Warner Might Have Been A Gopher

Things didn’t always have to happen the way they turned out although histories often read as if they were preordained. For one example, it wasn’t a sure thing that Pop Warner would return to coach Carlisle in 1907 and change the course of football forever. The Indian School surely wasn’t able to pay him as much as the large universities could. When Warner’s Stanford team was in Minneapolis in October 1930 to play the Gophers, as guest of honor at the local Rotary Club meeting, he gave a talk. Included in the talk was the story of how he returned to Carlisle for a second stint as the Indians head coach.

After the 1906 season, Pop decided to leave Cornell due to alumni pressure against his style of play. Carlisle wasn’t the only possible opportunity he considered but we know about only one other school he considered, thanks to newspaper coverage of his talk. There were likely more. As a married man not an heir to a fortune, Warner felt pressure to get a job to keep income flowing in to support Tibb and himself.

An inveterate gambler, Pop knew that nothing was certain until a contract was signed, and sometimes not even then. He had received favorable responses from his inquiries to at least two schools: Carlisle and Minnesota. He had  stated his terms, but didn’t have a contract in hand for 1907. So, when an acceptance letter arrived from Carlisle Indian School, he immediately accepted, probably by wire. He had a job offer from one of the schools he wanted and didn’t waste time accepting.

Later that same day, an offer arrived from Minnesota. Their letter had likely been mailed well before the one from Carlisle was posted, but Minnesota was a lot farther from Springville, New York than was Carlisle in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania. Warner must have been satisfied with his choice because he didn’t try to rescind his acceptance and take the Minnesota offer. However, changing his mind was less of an option then than it is now. Having given his word and keeping it was more important then than it is today.

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