Pete Elliott, the longest tenured Executive Director in the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s history passed away today after a short illness at the age of 86. Elliott served as the museum’s director from 1979 to 1996 and continued as a member of the Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees in his retirement.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame experienced great growth under Elliott’s leadership that spanned 17½ years. Aside from growing the Hall of Fame’s brand nationally, Elliott oversaw the Hall’s $9.1 million expansion in 1995, the largest expansion to that time.
Known for his affable personality, Elliott remained in the Canton area during his retirement and remained active in the community.
“Pete was beloved by the entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family, including the staff, board of trustees and the Hall of Fame members. He was a kind and thoughtful person and an inspiration to us all. We are all better for having had him in our lives,” shared President/Executive Director Steve Perry.
Prior to becoming the Hall of Fame’s third executive director, Elliott had a distinguished career in football, mostly in the college ranks. He was an All-American quarterback for the University of Michigan in the 1940s before embarking on a lengthy career in coaching. He was enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Elliott’s extensive coaching career began as an assistant at Oregon State in 1949 and continued through 1978 when he served as the running backs coach with the St. Louis Cardinals.
A native of Bloomington, Ill., Elliott was the first athlete in Michigan’s history to win 12 letters – four each in football, basketball, and golf. He guided the Wolverines football squad to back-to-back undefeated seasons in 1947 and 1948. He helped Michigan to a dominating 49-0 victory over Southern California in the 1948 Rose Bowl and guided the team to an undisputed national championship the following season.
He was awarded the Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor for Athletic and Scholastic achievement and earned a degree in history from Michigan. Upon graduation, Elliott began his coaching career at Oregon State before joining the staff of Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma in 1951. The Sooners captured two national titles during the five seasons Elliott served on the staff.
Elliott earned his first head coaching position in 1956 with Nebraska. He followed that with stints as the head coach at California (1957-59), Illinois (1960-66), and the Miami Hurricanes (1973-74).
Under Elliott’s guidance his squads made appearances in the Rose Bowl in 1959 and 1964. His Illinois team beat Washington in the 1964 Rose Bowl. One of his star players included Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, who in 1979 Elliott presented for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Elliott was named the West Coast Coach of the Year in 1958 and the Midwest Coach of the Year in 1963. He also served as the Athletic Director at Miami through 1978 before reuniting with Wilkinson, his mentor, as a member of the Cardinals coaching staff.
Elliott was also inducted into the University of Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, the State of Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and the State of Illinois Basketball Hall of Fame.
Pete was preceded in death by his wife of 58 years Joan. He is survived by two sons and daughters-in- law, Bruce and Cheryl Elliott of Ann Arbor, Mich. and David and Peggy Elliott of Boardman, Ohio; and four granddaughters, Catherine Elliott, Jennifer Elliott, Christina (Janson) Jacobsen and Courtney Elliott. Funeral arrangements are pending.
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