Vance McCormick Was First Carlisle Coach

While cleaning up the scanned files in preparation of reprinting the 1892 Spalding’s Guide, I noticed a photograph of Vance McCormick on the page opposite page 17. Walter Camp had named the Yale star as the quarterback of his 1891 All-America team, an honor that earned his photo a page in the next year’s Spalding’s Guide. A friend, Nancy Luckenbaugh, taught at Carlisle Indian School and, in 1894, invited him to make the trip from his family’s home in Harrisburg to look over the football material that could be found there. McCormick had graduated from Yale in 1893 and was living at home and working in the family businesses at that time. Liking what he saw, he agreed to become the Indians’ first coach, albeit unpaid. Disciplinarian W. G. Thompson was put in charge of the football team in 1893 when Superintendent Pratt relented and allowed the boys to play against other schools but he was not a coach.

Pratt recalled McCormick’s exuberance in his memoir:

He was on the field one day taking part in instructing the boys how to fall on the ball when chasing it down the field. The ground was moist from recent rain, but he disregarded that and was giving them most enthusiastic incentive. The boys failed to execute the movement properly as he explained, and to show them how, without removing his hat or coat he rushed after and fell on the ball, as the game required. When he got up, his hat and clothing were some admonition against too sudden enthusiasm. The boys gave themselves up to the severest practice, and such energy they soon met all conditions.

Unfortunately, Vance wasn’t a full-time coach and, thus, couldn’t devote the time and energy necessary to lead the Indians to victory against the level of competition they played. He again helped in 1895 but couldn’t devote much time to what could best be called a hobby. He would be followed by other Yale men until 1899.

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