Illini Legends, Lists and Lore: Feb. 17, 2019

Illini Legends, Lists and Lore: Feb. 17, 2019

On this date 64 years ago, Ira Carrithers, one of the University of Illinois' most prominent athletes of the George Huff coaching era, died in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at the age of 70.

The stocky and powerfully built athlete of the early 1900s was a native of Pontiac. Carrithers played halfback for the football team, threw the shot put for Harry Gill's exceptional track and field squad and patrolled the outfield for Huff's baseball team. He served as captain in each sport and three of the five Illini units on which he lettered won Big Ten championships.

Carrithers also was very active on campus, serving as vice president of the YMCA and carrying memberships in both the Phoenix Senior Society and the Philomathean Literary Society.

He would have signed a contract with the Chicago White Sox when he graduated from Illinois, but his devoutly Presbyterian parents discouraged him from doing so when they learned that Major League teams played on Sundays.

Carrithers' first job was at Alma College in mid-Michigan as coach and athletic director, then he returned to the state of Illinois to coach football and basketball at Knox College for two seasons and for another year in the same roles at Lake Forest. He made his biggest impact at Coe College, directing the basketball and baseball squads and assisting with the football team. His term as Coe's athletic director from 1915-24 covered an era when many of the Kohawk teams made national headlines.

Carrithers left athletics to build an extremely successful career in life insurance, remaining in Cedar Rapids for the balance of his life. When he wasn't selling insurance, he officiated sports in the Big Ten, Big Six and Missouri Valley conferences. Carrithers was a posthumous member of the Coe College Athletics Hall of Fame's charter class in 1973. He and his wife, Winifred, had three children.

Illini Birthdays

Today: Lexi Carrier, soccer (21)

Monday: Lyric Robins, basketball (20)

Tuesday: Nick Curby, wrestling (39)

Wednesday: Gill Byrd, football coach (58)

Thursday: Tyrone Washington, football (46)

Friday: Rod Smith, football coach (46)

Saturday: Steve Stricker, golf (52)

By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore (Third Edition now available in stores). Get more Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter@B1GLLL. His website is