Archive for the ‘Single-Wing’ Category

Renewed Interest in Carlisle Indian School

December 27, 2015

While I wait on galleys for my Craighead book, I have received requests for interviews about Carlisle Indian School football players. The first was with the local paper to talk about the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rose Bowl. The second is for a videotaped interview about the Carlisle Indian School football program for an upcoming documentary by Ernie Zahn, a Current Fellow with Filmmakers Without Borders. In the meantime, Washington State Magazine, the Washington State University alumni magazine published a short article they requested I write about the 1916 Rose Bowl. How, you might ask, is the 1916 Rose Bowl a Carlisle Indian School topic?

Lone Star Dietz played right tackle for Pop Warner’s legendary 1909-11 teams and became his protégé when he assisted the “Old Fox” coach the Carlisle teams from 1912 to 1914. After Warner took the head coaching job at Pitt, he recommended Dietz to head up the floundering Washington State program. Dietz brought Warner’s single- and double-wing formations to the Palouse and ran roughshod over the competition with them. A photo of the 1915 Washington State College team lined up in an unbalanced-right single-wing formation heads the Washington State Magazine article.

The Carlisle Sentinel interview resulted in an article in the December 26 edition titled “Rose Bowl: Lone Star Dietz coached first game in Rose Bowl Series.” Accompanying the article are two photos of Dietz: one in civilian clothes holding a cigar, the other in a Carlisle football uniform.

How much of the hour-long interview by the Filmmakers Without Borders fellow won’t be known for some time but the entire documentary Zahn intends to produce will be short. Because it is funded, he won’t be entering it in festivals or contests. Instead, he will be putting it up on when post-production work is complete.


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.





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

Problems with Warner’s Correspondence Course

March 20, 2012

In 1910, Warner had three sets of customers all expected to pay the same $10 for that year’s course but, depending on the set they were in, received something different.  Old customers who first bought the course in 1908 or 1909 received the annual supplements where new customers received all the pamphlets from the original course plus the 1910 supplements.  This surely created a logistics headache for him.  To simplify things, he might have packaged a set of course pamphlets with the first supplement he released for the year, thus giving old customers a second or third copy of the course.  Arguing against him doing that is the likelihood of subscribers giving their duplicates to friends.  Warner would surely have foreseen that possibility.  Evidence to support that he didn’t send duplicate copies of the pamphlets to old customers is that none of the (few) archives that have copies of the course mention having multiple copies although some have annual supplements.

A hint that Warner received static from his old customers over the pricing is that Warner addressed that issue in the ad copy when he wrote, “The latter manual or pamphlet, diagramming and explaining an entirely new system of offense, will alone be worth many times the subscription price of the course which remains but $10.00.”

Not having a copy of the 1911 Spalding Guide yet, I don’t know what the ad copy for that year stated, but do expect that logistics problems and complaints over pricing from old customers compounded over time.  These issues may have become great enough by 1912 to cause Warner to take his training course in a different direction while making it affordable for a broader audience. The next installment in this conversation will discuss Warner’s new approach.  In the meantime, if you know of anyone who has copies of Warner’s correspondence course, particularly the Offense pamphlets, please let me know.

Ads for Warner’s Correspondence Course

March 16, 2012

The copy of the 1909 Spalding’s Guide that I have doesn’t include an ad for Warner’s correspondence course. It could just be missing a page as the advertising pages at the backs of those books are often in bad shape or, not infrequently, missing. If you have a copy of the 1909 Spalding’s Guide that includes an ad, please let me know. Moving on to 1910, we find a very different ad. This time, it is titled “FOOT BALL COACHING {BY CORRESPONDENCE FOR} $10.” The text-intensive ad copy begins with Warner’s name in bold print the size of the title, followed by two paragraphs that extol the virtues of his correspondence course and that is has been in use for two years. That implies that, even if he didn’t advertise it in the 1909 Spalding’s Guide, he continued to offer it. Looking at the copy of A Course in Football for Players and Coaches: Offense on my bookshelf, I see a 1909 supplement for the offense pamphlet. It appears that Warner continued to sell the basic course from 1908 but supplemented it with updates. Since he refers to the cost of the course as a subscription, he implies that those who bought the course in 1908 would pay an additional $10 fee each year for supplements.

The first paragraph includes a curious phrase, “…has been given this page….” Whether he wrote euphemistically or not is unknown. Ads for products, other than books written by Walter Camp, do not regularly appear in the pages of the Spalding’s Guides as the advertising space was reserved for the company’s own products. It is understandable that Walter Camp would be provided space because of his close relationship with Spalding. Whether Warner given the space as a reward for using or extolling the virtues of Spalding’s products is not known. That Walter Camp endorsed Warner’s course is clear.

<to be continued>

If you have, or know of someone who has, a copy of either the 1911 Spalding’s Guide or the 1911 Offense Supplement for Pop Warner’s correspondence course, please let me know.

It Probably Wasn’t the Single-Wing

November 2, 2010

Now that we’ve dealt with some obvious errors in Rich Manning’s article, let’s get to the original issue: formations. The single-wing section in the Carlisle Indian School article in starts this way:

In 1907, ‘Pop’ Warner returned to Carlisle. Together he and the Indians developed a new formation that would revolutionize football. The single wing shifted the halfback out wide, to outflank the opposing tackle. The new offense formed a shape that look like a wing. It opened up options and disguised intentions. The ability to show one thing and do another combined with the new rules made it possible to run, throw or kick at any time. ‘Pop’ Warner unveiled the new formation against the University of Pennsylvania, on Oct. 26, 1907.

I have read that the single-wing was unleashed in several different years due to Pop Warner’s inconsistent memory and writers’ imaginations. After researching this topic a bit, I came to believe that the single-wing did not arrive fully formed as the unbalanced-line, direct snap version depicted as Formation A in Warner’s 1927 book. I have concluded that the formation evolved over time as Warner implied on page 136 of his 1927 classic where he stated that it was first used by the Carlisle Indians and that he had used it or variations of it since the rules change of 1906. That he spent a week in Carlisle before the start of the season preparing coaches Bemus Pierce and Frank Hudson for the rule changes gives credibility for it having been first used by the Indians in 1906 when he wasn’t their coach. Fortunately, some documentation exists.

Warner began marketing a correspondence course on football in 1908 for which I have located and have reprinted the Offense pamphlet along with its annual updates. The 1908 pamphlet includes a number of offensive formations, which is not surprising as Warner was noted for tinkering with them. That newspaper coverage of the 1907 Penn game mentioned that multiple formations were used is not surprising. However, it is far from clear that end-back formation, the earliest documented version of Warner’s single-wing, was the formation being described for many of the plays as it didn’t feature a direct snap to a running back. That would come later. However, the punt formation did allow direct snaps to the backs and Warner had devised a set of running and passing plays from this formation.

He even described Play No. 17 thusly, “This is the long forward pass play used so successfully last season.” Last season would have been 1907, so this is likely the formation from which Frank Mt. Pleasant and Pete Hauser completed all those passes, not an early incarnation of the single-wing.

Play No. 17 from 1908 correspondence course Offense pamphlet

More Errors at

October 29, 2010

Let’s now look at Rich Manning’s statement regarding Jim Thorpe:

The [Pennsylvania] game also marked the debut of Jim Thorpe. He broke free for 45 yards the second time he touched the ball.

This statement didn’t ring true because Pop Warner wouldn’t likely put an untested player like the young Thorpe into the pressure of a big game. He was more likely to have given him some playing time in the warm up games to better prepare him for game situations. One of the purposes of the warm up games at the beginning of the season was to give new players playing time in game situations with little pressure. However, the 1907 schedule didn’t provide Warner much opportunity to try untested players. Lebanon Valley College and Susquehanna University were the only games with lopsided scores. Unfortunately, the reports for those games in the Carlisle school newspaper didn’t list the names of all the players who got into those games. One assumes that Jim Thorpe got significant playing time in the 91-0 blow out of Susquehanna. Although we don’t know that for sure, it wasn’t necessary to research that point because the write up of the Bucknell game provides all the information we need to show that Warner didn’t debut Thorpe against Penn.

The Indian School newspaper reprinted coverage from The Evening Sentinel about the Bucknell game, including, “After the next kick-off [Jim] Thorpe made a long run, but dropped the ball,” and in the second half, “Thorpe did most of the work carrying the ball, and proved an excellent ground gainer. He followed his interference well and held the ball.”

So, Warner debutted Jim Thorpe a week earlier than Manning stated, assuming that he didn’t play in the early blow outs or that they didn’t count because they were warm up games.

The next blog will deal with the errors in the article related to formations .

Errors at

October 27, 2010

I was recently asked if Pop Warner unveiled the single-wing against Penn in the Carlisle Indians’ fifth game of the 1907 season. Penn was actually Carlisle’s 7th opponent that year but that was probably just a typo made by the person asking the question. This was the first time I had heard (or read) that the single-wing was first used in that particular game. I have seen it attributed to several other times but not that one. A little research found a source for this claim but quite possibly not the only person to make it. Follows is an extract from an article on the Carlisle Indians in

‘Pop’ Warner unveiled the new [single-wing] formation against the University of Pennsylvania, on Oct. 26, 1907. So far that season no team had crossed the Quaker’s goal line. Carlisle was undefeated. A large crowd of 22,800 fans looked on. They were expecting a good game but they got more than they bargained for. Carlisle scored on the second play: a 40 yard pass from Hauser to Gardner, caught on the run. The diversified offense racked up 402 yards, to 76 yards for Penn., Carlisle went 8 of 16 passing. The game also marked the debut of Jim Thorpe. He broke free for 45 yards the second time he touched the ball. The Indians won 26 – 6.

After finding this, I set about locating game accounts in period newspapers. Before resolving the issue of the single-wing, I noticed a significant error—or the sports writers of the day had it all wrong. Nowhere did I find mention of (William) Gardner scoring a touchdown or anything else in that game. What I did find in the coverage by The Washington Post, The New York Times, United Press and other wire service accounts was that the Indians’ first score came on a field goal kicked by Pete Hauser early in the game. That score was followed by Fritz Hendricks’ 100-yard touchdown run after picking up Hollenbach’s fumble. Payne closed out the first-half scoring with a touchdown of his own around Penn’s end from the 4-yard line. Penn played better in the second half and didn’t allow Carlisle an offensive touchdown. However, Little Boy scored his touchdown by diving on a Penn punt that Albert Exendine had blocked and fell behind their goal line. Hauser closed out Carlisle’s scoring with a second field goal. Frank Mt. Pleasant kick the extra points after each touchdown. Although Mt. Pleasant and Hauser received much praise for their passing in this game, none of their tosses went for a touchdown to Gardner or anyone else.

The next blog will deal with the errors related to Jim Thorpe and the single-wing.

RichRod Learns from Pop Warner

September 25, 2010

Watching Michigan playing Bowling Green today, I saw a formation that looked familiar. In that formation, Michigan’s backs were all in the backfield, arranged almost in a box. Any of the four backs could receive a direct snap from center, at least in theory. It wasn’t the only formation I saw RichRod use in the game and probably isn’t his primary formation. However, he did use it for multiple plays and for sizeable gains. After a few moments’ thought, I remembered where I had seen a similar formation before. I could be wrong about his formation due to not having a diagram of it, but it sure looked familiar on TV.

Page 113 of Pop Warner’s 1912 book, A Course in Football for Players and Coaches, begins a discussion of Warner’s Open Pass Direct Pass Formation (see bottom of this message). The diagram for this century-old offensive scheme is a bit different than the one RichRod uses but provides the foundation upon which his is based. Both offenses feature direct snaps to multiple backs as well as both pass and run plays from the same position in the formation.

A difference between the formations appears to be that Rodriguez moves backs 1 and 2 to behind the tackles where Warner had them behind the guards. One assumes that the wider position helps make backs 1 and 2 more effective blockers for off-tackle plays and end runs. They might even assist with protecting the passer. Warner included a note stating that experience showed that moving the ends closer to the tackles had proved more effective in blocking the defensive tackles than having them set wide as shown in his diagrams.

A difference between Warner’s plays and those used today is that today centers lob the ball back, generally to the quarterback, where Warner’s centers often led the back receiving the snap. Warner’s scheme requires highly skilled centers but gives the offense advantages over those in which the back receiving the center snap stands flatfooted waiting for the ball to arrive.

Single-wing at Edwardsville High School

September 20, 2009

In June, I wrote about Edwardsville High School Head Football shifting over to the single-wing under new Head Coach Mark Bliss last year. A letter from my 8th grade English and home room teacher (whom all the boys had crushes on) caused me to think about Edwardsville football and how they are doing in this their second year with the single-wing.

A couple of searches located the Tigers’ 2009 schedule and performance to date. As members of the Southwestern Conference, they always face a tough schedule. This year the pre-season rankings had the East St. Louis Flyers at #1 in Class 6A (last year they were Class 7A state champs). USA Today ranked the Flyers at #10 in the country. The Belleville East Lancers were ranked #10 in Class 8A. Last year they made it to the second round of the playoffs and their coach thinks this is the best set of players he’s had at Belleville East. The Belleville West Maroons were ranked #8 in Class 8A. Yes, this is the Belleville West that has been in the news recently because one of its students was beaten by two others when he tried to find a seat on a school bus. I told you this was a tough conference.

The tigers started out their season with a 56-6 win over Roosevelt High of St. Louis, Missouri. Next they beat Chicago Corliss 46-0. Then conference play started. The Belleville East Lancers beat them 27-7 and last Friday they lost to East St. Louis 48-15. Now they have to win them all to have any hope of making the playoffs.

Some may blame the problems on the shift to the single-wing, but if one considers the number of points scored by the Belleville East and East St. Louis offenses, it is unlikely that the Tigers could have won regardless of what offense they were running. They need a defense.