Forty-nine years ago on this date in Illini history — July 15, 1969 — University of Illinois legend Burt Ingwersen died at the age of 70.
Illinois' first nine letter-winner, the Bryant, Iowa, native won monograms in 1917, '18 and '19 for coach Bob Zuppke as an All-Big Ten and second-team All-America tackle.
George Halas, his Illini teammate, said Ingwersen had "the greatest spirit and desire of any football player I've ever known."
Illinois claimed the conference title in his junior season and the Big Ten and national championships in his senior year.
Ingwersen was a first baseman for coach George Huff's Illini baseball team in 1918, '19 and '20 and a forward for coach Ralph Jones' basketball squad during that same span.
Earning a UI civil engineering degree in 1920, he was hired by the Iowa Highway Commission. Ingwersen also played for Halas' Decatur Staleys, forerunner of the Chicago Bears. Huff brought Ingwersen back to Illinois in 1921 as the school's freshman coach in the three sports he'd previously lettered. He was Red Grange's first collegiate coach.
When former Illini football letter winner Paul Belting was hired as athletics director by the University of Iowa in March of 1924, Belting's first item of business was to find a replacement for football coach Howard Jones. He began negotiating with Notre Dame's Knute Rockne to come to Iowa City. However, it turned out to only be a plot by Rockne to get a raise. When the Fighting Irish administration complied, Belting turned to the 26-year-old Ingwersen.
In his first of eight years as the Hawkeyes' head coach (1924-31), Ingwersen's team had a 6-1-1 record, including a scoreless tie against Ohio State and a victory over Michigan. In five of his next seven years, Iowa had three winning teams and a pair of .500 ledgers, but he was fired following a 1-6-1 record in 1931. Ingwersen then served as assistant coach at LSU and Northwestern, then entered the Navy in 1943, serving as a lieutenant commander and athletic director at North Carolina Pre-flight School in Chapel Hill.
He returned to Champaign-Urbana in 1945, helping coach Ray Eliot'steams win Big Ten titles in 1946, '51 and '53 as UI's offensive and defensive line coach. When Eliot was replaced by Pete Elliott in 1960, Ingwersen continued in that role for seven more seasons, including the 1963 Big Ten championship campaign.
Following his retirement in 1966, Ingwersen remained active in Illini athletics, working with the grants-in-aid program.
He was married for nearly 45 years and had one son.Illini BirthdaysToday: Bob Quinn, football (68)
Monday: Merrill Mullis, volleyball
Tuesday: Antoineo Harris, football (39)
Wednesday:Don Freeman, basketball (74)
Thursday: Zeke Clark, tennis (20)
Friday: Mike Vitoux, fencing (72)
Saturday: Dre Brown, football (21)
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 www.SportsLLL.com.