Remembering Bob Blackman

Remembering Bob Blackman

Illini Legends, Lists & Lore: Bob Blackman

Sunday marks the 95th anniversary of the birth of Bob Blackman, Illinois’ head football coach from 1971 to ’76. Blackman was born in De Soto, Iowa, and played football at the University of Southern California, beginning in 1937. He was named a captain of the freshman team but stopped playing after being stricken with polio.

Blackman was named an assistant coach at USC while still an undergraduate student. Following head coaching positions at the San Diego Naval Academy, Pasadena City College and the University of Denver, he was named head coach at Dartmouth College in 1955.

In 16 seasons under Blackman, the Big Green went 104-37-3, including three undefeated seasons. In his final season at Dartmouth in 1970, Blackman received the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award. Blackman’s hiring at Illinois was hoped to be the antidote that would cure the school’s football ills, submerged in the dregs of the infamous “slush fund.”

Unfortunately, Blackman’s teams only had one season over the .500 mark, a 6-4-1 record in 1974. Despite going 0-12 against the Big Ten’s “Big Two” of Michigan and Ohio State during his Illini career, Blackman’s Illini amassed a cumulative record of 24-11-1 against the other seven conference opponents. He returned to the Ivy League in 1977, where he replaced George Seifert as head coach of Cornell University until 1982.

Blackman finished his college coaching career with a 168-112-7 record and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987. He died at age 81 on March 18, 2000, after contracting a bacterial infection during a vacation in Singapore.

Illini Birthdays
Sunday: Rachel Van Meter, volleyball (29)
Monday: Brian Livingston, tennis (26)
Tuesday: Ron Bess, football (67)
Wednesday: Mark Wieneke, track & field (50)
Thursday: Jerry Hester, basketball (38)
Friday: Emily Zurrer, soccer (26)
Saturday: John Tanner, swimming (60)

By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore. He recently retired from his post as assistant athletic director at Miami (Ohio)

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