1913 Carlisle Indians Were Not Demoralized

The current (Summer 2012) issue of National Museum of the American Indian magazine devotes most of its pages on Indian athletes, especially those who competed in the Olympics. Of course, Jim Thorpe figured prominently in several of the articles in that issue of the magazine. One of these pieces, The Jim Thorpe Backlash: the Olympic medals debacle and the demise of Carlisle, even mentions me and, of course, disagrees with me:

Whatever the facts, the investigations eviscerated the athletic program. Its surplus funds, totaling $25,640.08, were turned over to the school superintendent, and Warner left Carlisle. The football team was a shadow, losing the rest of its schedule by lopsided scores. Although the school lingered on until August 1918, when the Army took it back for war uses, the noted Carlisle scholar Tom Benjey dates its true demise to the visit of the Congressional investigating committee. And although students and faculty had many grievances, it can fairly be said that the retraction of Thorpe’s medals was the fatal blow to morale.

I can’t figure out exactly what time period is being discussed. Thorpe lost his medals in the spring of 1913. The Congressional inquiry took place in February 1912. Warner left Carlisle for Pitt in early 1915. And, the Carlisle football team never had a winless season, even in the seasons after Thorpe’s medals were returned. So, I’ll wait to address this statement until I know what time period this was supposed to have happened.

While losing his medals had to be devastating to Jim Thorpe and surely affected the morale of other Carlisle athletes, I question whether it struck “the fatal blow to morale” as suggested in the article. It seems unlikely that the Carlisle Indian School football team would have performed well if player morale was low. A 10-1-1 season for a team that lost its greatest player from the previous year sure doesn’t sound like low morale held it back. The 1913 team’s tie was against Penn, the team they lost to the previous year. The 1912 tie with Washington and Jefferson couldn’t be avenged because the teams didn’t play each other in 1913. 1913’s only loss was due to a fumbled kick return that Pitt converted into the winning touchdown. Major wins included one of Warner’s favorites: a 35-10 upset of Dartmouth. George Orton gave Warner high marks for developing such a good team when he had so many inexperienced players. 1913 was one of Carlisle’s best seasons and was not an example of demoralized players.

The Summer 2012 issue of National Museum of the American Indian magazine can be found at:


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