the best values of the Big Ten athletic conference and its member institutions,” the Elliott family said in a statement. “His fundamental beliefs in academic excellence, gender equality, diversity, honesty, and athletic achievement guided his life and career as a student athlete, coach, and administrator.”

Elliott took over as Iowa’s director of athletics on July 1, 1970, and held the position until his retirement on Aug. 1, 1991. During Elliott’s watch, Iowa’s men’s teams won 29 Big Ten Conference titles in six sports.

The Hawkeyes won 11 NCAA wrestling championships, appeared in three Rose Bowls, and made a run to the Final Four in the NCAA men’s tournament under Elliott. Both the football and men’s basketball teams were ranked No. 1 nationally under Elliott. The Hawkeyes went to 10 bowl games and 11 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournaments during the Elliott era.

Elliott is responsible for hiring some of the most influential coaches in Iowa’s history, including Hayden Fry, Dan Gable, Tom Davis, and Lute Olson.

“Bump was a difference-maker in my life and the lives of many others,” Gable said in a release. “I felt lucky to be under a guy who knew very well what he was doing in terms of his business. At first, he didn’t make any promises, but he said, ‘You do well, and I will do well for you,’ and he honored that.

“Even though it could have, it never got old for him to see Iowa wrestling win, and that is one of the reasons for our success, because the guy at the top of the department continued to be excited. As much as some people talk, he actually lived his talk.”

Under Elliott’s watch, Carver-Hawkeye Arena was constructed and Kinnick Stadium was expanded to 70,000 seats. Banks Field and a new track and field complex were also built under Elliott. The street east of Carver-Hawkeye Arena is now named Elliott Drive.

Elliott was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1989 and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Hall of Fame in 1997.

A native of Bloomington, Illinois, Elliott had a standout athletic career at Michigan, playing three sports (football, basketball, baseball) from 1946-48. He also played parts of two seasons (1943-44) as a Marine trainee at Purdue.

Elliott was an All-American at halfback for Michigan in 1947. He was also the Big Ten’s Most Valuable Player in 1947, helping lead the Wolverines to a Rose Bowl victory over Southern California.

After his playing days, Elliott began a career in coaching. He came to Iowa for the first time in 1952 as an assistant football coach. His five-year stay included the Hawkeyes’ 1965 Big Ten title and Rose Bowl victory over Oregon State.

He left to coach at Michigan and was named head coach at his alma mater two years later. His 51-42-2 record over 10 seasons included a victory in the 1964 Rose Bowl.

Elliott is the only person to attend the Rose Bowl in five capacities — player, assistant coach, coach, associate director of athletics, and director of athletics.

“Bump Elliott was one of the great gentlemen in the history of the game,” former Michigan head football coach Lloyd Carr said in a release. “He was one of the legendary players that represented the U-of-M as a player and coach. He was a beloved figure who was admired and respected by all who knew him. He will be missed.”

Elliott resigned as coach to become an administrator in 1968. He served as associate director of athletics at Michigan for 18 months before Iowa hired him to run its program.

“I have the highest regard and respect for him and the entire Elliott family,” Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz said in a release. “His leadership and vision helped shape the culture and competitiveness of athletics at the University of Iowa. It’s safe to say that Hawkeye athletics would not be where they are today without Elliott.”

Elliott is survived by his son, Bill, and daughter, Betsy. His wife, Barbara, passed away in 2016, and his son, Bob, passed away in 2017.