Iowa Hawkeyes

Bump Elliott, leader of dominant era of Iowa athletics, dies at 94

Former AD oversaw 12 NCAA and 29 Big Ten championships

Hayden Fry talks to Bump Elliott, the man who hired Fry as head football coach for the University of Iowa, at the banque
Hayden Fry talks to Bump Elliott, the man who hired Fry as head football coach for the University of Iowa, at the banquet honoring Fry as head coach at the U of I Memorial Union in Iowa City Saturday, Dec. 12, 1998. (The Gazette)

C.W. “Bump” Elliott, who guided one of the most dominant eras in Iowa athletics history, died Saturday.

He was 94.

A football player and then coach at Michigan, Elliott became Iowa’s athletics director on June 11, 1970.

During his time at Iowa, Hawkeye teams won 12 NCAA and 29 Big Ten championships.

Elliott oversaw the construction of Carver-Hawkeye Arena and the expansion of Kinnick Stadium to a 70,000-seat facility. He also was involved in the first indoor football practice facility, Banks Field for baseball and a new track and field complex.

He served as Iowa’s athletics director until he retired in 1991. He hired coaches that shaped Iowa sports history, including Hayden Fry, Dan Gable, Lute Olson and Tom Davis.

“The most pleasing thing to me would be if we have put together a program that has some tradition to it and has consistency to it,” Elliott said when he retired. “Where coming to Iowa as a coach or as an administrator is not a stepping stone. It’s a job or a position that people would like to say is a plum.”

Elliott was born Jan. 30, 1925, as Chalmers W. Elliott in Detoit, Mich., but grew up in Bloominton, Ill.

He first attended Purdue (1943-44) before transfering to Michigan (’46-47). He was a running back who led the Wolverines to Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles. He was the Big Ten MVP in 1947.


Before enrolling at Purdue, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and was assinged to the V-12 Navy College Training Program at the university. He lettered in football, basketball and baseball at Purdue before being called into active duty in 1944.

“Well, it’d be nice to be remembered as a player and a coach,” Elliott told

After playing he got into coaching, assisting at Oregon State, Iowa and Michigan. He was the head coach at Michigan for 10 years, compiling a 51-42-2 record from 1959 to ’68. The Wolverines finished 9-1 in 1964, winning the Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl.

Elliott quit coaching to become an associate athletics director at Michigan in 1968 before taking the job at Iowa.

He was inducted into the National College Football Hall of Fame in 1989. He is also in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.

While he hired many outstanding and legendary coaches at Iowa, he had one rule for all of them.

Not only did his teams win championships in football, wrestling and men’s basketball, but also in baseball, men’s gymnastics and men’s swimming.

“The one thing we emphasized from the start was that our staff had to make sure we were 100 percent loyal to each other and the university,” he said at the time of his retirement. “There could be no jealousy between the coaches and various programs. I wanted no one talking behind anyone’s backs. I wanted absolute loyalty. If not, then that person could leave any time.”

He had a simple goal for all the programs at Iowa.

“To be competitive, to be hopefully like a Michigan or a Penn State or an Ohio State, Notre Dame, Southern California, Texas — that have good programs year after year — that would be something I would feel very good about,” Elliott once said.

Elliott was a jack of all trades — an outstanding athlete, coach and administrator.


“I guess that is just having been where I was at the time I was there with the people I was with, and enjoying the successes that we had, and even the failures, but with the people,” Elliott told in 2014, reflecting on his many achievements. “... I have no regrets and I can only say that I feel very comfortable with what’s transpired in my life, and hope to live a little bit longer.”

Statements from Iowa athletics

Iowa athletics director Gary Barta:

“We are saddened to hear the news of Bump’s passing. Hawkeye Athletics lost a true friend and respected leader. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

“Bump’s footprint will forever shine on Iowa athletics. His leadership for over two decades continues to be evident in any success enjoyed by our teams, coaches and programs. Bump was far ahead of his time as a student-athlete, football coach, as the leader of Iowa athletics, and as a mentor and friend to all who knew him.

“Everyone in college athletics who had the good fortune to work with and know Bump Elliott, understands the profound impact he had on the athletics programs at Purdue, Michigan, Iowa, and throughout the Big Ten for almost 50 years. He epitomized class – he was a revered leader, colleague, and friend to many throughout his career. He was a dedicated family man and he will be missed.”

Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz:

“On behalf of myself, Mary, and the entire Hawkeye football program, I want to extend heartfelt condolences to the family of Bump Elliott. An exceptional athlete, selfless leader, and Iowa legend, he will be greatly missed. I first got to know Bump when I was an assistant coach under Hayden Fry in the 1980s and I enjoyed every opportunity to spend time with him for more than three decades.

“I have the highest regard and respect for him and the entire Elliott family. 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 Bump Elliott.”

Former Iowa head wrestling coach Dan Gable:

“Bump was a difference maker in my life and the lives of many others. 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.”

Former Iowa head men’s basketball coach Tom Davis:

“As a coach who worked for Bump, you had a sense that he was there with you all the way, in understanding the demands of coaching in the Big Ten Conference. He was a coach’s athletic director, and he was always in the room with you.


"He was a pleasure to work with, and I know Hayden Fry, Dan Gable, Duane Banks, all the others would say the same thing.

"Bump understood what it took for success. He excelled as a student-athlete in so many ways, and he was able to carry that over as an excellent administrator.”

Statements from Michigan athletics

Family of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh:

“The Harbaugh family sends condolences to family and friends on the passing of Bump Elliott. A Rose Bowl winning coach, All American football player, husband and father. I met Bump at a hospital in Iowa City in 1971. Bump was the AD at the University of Iowa and our family was moving our furniture into our new home in Iowa City. I had spent the day recruiting and Jackie was overseeing the move. My sons Jim and John were at a local park meeting new friends. On the way home, Jim was hit by a car and transported to the hospital. I rushed home with no information other than one of my sons was injured. On my arrival, I met Bump in the lobby with the comforting words that he would be OK.

In 1972 Bump’s son, Bobby, started as a sophomore in the Iowa secondary that I coached. Bobby was as tough and competitive as anyone I coached. Bump’s daughter, Betsy, baby sat John, Jim and Joani.

Iowa is one of the outstanding football programs in the country. That program was started by Bump Elliott with the hiring of Hayden Fry. Bump was one of a kind. We have lost a true gentleman.”

Lloyd Carr, former Michigan head football coach:

“Bump Elliott was one of the great gentlemen in the history of the game. 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!”

Dr. Billy Taylor, former Michigan athlete:

“I was deeply saddened today when I received word that my good friend and a great Michigan man and Michigan coach, as well as one of Michigan’s great all-time student-athletes, Chalmers “Bump” Elliott is not with us any longer. I’m proud to say that Bump Elliott recruited me to the University of Michigan and an immediate closeness and love developed between Coach Elliott, my mom and me. My prayers are with Coach Elliott, his family and friends. I shall deeply miss my good friend and former coach, Bump Elliott. I am heartbroken this evening.”

Fritz Seyferth, former Michigan player:


“Bump was the prototypical “Michigan man”! We were Bump’s last recruiting class, of which 14 were drafted to the NFL. That may be a record for Michigan, and Bo was forever grateful to Bump.

The closest friends I have are my teammates that Bump Elliott recruited. Bump had the ability to see character.

Michigan is a very attractive school, but it was Bump Elliott that made me feel I belonged at Michigan.”

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