One of the most successful track coaches in the world while at Villanova University, James “Jumbo” Elliott excelled at getting his athletes ready for the big meets, whether they were the Penn Relays or IC4A Championships, which his teams dominated for years, or the Olympic Games, for which he produced 28 competitors.
As a student at Villanova, Elliott ran in the 220 yard, 440 yard, and 880 yard events. After he graduated in 1935, he became the school’s part-time track coach while working for a company that sold contracting equipment. From 1949, when he took over at Villanova, until his death in 1981, Elliott achieved a coaching record that will be hard to duplicate.
During that span, his teams won eight national collegiate team titles, three National AAU team crowns, and 39 IC4A indoor, outdoor, and cross country championships. Individually, his athletes won 316 IC4A titles, 82 NCAA crowns, and 62 National AAU championships. They set 22 world records outdoors and another 44 indoors. His Olympic Gold Medalists were Ron Delany in the 1956 1500m, Charles Jenkins in the 400m in 1956, Don Bragg in the 1960 pole vault, Paul Drayton in the 1964 4x100m relay, and Larry James in the 1968 4x400m relay. Elliott is perhaps best known for developing outstanding distance runners, including Delaney, Marty Liquori, Eamonn Coghlan, and Sydney Maree.
Elliott was inducted into the USATF Hall of Fame in 1981, and the track at Villanova is named in his honor. Two of his assistant coaches are also members of the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame: Jim Tuppeny, who later went on to coach at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jack Pyrah.