The Obit For Larry Elliott

WU Legend Dies at 72

FROM: The Topeka Capital-Journal ~
By Ken Corbitt

Larry Elliott, a fixture at Washburn University for decades as a student, athlete and coach, died Sunday at a Phoenix, Ariz., hospital after a lengthy illness.

Elliott, 72, ranks No. 2 in career coaching victories in both football and baseball at Washburn. He had a 58-51-1 record in two stints as the Ichabods' football coach from 1974-78 and 1984-89, and his 13-year record in baseball from 1967-79 was 188-174.

Elliott retired as football coach prior to the 1990 season because of health problems.

He was inducted in the Washburn Athletics Hall of Fame in 1986. He also was a star fastpitch softball player and is in the Kansas Softball Hall of Fame.

"Washburn was always special to him," said Mark Elliott, his son. "He had a pretty incredible life." Memorial services are pending.

Elliott was born in LaJunta, Colo., and attended high school in Ulysses. He played football for one year at Kansas State then signed a professional baseball contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. After one year of minor league ball, he came to Washburn where he played football and basketball, earning all-conference honors in both sports.

He began his coaching career in 1959 at Silver Lake High School where he coached football, basketball and baseball. He was hired as Washburn's head baseball coach for the 1967 season and was promoted from assistant to head football coach in 1974.

After stepping down as football coach, he continued as an assistant and was offensive coordinator on the 1983 team that won the Central States Conference, Washburn's first conference title in 19 years.

"That was the only time my dad ever coached me," said Mark Elliott, a quarterback on the '83 team. "That was fun."

The next year he took over when George Tardiff resigned during the season and began his second stint as head coach, lasting six seasons.

Elliott was known as an innovative offensive coach.

"Coach Elliott, in a lot of ways, was unconventional," said Charlie Dieker, a WU assistant coach from 1983-90.

"He caught a lot of people off-guard in his play calling. When you look back, a lot of things he did back then is what people are doing now. In some ways, he was ahead of his time in the way he thought offensively.

"He shot from the hip and did things at the spur of the moment. He was very successful in his way of doing things. He knew what he wanted, he knew how to do it and he got results."

Rick Benke, an Ichabod football player in 1974-75, echoed those sentiments.

"He had a great offensive mind and his offense was fun to run because you never knew what he was going to do," said Benke, who has been a coach and administrator at Topeka High School. "He wouldn't hold back on anything. He wasn't afraid to throw the ball and reach into the bag of tricks."

Mike Keeley played both football and baseball under Elliott.

"I wasn't very big but he gave me an opportunity to play," said Keeley, an all-conference wide receiver from 1975-78.

"He worked with you and would get on you if he thought you weren't performing to what your ability was. Rick Benke was the starter my freshman year and every year (Elliott) would tell me he's bringing someone in to beat me out, but I started my sophomore, junior and senior years. It was a motivational type thing. He was always up front with you."

"I really got to know him more in baseball. It was a little more relaxed and we talked a lot on those trips."

Despite health problems in recent years, Elliott remained close to Washburn athletics as he split his time between Topeka and Phoenix.

"Coach Elliott was always so positive," said current football coach Craig Schurig. "It was a joy to have him around. He always had something positive to say about the football program and the university."