Campus Corner

Eskridge, former KU basketball assistant and KC native, dies at 89

LAWRENCE — Jack Eskridge, a former Kansas basketball player who served at Iwo Jima during World War II, worked as an assistant under Phog Allen in the 1950s, and later developed the iconic star on the helmet of the Dallas Cowboys, died on Monday. He was 89.

Eskridge, a Kansas City native, graduated from William Chrisman in Independence before joining the Marine Corps and serving as a rifle coach. He stood watch in an airfield at Iwo Jima before being among the forces that went into Japan after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

When he returned to the states, the 6-foot-4 Eskridge enrolled at Kansas and joined the basketball team. He played for two seasons, averaging 7.6 points per game in 1947-48. He later returned to campus in 1954, serving as an assistant at Kansas until 1959.

Perhaps his most famous assignment, according to his son, Butch, 58, was a recruiting visit out east to watch a high school center named Wilt Chamberlain.

“Phog told him to go out there,” Butch said, “And he said, ‘Jack, the thing I want to know more than anything, is when you measure him, make sure his shoes are off, he’s standing flat foot, and make sure he’s 7 feet tall.”

Eskridge was at Kansas for the famous triple-overtime loss to North Carolina in the 1957 NCAA title game, but he left two years later and took a job as the equipment manager for the Dallas Cowboys, where he was responsible for updating the franchise’s logo when the team began wearing silver helmets in the 1960s. Eskridge later returned to the Kansas City area, spending time as a teacher, before retiring to Valley Falls, Kan.