Archive for the ‘Single-Wing’ Category

Single-Wing Revisited

July 28, 2009

When addressing the incorrect assertion that Pop Warner had developed the single-wing formation while he was coaching at Pitt and Stanford in the 1920s by www.footballhistorian.com, I neglected to include a piece of evidence that demonstrates this statement is patently false.

Below is a photograph of the 1915 Washington State College team lined up in an unbalanced-line single wing formation. The photo can be found on page 79 of Richard Fry’s beautiful book, The Crimson and the Gray: 100 Years with the WSU Cougars, which has unfortunately gone out of print. (Something needs to be done about that.) The identities of the players, uniforms and helmets accurately date the photo. Lone Star Dietz, a single-wing aficionado, coached WSC for the 1915-17 seasons, so it is logical that his team would run it and the double-wing.

Dietz played on the Carlisle Indian School teams from 1909-11, then assisted Pop Warner from 1912-14. After the end of the 1914 season, Warner and Dietz headed to greener pastures. Warner took the head coaching job at Pitt and Dietz caught the train to Pullman.

If Warner hadn’t developed the single-wing at Carlisle as he said, this photo would mean that Lone Star came up with it on his own and never took credit for it, which is highly unlikely. Some of the confusion may be of Warner’s making.

Pop’s correspondence course (1908-11) and his first coaching book (1912) do not include this formation; they show earlier evolutions with balanced lines. The formation in the photo is the one Warner calls Formation A in his 1927 book. He likely held back his best stuff in his earlier publications because it is doubtful that Dietz would have been running the unbalanced-line single-wing as a primary formation in 1915 had it not been perfected used at Carlisle some years before.

WSC Single-Wing 1915

New Football History Website

July 13, 2009

Tex Noel just came across a new website that has an article about the single-wing on it. Being well aware of my interest, he sent me this link: (It may be necessary to copy this URL and paste it into your browser.) http://www.footballhistorian.com/football_heroes.cfm?page=18#Single-Wing%20Formation…1920s

The page is very attractively done and has links to sister sites for baseball and basketball. The problems start when you read what is written on the site. The title for the article is Single-Wing Formation…1920s. I found it curious that the single-wing was filed under the decade of the 1920s instead of when it originated. The first sentence of the article explains that: The single-wing formation was conceived by Glenn “Pop” Warner while coaching at Pittsburgh and Stanford Universities.

After reading this, there is little point in reading further. Apparently, the writer has not read Pop Warner’s letters, books and articles about when he originated the single-wing. As long-time readers know, I researched the birth of the single-wing a couple of years ago and found something quite different from what FootballHistorian.com wrote. To my knowledge, I am the only person to have located the different versions of the offense pamphlets from Warner’s correspondence course that pre-dated his 1912 book. www.Tuxedo-Press.com reprinted Warner’s single-wing trilogy which consists of the 1912 and 1927 books plus the various versions of the offense pamphlet that could be found with an introduction to explain them a bit. Anyone interested in learning the history of the single-wing would enjoy reading them.

I attempted to navigate the site but was unable to find an email address to contact. I did find a Jim Thorpe page. He states that Thorpe “…simply outran the opposing defense and chalked-up a phenomenal total of 1,869 yards in only 191 carries.” I don’t do stats; that’s Tex Noel’s department, so I will leave that up to him. Apparently, he didn’t read what opponents had to say about tackling Thorpe.

After discussing the 1912 football season, he wrote, Thorpe then was acclaimed “the best in the world” by winning Gold Medals in the 1912 Olympics in both the decathlon and the pentathlon in Stockholm, Sweden. This gives the reader the impression that the Olympics happened after the football season. Hmmm.

Edwardsville Tigers Run the Single-Wing

June 29, 2009

Tex Noel informed me that the National Single-Wing Coaches Association was inducting its inaugural class of coaches into its Hall of Fame at its national symposium being held over the weekend at Edwardsville, Illinois. Of course I wanted to know more as I hadn’t paid attention to where the national symposium was being held this year. A quick look at the NSCWA web site indicated that Edwardsville High School Head Football Coach Mark Bliss and Running Backs Coach Dan Johnson were hosting the event at Edwardsville High School.

 Of course I was interested in learning about a major single-wing event but that it was held at EHS also interested me. You see, I attended Edwardsville schools for grades 4 through 9. I was on the freshman football team but got little playing time due to barely weighing 100 pounds (on hot, sweaty days I didn’t weigh that much). The coaches seemed to be afraid that I would get hurt.

 We played a T formation at that time, but Mark Bliss now has Edwardsville running the single-wing. The Tigers had a winning season overall, but lost one more conference game than they won. Being in the Southwestern Conference means they play East St. Louis, Belleville East and West, Collinsville, Granite City, O’Fallon and Alton. Winning a conference championship won’t be easy with perennial power East St. Louis often being ranked nationally. Perhaps the single-wing will give the Tigers the edge they need to beat the Flyers. Time will tell.

 On a humorous note, the brochure for the symposium states that the location was to be held at Edardsville High School. I find that funny because grade school classmates would sometimes mispronounce the school and town names as if they were spelled that way. Teachers would cringe and correct them, often to no avail.

 A concrete Tiger sat in front of the high school in my day. Rival Collinsville students would periodically pour a bucket of purple (the Kahoks’ school color) on the Tiger. I have no idea if it was moved to the new school.

Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals

May 7, 2009

Galleys for Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals, the first book in my upcoming series on Native American Sports Heroes, have arrived. At about 160,000 words, Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs is too long for most middle school and many high school students to read. So, I am splitting it up into a series by state, the first of which is Oklahoma because it has the largest Indian population of any state. It also was home to many of the Carlisle stars. Splitting up the book into smaller volumes has another advantage; it makes room for some more players. Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs got to be so long that I had to stop adding players, but now I have places to tell their stories. For example, Henry Roberts and Mike Balenti  are in Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals but aren’t in Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs.

The new book will be in hardback so that it is attractive to libraries and is under 200 pages long, including the index and appendices. My hope is that school and public libraries across Oklahoma, and elsewhere, add this book to their collections. A book reviewer suggested that grandparents may be interested in giving this book to their grandchildren as gifts. I would like that because my readers to date tend to be over 40. Young people should know about the lives and achievements of Carlisle Indian School students.

Like my other books, Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals is heavily illustrated with rarely seen period photos and cartoons. Bob Carroll of the Professional Football Researchers Association even drew portraits of all the players for the book. This book will be released in September.

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Lone Star Dietz Belongs in Hall of Fame

March 5, 2009

The National Football Foundation released the 2009 ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame and Lone Star Dietz’s name is on it again, but don’t get too excited. Lone Star Dietz should have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame decades ago but hasn’t been. In my opinion, Dietz shouldn’t need an HoF-worthy win-loss record (something he has) to gain admission to the Hall. His 1915 season culminated by the 1916 Rose Bowl in itself should be enough. He took over a Washington State team that had had a string of losing seasons and led them to the best record on the West Coast that year. As a reward, he was given the honor of defending the honor of the west in a New Year’s Day game to be played in Pasadena after the parade. At that time West Coast football was considered to be inferior to the Eastern brand. In 1899 the Carlisle Indians defeated the University of California in a Christmas Day game played in San Francisco and this was before the Indians hit their stride. A 1902 New Year’s game was played in Pasadena between Michigan and Stanford but it was a failure because Stanford threw in the towel in the second half while losing 49-0 because they could no longer field 11 players without broken bones. They waited until 1916 to give it another try.

Dietz and his team demonstrated to the entire country that West Coast football (at least Dietz’s team) was the equivalent of Eastern Football when they beat Coach Eddie Robinson’s fine Brown University team that featured Fritz Pollard. They also established the New Year’s Day football tradition, the Rose Bowl, and all the other bowls that would follow. Some Eastern sportswriters considered Washington State to be national champs that year. Dietz didn’t need to do anything more to deserve induction, but he did and did it well. Robinson and Pollard were inducted half a century ago but not Dietz. He was inducted into the Helms Foundation long ago but not the College Football Hall of Fame.

For years the HoF had incorrectly computed his win-loss record and deemed him unworthy of consideration. Their mistake was finally corrected in this century, so almost no one alive remembers him. Also, his selection would probably not result in as large a number of banquet tickets being sold as did Bowden’s and Paterno’s. Thus the HoF has little incentive to induct him.

lonestar-wyoming1

A-11 Formation – Illegal?

February 16, 2009

I just learned of another formation with roots in the single-wing and figured I better tell you about it before it is banned. Head Coach Kurt Bryan and Offensive Coordinator Steve Humphries of Piedmont High School near San Francisco, California. Like Pop Warner a century before them, Bryan and Humphries designed a formation to compensate for a weight disadvantage. Like Coach Phil DeMarco at little Windber Area High School in Pennsylvania, Piedmont suffered a size disadvantage when playing much larger schools. The size disadvantage wasn’t just a single-game experience, it continued to present itself as seasons wore on and injuries piled up. Large schools have so many players that they win wars of attrition. By the time playoffs come around, small schools can be pretty short on players. The new formation, the A-11, reduces injuries to players running that offense.

What is the A-11?

High school and college rules require that at least five players wearing numbers between 50 and 79, numbers worn by players not eligible to receive passes, line up on the line of scrimmage – except when in “scrimmage kick formation,” i.e. punt or place kick. Bryan and Humphries found a loophole. They have all their players wear numbers from 1 to 49 or 80 to 99 to become eligible pass receivers. They then line up in a formation, the A-11, that qualifies as a “scrimmage kick formation.”

A-11 Base Formation

A-11 Base Formation

 

The formation’s single-wing roots become obvious when one notices the direct snaps from the center to the 1 and 2 backs (tailback and fullback). Both of these players are ideally triple-threat guys but coaches have to live with what they have. What makes the A-11 unique is how the other two backs and six linemen are positioned (the center is on already on the line of scrimmage). Just before the snap, these eight players shift so that six of them are on the line of scrimmage and two are back of it. The players’ numbers allow all of them to be in either location. The defense has just a second to sort out the eligible receivers and frequently guess wrong. North Carolina has made it illegal and California is threatening to follow suit. Find out more at http://www.humphinternet.com/A11/

The A-11 was declared illegal after this blog was written but before it was published. For more info see: http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/blog/dr_saturday

 

A Shot Is Not A Wing

December 29, 2008

coffin-corner-masthead

The resurgence of the single-wing in the NFL spawned another article. This one by John T. Reed can be found in the current issue of “The Coffin Corner,” the journal of the Professional Football Researchers Association (PFRA). BTW, professional refers to football not the researchers as we don’t get paid for our contributions to the journal. (We do it for the love of the game.) In “A Shot Is Not a Wing,” Reed wrote about the difference between a single- or double-wing center snap and what passes for one in a shotgun formation. I’ll leave the discussion of the difference to Mr. Reed.

John T. Reed has a website appropriately named www.Johntreed.com. On that website you will find numerous articles about single-wing football. You will also find one about turning around the football program at his alma mater, West Point: http://johntreed.com/Armyfootball.html. What you won’t find there, or anywhere else on the web, is “A Shot Is Not A Wing.” It’s title is listed on the PFRA site, http://www.profootballresearchers.org/, but you’ll have to join the PFRA to get the current issue. All it costs is $25 a year. A simple application can be found on the PFRA site. Just fill it out and set it to Bob Carroll along with your check. You will also be given the opportunity to write articles and participate on committees. They even review books. Look for a review of “Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs” in a future issue.

A similar journal exists for college football. That organization is called the College Football Historical Society (CFHS). Ray Schmidt edits their journal. Annual dues for the CFHS are only $17, but postage increases could force that to go up. Just send your check and mailing address to Ray Schmidt at PO Box 6460, Ventura, CA  93006.

This ends year one of my blog. See you next year.

cfhsmasthead

Brown Was In 1916 Rose Bowl, Too!

December 18, 2008

I recently posted some footage of the 1916 Rose Bowl that was provided to me by the Washington State athletic department onto www.YouTube.com/TomBenjey. Washington State was of course running the single-wing, but Brown was running a derivative that eagle-eyed Ted Seay observed that “At the 5:48 mark, Brown shifts into a double-flexed formation with an end and tackle to the left, then they slot their wingback inside that tandem and sweep to the left…” I am now working on a short video of Brown’s offense that will include slow-motion clips for those of us who don’t have Ted’s powers of observation. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTA2w8aanPc&feature=channel_page That got me thinking about Brown’s players. Everyone is familiar with Fritz Pollard and, to use WSC’s descriptor, “the giant [Mark] Farnum,” but there are other players from that team who are in the Brown Hall of Fame. Let’s start with Josh Weeks because I have communicated with his son, Randall, who talked with him about the game.

Joshua H. Weeks, number 42, played right end on the 1915 Brown University team that played against Washington State in the 1916 Rose Bowl. Later in life he shared some of his experiences with his sons. Randy has been good enough to pass some of his memories along to me. For starters, Brown got little exercise, contrary to what the cartoon at the bottom of this piece insinuated. Prior to the game the players encountered citrus trees loaded with ripe fruit and gorged themselves on oranges. What a mistake! The result was frequent bathroom runs during the game.

Seeing no need for cold or wet weather gear, Brown brought neither along with them. Two days before the game it snowed and it poured during the game. Lone Star Dietz only brought summer suits for himself but did bring mud cleats for his players. Fritz Pollard could get no footing and was held to a season-low in yards gained. He did notice that Lone Star’s white suit was covered with mud before the first quarter was over.

<to be continued>

 brown-practice

Cherokee Wins Heisman

December 15, 2008

Recently a question was raised on this blog about American Indian leadership in athletics. Saturday’s action by the Downtown Athletic Club to award the Heisman Trophy to Sam Bradford may spread this discussion to a broader audience. The Oklahoma University quarterback, being 1/16th Cherokee, is enrolled in the tribe. Last year an ESPN announcer was unintentionally humorous when he stated that Bradford was “certified Cherokee.” The announcer was cut some slack because the enrollment process is very complicated.

Sam’s great-great-grandmother, Susie Walkingstick, was full-blood Cherokee. His father, former OU lineman Kent Bradford, is 1/8th blood Cherokee. It is appropriate that this Heisman winner plays for Oklahoma University because Oklahoma has the largest American Indian population of any state. Fellow Oklahoman Sac & Fox Jim Thorpe did not win the Heisman because that award wasn’t initiated until 1935 when the University of Chicago’s Jay Berwanger became the first recipient of the trophy with the famous pose. Jim Plunkett, being Mexican-American, was probably the first person with significant quantities of Indian blood to win the Heisman when he was named in 1970. Since then, it hasn’t been close. Not even fellow Cherokee Sonny Sixkiller who played quarterback for the Washington Huskies two decades later contended seriously.

A USA Today cover story http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/big12/2008-12-09-bradford-cover_N.htm discusses the impact Bradford’s candidacy has already had on Indian children. Like Sixkiller, Bradford did not live on a reservation and grew up with little exposure to his Cherokee heritage. Anadarko, OK was home for College Football Hall of Famer Albert Exendine, star end at Carlisle. Anadarko is also the town in which Exendine, in the summer of 1911, encouraged Jim Thorpe to return to Carlisle. Alongside this history exists Riverside Indian School, a place where one would expect football to thrive. But that hasn’t been the case. Riverside dropped football a few years ago but, due to Bradford’s inspiration, fielded a team this year. Forty boys came out for the team – not bad for a school that has only 400 students who range in age from 4th grade to high school. The Braves only won one game but this was their inaugural season. The important question is: Are they running the single-wing?

USA Today photo of Sam Bradford with his Heisman Trophy

USA Today photo of Sam Bradford with his Heisman Trophy

The Single-Wing May Be Off life Support

December 5, 2008

Jim Sweeney, the life-long Army fan who told me about the Sports Illustrated article, shared with me that on Thanksgiving Day he was able to watch, on ESPN2 no less, two Jesuit high schools from New York City play each other in an 85-year long Thanksgiving tradition. Xavier High played Fordham Prep at Fordham Field in the Bronx. Sweeney’s (also JoePa’s) alma mater, Brooklyn Prep, was, until it closed in 1973, the third Jesuit high school in the City. You probably already know that Joe Paterno played tailback in Brooklyn Prep’s double-wing and that his brother, George, was fullback. Something few of us know is that both Xavier and Fordham Prep are NOW running the single-wing. What a treat it must have been for Jim to watch these teams in the comfort of his living room.

Another result of the Sports Illustrated article or the fact that NFL teams are dabbling with the single-wing is that I was interviewed yesterday by the local NBC affiliate about the connection between the Wildcat formation and Carlisle Indian School. After interviewing me, reporter George Lettis visited Carlisle Barracks and shot part of his piece on Indian Field. WGAL’s website has an article on its website that can be found at http://www.wgal.com/sports/18199527/detail.html. The broadcast video can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iP9FogxDRII. In addition to footage of Lettis and me, portions of the documentary Tom McCue and I made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the single-wing are included. Narrator Lynn Myers’ voice comes through loud and clear.

It will be interesting to see how long NFL coaches run the Wildcat or other versions of the single-wing before they admit that the fundamental formation was developed a century ago by Pop Warner for the Carlisle Indians. Some think that NFL coaches will continue to obfuscate this point so as not to appear to be behind the times by 100 years.