Tiny Nebraska beat the Illini the first game this year. That brings back memories of how the Illini were usually No. 1. Now just when was that?
Back around 1908, some high school boys in Sullivan came to my father and asked him to teach them football as he made a name for Eureka College as football captain. So my father, Clyde Patterson, taught them very well and they were up against Springfield Illinois High School for state championship and they were the toughest team they had come up against and they held Sullivan for three downs and Papa told told them to kick and all could kick for more than 60 yards but they decided with the next play they’d roll over Springfield and ignored their coach’s advice.
Springfield held them and the ball changed hands and Springfield won. Sadness and sorrow, but sports was part of my father’s life as he was fast for 260 pounds and very strong. Tennis was a town sport back in those days and he was tennis champion until he gave it up at 42.
A small boy, Harold Pogue asked papa to teach him football. Just one boy and he was small and only weighed 145 pounds. Papa taught him and then went to Champaign to get the Illini coach, Zupke, to accept him for the Illini team.
Harold Pogue showed his stuff and went on to become the nation’s top scorer with the most first downs than any other team in America after the great athlete of Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Jim Thorpe, who won Olympic pentathlon and decathlon gold. Carlisle beat all the football teams of the nation.
Then came WW I and Harold went into the Army where he was put in a hot air balloon to direct artillery lines with Harold in the balloon talking on a telephone line directing American artillery on the Germans. Harold had no fear and came back a hero, and Zukpe had the idea to build Memorial Stadium in memory of U of I alumnae who died in WW I. It could hold 90,000 people and would be the biggest stadium in America years ago.
Then came Red Grange and to beat Pogue’s record, Zupke would have the ball given to Red when the Illini got close to scoring. Red Grange then replaced Pogue’s record of being top scoring footballer in the nation. Harold went on to Decatur and became a highly successful businessman.
Papa was not happy that Zupke would tape up Pogue’s cracked ribs to keep him in a game. Zupke gave Papa a football that Red scored with that went to my brother. His son sold it for money. Well, that’s the difference between us. That was something to cherish from those who hand down through the family. But he sold it for a few bucks making someone happy.
Every football season Memorial Stadium ticket sales brought in thousands of dollars that Dr. Willard Yates judiciously used. Larry Bird playing basketball brought in lots of shekels ISU’s Richard Landini squandered.
As Dr. Yates and I attended University of Illinois, Indiana State U, and Eastern Illinois University, we both say Eastern was the best. So basketball and football became a huge source of finance and football scouts are out there with scholarships. We agree that Eastern Illinois faculty was the best then and in our opinion it still is.