Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Pop Warner Not at 1905 Washburn-Fairmont Game

May 30, 2015

Some months back Harry Carson Frye brought the 1905 game between Washburn College and Fairmont College (today’s Wichita State University) which was played under the rules to be instituted for the 1906 season. Some claim that the game played on Christmas Day was the first one in which a legal forward pass was thrown. I’ll let others argue whether it was an exhibition game or not. What interested me most was that Mr. Frye had the impression that Pop Warner was present for the game.

Warner has been accused of trolling the reservations for material for Carlisle and for finding Lone Star Dietz playing semipro football out there somewhere. It seems unlikely that Warner would have been scouting for Carlisle in 1905 because he was in the middle of his second run as head coach at Cornell at that time. However, he was available to travel to the game for purposes of his own because Cornell’s season ended on November 30 that year. Interested in learning more about the game, I contacted Wichita State’s archives and requested copies of newspaper articles they hold about the game.

By the time the copies arrived, I had forgotten exactly what prompted me to request them. Yesterday, I realized it was Harry Frye’s question. I scanned newspaper coverage for the names of coaches who were present for the game but found no mention of Warner. Dr. John H. Outland coached Washburn refereed the game, Willis Sherman “Billy” Bates coached Fairmont and umpired the game, T. H. Morrison, a former Fairmont coach, was head linesman, Dr. J. C. McCracken of Penn reported on the game to Penn, D. C. Hetherington of Missouri observed, and it was assumed that coaches in the region would attend. If Lone Star Dietz was in Wichita at the time (he may have been working at an engraving company in Kansas City at the time), he would surely have been at the game. However, I found no evidence that Pop Warner was there.


Haskell Football Slashed Again

May 24, 2015
Haskell Fightin' Indians

Haskell Fightin’ Indians

Football statistician Tex Noel informs me that Haskell has canceled football for the upcoming season due to finances and provided this link for more detail:

Financial problems are nothing new for the Haskell Indian Nations University’s Fighting Indians. In the Great Depression, when the school was called Haskell Institute, the federal government slashed their funding in half at a time when their program was flourishing. After Carlisle was closed by the government in 1918, the mantle of Indian athletic excellence was passed to Haskell Institute. For the decade starting with the end of WWI, Haskell had no losing seasons, peaking with a 12-0-1 season in 1926. That team’s only blemish was a 21-21 tie with Boston College in a game played in Boston. Wins included victories over Bucknell, Dayton, Loyola, Michigan State, Xavier, and Tulsa in games played largely on the road as had Carlisle.

Haskell’s success led to its coach, Lone Star Dietz’s protégé from Washington State Richard Hanley, leaving for a better job at Northwestern, where he also did well before changing to a more lucrative position in the insurance industry. Barely breaking .500 for the 1927 and ’28 seasons led to the school recruiting a new coach. A decade after his sensational trial, Lone Star Dietz was hired as the new head coach—with recommendations from Pop Warner and Knute Rockne. The Lawrence Daily Journal-World reported, “And when Lone Star assumes his duties tomorrow he will reward the efforts of athletic officials and administrative heads at Haskell who for several years have tried to secure a widely known coach with Indian blood.” He was dubbed “Miracle Man” after leading the 1929 team to a 9-2 season.

But his and their success was not to last. The coaching budget for 1933 was slashed in half by government fiat. Haskell’s storied football trail of glory ended with Dietz’s departure to coach the Boston NFL team, setting up another story still in the news today.

Did Carlisle Play Albright College in 1907?

April 5, 2015

I awoke this morning to find a question from Johnny Dunn in my email inbox:

I was just wondering if Carlisle played Albright in 1907. In Kate Buford’s Native American Son, Kate wrote “During the early, lopsided victories over Albright, Lebanon Valley, Villanova, and Susquehanna”. In other books I read like Fabulous Redmen, they did not mention a game vs Albright. I did a little research and it looks like they may have scheduled the game, but it may have never actually happened.

A few minutes research uncovered the schedule for 1907 published in the September 20, 1907 edition of Carlisle’s weekly school newspaper, The Arrow:

September 21 1907 schedule

The next week’s edition, the September 27 issue, included, without explanation, a revised schedule:

September 27 1907 schedule

Carlisle played, and defeated Lebanon Valley College on the Saturday originally scheduled for the Albright College game. The end of the article covering the team’s shellacking of LVC 40-0 (the article about the game contained a slightly different score than in the schedule) in a heavy rain ended with the following statement:

September 27 1907 schedule is open

No explanation of why the game with Albright wasn’t played and why the LVC game was advanced from the 25th to the 21st wasn’t mentioned. However, a piece in the September 18, 1908 edition of The Carlisle Arrow suggests a possible reason for the cancellation of the 1907 Albright College game:

September 18 1908 Albright cancelled

Perhaps, Albright was unable to field a team in 1907 as in 1908. The reason the 1908 game with Conway Hall was listed as a practice game is because Conway Hall was the Dickinson College prep school. Games with Conway Hall were generally played by Carlisle’s second team, not the varsity.

I can’t explain Kate Buford’s error. Perhaps, she didn’t read Carlisle’s school newspaper articles for each week of the football season, only read the pre-season edition, or, as Lars Anderson did, had someone else conduct her research.

More Misinformation About Redskins Name

March 16, 2015

On May 29, 2014, George Washington University Professor of Public Interest Law John F. Banzhaf III issued a press release titled “Defense of ‘Redskins’ Name Shattered—Pressure to Now Change ‘Racist’ Name Grows.” Banzhaf based his position on a quote from team owner George Preston Marshall in an Associated Press article printed in the Hartford Courant on July 6, 1933 (see below): “The fact that we have in our head coach, Lone Star Dietz, an Indian, together with several Indian players, has not, as may be suspected, inspired me to select the name Redskins.” The anti-Redskins activist media almost immediately published articles based on this press release.

Neither Banzhaf nor the media considered an article published the same day in the team’s hometown paper (see below) that contradicts the AP piece. In it, Marshall is attributed as saying “…the change was made to avoid confusion with the Braves baseball team and that the team is to be coached by an Indian, Lone Star Dietz, with several Indian players.” Could the AP or The Boston Herald get it wrong or did he say different things to different reporters? With Marshall anything is possible.

Banzhaf says nothing about Marshall’s primary reason for changing the team’s name as stated in both articles: confusion with the Boston Braves baseball team. On the surface, this reason is, to use a technical term, hogwash. NFL teams routinely capitalized on the name recognition of baseball teams in those ragtag years. The Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Brooklyn Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, and Washington Senators football teams were all named after the baseball teams in their cities. The Giants still use the name decades after the baseball team abandoned New York for San Francisco. Marshall had done that in 1932 when he named his team the Boston Braves but something was changing.

Marshall was surely negotiating a move to Fenway Park at that time because, two weeks later, he announced the team’s relocation. Changing the team’s name was likely necessary to avoid legal problems with the baseball team’s and Braves Field’s owners.

Something else Banzhaf doesn’t mention is the September 27, 1987 Washington Post op-ed piece in which Marshall’s granddaughter wrote, “Fact is, he chose the name because he had always been an admirer of the American Indian and because one of the team’s coaches, ‘Lone Star’ Dietz, was himself an American Indian.” That Marshall had a fascination with Indians is well known as is his later statement that Dietz was the smartest coach he ever had.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially when in the mind of an academic on a crusade.

1933-07-06 Redskins Hartford Courant

1933-07-06 Redskins renamed



Chickasaws at Carlisle

February 28, 2015

A friend recently asked me if I knew of any Chickasaws who played sports at Carlisle. Sadly, I can’t find any even though some Chickasaws may have played football, run track, hit a baseball, bounced a basketball, or chased a lacrosse ball on an Indian School team. The two major problems in finding someone are that no records tracked athletic participants by tribe and relatively few Chickasaws came to Carlisle because they had their own schools. Some accounts in school and newspaper publications list tribe affiliations for players but are sporadic at best. I would appreciate knowing of any Chickasaws who participated in Carlisle sports programs.


Radiolab Program About Carlisle on NPR

February 13, 2015

I was interviewed at length some weeks ago by NPR’s Radiohead for a future broadcast about Carlisle Indian School football. While listening to Sally Jenkins’s interview during the program, I was saddened by the lack of nuance in her description of the 1896 Carlisle-Yale game. Yes, William O. Hickok was a Yale alum but he was also Carlisle’s coach that year. Omitting this important fact spun the officiating of the game as outright cheating. Carlisle Indian School ran a special edition of its newspaper, The Red Man, that included contemporaneous coverage of the game from the viewpoints of several observers who had differing opinions. A reasonable conclusion that could be made after reading these articles would be that Hickok blew the call, to use modern football parlance, by prematurely blowing his whistle before Isaac Seneca or Jonas Metoxen (accounts vary as to who was carrying the ball initially) was taken to the ground. Bad calls are still part of football, so much so that instant replay has been instituted in recent years to overturn them when ample evidence is provided on the video. To say that Hickok, Carlisle’s coach at the time, cheated his own team in favor of his alma mater, is a serious accusation that doesn’t stand up to the available evidence. Think about the boost a victory, or even a tie, with Yale would have given Hickok’s coaching career. He had a significant incentive to beat Yale. He just blew the call and, possibly, his chance at being a top-flight coach.

Contrary to the Radiolab program, Pop Warner didn’t just happen to coach Carlisle. After graduating from Cornell with a law degree, he had coached Iowa State and Georgia–simultaneously–before returning to lead his alma mater. Seeing that his players needed better coaching, Superintendent Pratt asked Walter Camp, the greatest expert on the game of his day, for advice. Camp suggested he consider Pop Warner, an ingenious up and coming coach. Warner and the Indians made a perfect match football-wise. Neither would likely have had the records they did without each other.

Richard Henry Pratt, who was sometimes called “an honest lunatic” by his critics, deserves a more balanced treatment than NPR gave him. Where a common, if not majority, view at the time favored eradication, Pratt held the radical view that Indians could do anything a white man could do. I’ve never found anything from the period stating that Carlisle students weren’t allowed to speak their own languages. They were surely encouraged to speak English but Pratt had no need to force them. How else were they going to communicate with each other if they didn’t? The various tribes represented at Carlisle spoke numerous different languages and could only understand those from their own tribe or one that spoke a similar-enough language. Other schools, where the students were from a single or only a few tribes, may have forced their students to speak English but Carlisle had no need to do that.


Why Did Jenkins Smear George Woodruff?

February 4, 2015

After Harry Carson Frye informed me of the December 25, 1905 Washburn-Fairmount game, I did a little research in the 1906 Spalding’s Guide. When my eyes drifted off to Penn coach George W. Orton’s description of the 1905 season in “Football in the Middle States.” What caught my eye most was his assessment of the 1905 Carlisle team:

“Carlisle fell a little below the high standard of former years, though the brilliant games put up against Pennsylvania, Harvard, and West Point proved that the Indians were yet very much to be feared in any company. They played the same style of game as in previous years in spite of their new coach; good punting, end running and tricky open play being their main sources of strength.”

Orton’s assessment sharply contradicted an assessment of Carlisle’s 1905 team by Sally Jenkins in The Real All Americans:

“Mercer demonstrated his utter lack of feel for the place with a totally unsuitable hire; George Woodruff….The Indians were a predictable disappointment under Woodruff. Their marvelous offense, formerly a maze of men going in different directions, became ordinary. They looked and played just like any other team, and their record showed it. They were 10-5 and lost every significant game, and more important, they lost their uniqueness. Their only real fun came in a 36-0 defeat of crosstown rival Dickinson.”

To the contrary, Caspar Whitney ranked Carlisle as the 10th best team in the country, three places behind Army even though the Indians beat the Cadets in their first-ever meeting. Still, 10th is pretty good, especially considering that he ranked them 14th in 1904. In spite of Carlisle’s four defeats (Harvard, Penn, Massillon Tigers, and Canton Bulldogs. One wonders where Jenkins found the fifth loss) Whitney ranked Harvard second in the country and Penn third. Massillon and Canton weren’t ranked because they were semi-pro teams, arguably the best of their day, in the middle of the Indians’  whirlwind 6-games-in-20-days tour. In addition to Army and the local colleges, the Indians defeated Villanova 35-0, Penn State 11-0, Virginia 12-0, Cincinnati 34-5, Washington & Jefferson 11-0, and Georgetown 76-0.

The December 8, 1905 edition of The Arrow coverage of the Georgetown game likely written by Carlisle’s PR department and subtitled “Red Men Have Such A Picnic That They Try All Sorts of Plays” suggests that the Indians had fun at more games than the one with Dickinson:

“Although the score was one-sided, the game was interesting throughout, owing to the diversity of the Indians’ work and the great amount of open field play. Mount Pleasant and Libby, the two Indian quarterbacks, let loose the great repertoire that had been taught by Woodruff, the old Pennsylvania player, and Kinney, the All-American Yale guard of last year, and gave Washingtonians the greatest exhibition of diversified football they had ever witnessed.”

Why Jenkins chose to belittle George Washington Woodruff is unclear. Maybe it advanced her storyline. Regardless of the reason, her treatment of him is unfair. Prior to coming to Carlisle, George W. Woodruff had amassed a coaching record, including three unofficial national championships at Penn that assured his enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame. A lawyer by trade, he left the team after the last regular season game at West Point to work at a various positions in the Roosevelt administration and with his friend Gifford Pinchot. Suffice it to say, Woodruff’s legacy is radically different from Jenkins’ slurs.


January 25, 2015

That a football team would stretch the rules beyond the limit to gain an advantage over its opponents is not surprising, especially since such stretching has such a long history. And the ball itself has been central to many stunts. The very first American football game (soccer actually) played between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869 was reputedly played with a crude ball more round than rugby-shaped. The two-game international series played between Harvard and McGill in 1874 featured a round ball in the first game, rugby ball in the first game played under American football rules. The next day, they played rugby with an egg-shaped ball. Harvard switched to rugby after that game. Decades later, coaches manipulated the balls to gain an advantage over their opponent. Perhaps the most famous example was when Pop Warner had leather patches shaped by footballs sewn on his Carlisle players’ jerseys to fool Harvard and Harvard’s coach retaliated by painting the footballs Crimson, the color of his team’s jerseys.

Modern day coaches are more subtle. According to news reports, the New England Patriots have been deflating their footballs, except the kicking balls, to below the NFL’s allowed pressure. Previously, the Patriot quarterback stated his preference for softer footballs. The Patriots’ coach and quarterbacks denials in press conferences raise more questions than they answer, particularly given the team’s history of cheating.

The NFL is now in the unpleasant position of having to deal with this scandal. Either they enforce their rules with harsh penalties or risk becoming a laughing stock. A detailed and specific rule exists, one assumes there is good reason for it. If they minimize the infraction of this rule, they risk making all NFL rules suspect. If this rule isn’t enforced, it must not be important. What other rules aren’t important? Why should a team obey any of them?

A thought on a punishment belatedly came to me:

For the Super Bowl, the NFL could have the Patriots deflate each of their 11 non-kicking game balls by two pounds each. Then they would replace that air with air from the kicking ball (the only one that was still in the legal range) until they could get no more air to transfer out of the kicking ball. They would play the game with these twelve balls and would be forced to use the kicking ball for kickoffs, punts, extra points, and field goals, should they choose to do any of these. Kicking off (or punting if chosen after a safety) is the only kick a team is required to make. All the others are discretionary.

Was the Tsunami Based on the Double-Wing?

December 26, 2014

Old friend Tex Noel forwarded me a recent article about a new formation from AFCA Weekly. In that article Leon Feliciano, Head Coach of Tomales (CA) High School, states that his Tsunami formation is based on the double wing and provides photos of both formations (below).

Double-wing Feliciano

Tsunami formation

The first thing I noticed is that Feliciano used a balanced-line configuration with the quarterback directly behind, if not under, center as the basis for his Tsunami. Pop Warner’s fully-evolved double-wing, which he labeled Formation B in his 1927 book, in sharp contrast, uses an unbalanced line and a direct snap to a running back. (below)

Formation B Warner

To me, the Tsunami is more like Warner’s single-wing than his double-wing because it employs only one wingback. Warner’s fully-evolved unbalanced-line single wing as depicted as Formation A (below) in his 1927 book is closer to the Tsunami than Warner’s double-wingback formation, but is different, especially with regard to the positioning of the quarterback. Where Warner moves his quarterback along the line to just behind the tackles and renames the position as blocking back.


Warner’s 1912 book sheds little light on this question because Warner had shifted to running only direct snap formations in 1910. He does include one set of plays with the quarterback directly behind center in what he calls the Regular Formation (an incarnation of the T Formation).

However, in his correspondence course Warner started marketing in 1908, he includes a set of plays run from the End-Back Formation in which the right halfback is placed outside the right end as a wingback without moving the quarterback from behind center. The difference between this formation and the Tsunami is that Warner positioned his left end in the backfield about where he later placed his blocking back. (Rules allowed five men in the backfield at that time.) The extra man in the backfield and the resulting unbalanced line are the chief difference between the End-Back Formation and the Tsunami.

1908 End Back formation

Warner’s next wingback formation, which appears unnamed in play number 8 to 16 in the 1910 or 1911 (the year isn’t clear) Offense pamphlet supplement is a direct-snap single-wing with a balanced line. If Warner moved his blocking back to directly behind the center, it would be very similar to the Tsunami.

1910 Balanced-Line single-wing

I hope this little walk down Memory Lane helps place the Tsunami with its historical predecessors.





Montana the Greatest

November 26, 2014

One of the six NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks from Western Pennsylvania that Wayne Stewart writes about in his new book, America’s Cradle of Quarterbacks: Western Pennsylvania’s Football Factory from Johnny Unitas to Joe Montana has been named the best NFL quarterback of all time by none other than his rival.

Yahoo reports that Troy Aikman regards his former rival as the best to ever play the game in an interview on the Dan Patrick Show.

“Joe Montana,” said Aikman. “And I don’t care if we’re comparing him against anyone from today’s game or not, or what his numbers may or may not look like. I saw him do it on the biggest stage, in the biggest moments and bring his team back and do the things that I think are required of the position.”

Listen to his interview here:;_ylt=A0LEV1z6d3ZUpacAkBRXNyoA

Aikman isn’t the only one to think Montana was the best.

Tom Brady


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