Archive for the ‘Pop Warner’ Category

Important Info About Eagle Feather, Maybe

June 3, 2016

Eagle Feather Carlisle fullback 19221011

When my Eagle Feather research returned me to 1922, the Oorang Indians’ first year of operation, I took a second (or third) look at some newspaper articles I had previously collected. I was forced to search for an early article I for which had neglected to capture the date of and publication name. Mercifully, the easily recognizable article popped up early with the graphic at the top of the page. Rereading “Former Bulldogs Now Important Cogs In Jim Thorpe’s All-Indian Football Machine” brought me back to “Thorpe has unearthed a brilliant fullback in Eagle Feather, from Carlisle.” No new information there, I thought, “At least I know where this came from now.” My eye wandered to a piece immediately below the one I had sought, finding something I’d previously overlooked.

“Most Of Jim’s Indians Are Carlisle And Haskell Men” grabbed my attention. Perusing the piece unveiled “Eagle Feather, fullback who weighs 230 stripped, is a cousin to Bemus Pearce [sic], famous as a tackle in the old Carlisle days. This could lead us to who Eagle Feather really was or it could have been wrong as are so many things in newspapers.

Since we have so little else to go on, let’s assume it is correct. Let’s accept that Eagle Feather was a cousin of Bemus Pierce and that he attended Carlisle. To make our lives as easy as possible, let’s assume (for now) that his last name was Pierce and research Carlisle and tribal records for a person from that family who would have been between 18 and 25 in 1922, based on his youthful appearance in the Oorang photo. I’d also scan Carlisle football files and photographs for a player weighing over 200 pounds (he might have put on a few after Carlisle closed in 1918).

If we come up dry, we’ll have to do some genealogy work to identify Bemus Pierce’s cousins who might fit the criteria. This research will likely require considerable assistance from the tribal librarian. It’s not exactly looking for a needle in a haystack but only by an order of magnitude or two.

Eagle Feather Bemus Pierce cousin 19221011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:  http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2015/may/21/haskell-suspends-football-program-2015-season/

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.

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.

 

Deflategate

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.

400px-Singlewingformation_vs5

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.

 

 

 

 

College Football and All America Review

May 28, 2014

The most recent edition of the College Football Historical Society Newsletter included a historical book review of Christy Walsh’s 1949 College Football and All America Review. What caught my eye most were two things the book included: “the score of every game [ever] played” and “listing of lettermen, by year, from each school.” Determining exactly who played on the Carlisle and Haskell teams is a difficult, if not impossible, project due to the records retained for those teams. So, I searched for a copy of the book and found one at Allegheny College through interlibrary loan. Eventually the sought-after book arrived.

I flipped through the pages of the book searching for the Carlisle lettermen and found none. I repeated the process for Haskell and was disappointed again. Perhaps because neither school was competing at the college level at that time, their records were omitted. Or, it may have been too hard to gather up the information from the available data sources. Regardless, I came up dry. But I did stumble across some things of interest.

The book was dedicated to Pop Warner “with affectionate esteem” and Warner wrote a one-page article, “Flash-back to Carlisle” in which he reminisced about his years with the Indians. His list of highlights included:

  • Numerous victories over the University of Pennsylvania
  • Defeat of Harvard 18 to 15 in 1911 against Walter Camp All Americans as Percy Wendy, Sam Felton and Bob Fisher, the game in which Jim Thorpe kicked three goals from the field
  • The 27 to 6 trouncing the red-skinned youngsters gave to West Point in 1912, when the Cadets boasted players like Arnold, Littlejohn, Hyatt and Devore
  • I happily recall the truly great Indian squad of 1913 which handily swamped undefeated Dartmouth by a score of 35 to 0
  • Perhaps no Carlisle victory was more important or satisfying than the historic post-season game of 1907 when Chicago, coached by that grand old man Amos Alonzo Stagg and quarterbacked by Wally Steffen, another Walter Camp All American, was soundly defeated by the Indians, after the Conference champions had won the Big 10 title in an undefeated season.

Not listed were the 1905 Carlisle victory over West Point during a season Warner wasn’t at Carlisle and the 1907 defeat of Harvard, possibly because Warner felt the defeat of Chicago overshadowed it.

 

College Football Player Unionization

April 1, 2014

An issue that reared its ugly head during the days Carlisle Indians roamed the gridiron has resurfaced again—still unresolved. The college sports environment then was much different than it is today but the problems facing today’s players are similar to those Carlisle players faced. Because Carlisle’s players were viewed as wards of the government, their food, housing, clothing, and education were paid for by the school. I almost said the government but Superintendant Pratt couldn’t have kept the school open on what the government allocated it. He solicited and received substantial donations from individuals, particularly from Quaker ladies in Philadelphia. Proceeds from the highly profitable football program helped keep the school operating.

Pop Warner was criticized roundly for sharing football profits with the players, largely in the form of chits for clothing at Blumenthal’s (today’s Wardecker’s Men’s Wear). The reason for this was that the government supplied the students with uniforms and work clothing for their daily use, but it didn’t provide them with civilian clothing to wear off campus. Players at the big, private college football powerhouses of the day largely came from affluent families and didn’t need to make money for playing for their alma maters. Today’s situation is different. Many, if not most, top athletes’ families do not have the money to pay the vastly increased costs of attending college, making them more like the Carlisle Indians in financial terms than their opponents of yore.

The recent National Labor Relations Review Board (NLRB) ruling that college athletes are employees of the private universities they represent is just the most recent attempt to deal with the issue. The distinction of private is key to this ruling because the statute on which it is based only affects private institutions, not the large public universities that tend to be the athletic powerhouses today. So, if this ruling stands—which is a big if considering the Supreme Court may reject the manner in which the NLRB board members were appointed and strike its rulings—it will only impact the small number of private colleges and universities that compete in top-level Division I sports. However, if it stands, it may have considerable impact on Title IX and minor sports at those schools. The saga continues…

Paul Laroque 1907

December 27, 2013

I neglected to mention that Paul LaRoque played hurt in the last game of the 1905 season against Georgetown. He started the game with a broken rib but probably didn’t play long in this 76-0 blow out. So, diseased or injured, he probably completed the 1906 season on the field for the Indians. His grandson informed me that, instead of sitting quietly at home, he played for the “North Dakota Bison” in 1907. That prompted me to do a little more research.
I quickly found newspaper clippings of a couple of North Dakota Agricultural College (today’s North Dakota State) games in which LaRoque was on the line—right tackle against South Dakota and right end against Haskell Institute. “Gloomy” Gil Dobie coached the North Dakota Aggies (as they were generally called) in 1906 and 1907 contrary to what Wikipedia states. One would think NDSU fans would want to see Dobie mentioned as one of their successful coaches. However, CFBDATAWAREHOUSE.com has that right. That site lists the Aggies having played only three games that year. They likely played more but I haven’t found them. One wonders if playing for “The Apostle of Grief” convinced Paul to return to Carlisle or if the announcement of Warner’s return swayed him or if that was his plan all along. We’ll probably never know for sure.
Something that readers may find confusing is that LaRoque played on the line but was mentioned in newspaper reports as having made good gains carrying the ball. In those days, linemen were sometimes positioned in the backfield and also were handed the ball on criss-cross plays. It was a much different game then, particularly before teams adapted to the 1906 rule changes.

Warner Teams Scored the Most Points

December 15, 2013

While researching the 1906 Carlisle Indian School team, I came across something that might interest my sports statistician friend Tex Noel in the December 7, 1906 edition of The Arrow, Carlisle’s school newspaper. In addition to summing up Carlisle’s season, the article titled Football Resume closed with a list of points scored and points allowed by team for the top 34 college teams. Carlisle scored 244 points for the season where Cornell scored 237. The only team to outscore them was the University of Western Pennsylvania (known as Pitt today), which racked up 254 points. Pitt not only played an easier schedule that year than did Carlisle and Cornell, they lost to them 22-0 and 23-0, respectively. It is fair to say that Carlisle and Cornell far more points than did the other major football powers that first year under the revolutionary new rules. But why?

Sure, they had good players, but some teams had All Americans. I propose that it was the offensive schemes these teams ran that made the difference. Ironically, both teams ran formations developed by none other than Pop Warner. Warner stated that the Indians were the first team to run the earliest incarnation of his single-wingback formation and they first ran it 1906. But Warner didn’t coach Carlisle in 1906 because he was at Cornell then. However, he spent a week at Carlisle before the season started coaching the Indians’ coaches, Bemus Pierce and Frank Hudson, in his new offensive schemes designed to take advantage of what the new rules allowed, including the forward pass. It’s probably true that both Carlisle and Cornell ran Warner’s single-wing that year. Given that, even though they don’t use it themselves, some modern-day coaches acknowledge that the single-wing was the most effective running formation ever devised. In those days of run mostly, even an early version of the single-wing would have given teams running it an advantage that could show up on the scoreboard.

1906 points scored