Illini Legends, Lists & Lore: 'Weenie' Wilson

Wendall 'Weenie' Wilson

Seventy-one years ago Sunday — July 15, 1941 — the University of Illinois Board of Trustees retained Illini football coach Bob Zuppke but dismissed athletic director Wendall "Weenie" Wilson.

The board renewed Wilson's contract for a year but granted him a one-year leave of absence before his official retirement in 1942.

In deciding to retain Zuppke, the trustees attached a condition that Zuppke must retire at age 65. The board admitted that this was only a temporary settlement for the dispute that had revolved around Zuppke since 1938, when his feud with Wilson began.

The Milwaukee Journal reported that Trustee Chester Davis said the controversy could not be settled permanently now "because it runs deeper than personalities." The Journal reported that following the unanimous vote, the athletic board members all submitted their resignations in a move to aid in restoring harmony.

Around that time, Wilson joined a couple of other investors to found Teton Valley Ranch Camp, a boys' ranch in Kelly, Wyo. He and his wife, Mary Ellen, dreamed of a place where children could learn about the American West and themselves through a program based upon ranching heritage and respect for self and others. The Wilsons continued in that role until 1970, when they retired as camp directors.

Wilson died in 1990 at the age of 85. In 2001, the Wilson family decided to put the 2,400-acre ranch on the market for $50 million.

Illini Birthdays

Sunday: Kristy Weeks, soccer (26)

Monday: Merrill Mullis, volleyball (40)

Tuesday: Doug Higgins, football (33)

Wednesday: Don Freeman, basketball (68)

Thursday: Jeanne Yoss, volleyball (46)

Friday: Mike Brzuszkiewicz, football (55)

Saturday: Jon Asamoah, football (24)

By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore and assistant athletic

director at Miami (Ohio)

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