My optometrist and I were having a lively discussion about the Internet the other day while he was probing my eyes for signs of floaters and cataracts and other nasty things.
He said he reads three daily newspapers but his son only reads the Internet. His son thinks his father is a dinosaur. His son keeps a record of current events but, his father lamented, probably couldn't tell you what the Civil War was about or when it was fought.
A sense of historical perspective, he said, is sadly lacking in the modern generation.
I couldn't agree more.
Which brings me to the subject of today's exercise.
I never thought I would ever find myself in a position where I felt compelled to defend Pete Elliott"s credentials as a college football recruiter.
But it is apparent that some knuckleheads in Illini Nation, rather than take time to read the media guide or do any research, would rather take a few cheap shots and demonstrate their ignorance.
I was on campus at the time. Working for Bert Bertine, the sports editor of the Champaign-Urbana Courier, I helped to cover the football team in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1965 before leaving in August, 1966, to become high school sports editor of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
This isn't a slam at Ron Zook. He is a skilled recruiter, one of the 10 best in college football. No one questions his credentials. But let's give Pete Elliott his due. In the early 1960s, he brought Illinois back from the Dark Ages. He put Dick Butkus on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Yes, Elliott only coached at Illinois for a few years in the 1960s. Yes, he left in disgrace after the slush fund scandal was exposed.
But Elliott was a superb recruiter. He signed nearly 20 players who went on to play in the NFL, including Dick Butkus, Jim Grabowski, Don Hansen, Ron Acks, George Donnelly, Cyril Pinder, Archie Sutton, Greg Schumacher, Marshall Starks, John Wright, Mike Taliaferro, Bob Trumpy and Jimmy Warren.
How many coaches can make that statement?
Butkus credits Elliott's chief assistant, Bill Taylor, for persuading him to attend Illinois rather than Notre Dame and for helping to develop him into the greatest linebacker in football history.
Elliott, who coached another future NFL star Joe Kapp and California to the Rose Bowl before suceeding Ray Eliot at Illinois, looked like a Hollywood actor. He was quiet, smooth and charming, always wore a coat and tie, and was a media darling. He never saw a newspaper reporter and photographer, a radio microphone or a television camera that he didn't like.
If the slush fund scandal hadn't scuttled Illinois' football program in the late 1960s, there is no telling how successful Elliott could have been.