Posts Tagged ‘Amos Alonzo Stagg’

Carlisle Indians Affected Receiver Out-of-Bounds Rules

December 5, 2015

One Saturday last month, I saw two plays that harken back to a play the Carlisle Indians ran. While sitting in the bleachers in The Big House in Ann Arbor watching the Michigan-Rutgers game, I missed seeing exactly what the players on the field did at the time it happened but did see the Michigan fans’ reaction to receiving an unsportsmanship conduct penalty for “attempting to deceive.” Tight end Jake Butts followed a group of players being substituted out of the game to the sideline but didn’t go off the field. Instead, he lined up on the line of scrimmage near the sideline. After the ball was snapped, the Michigan quarterback saw that Butts wasn’t covered by a defender and hit him with a pass for a 56-yard gain. The defense had been fooled but the officials weren’t. Coach Harbaugh protested the 15-yard penalty as only he can do but the officials were unmoved.

Later that day, Nebraska beat Michigan State on a pass completed to a receiver who had been out of bounds before returning to the field to make the catch. The officials ruled that the Michigan State defender had pushed the Nebraska receiver out of bounds and, under the rules, he was allowed to return to the field and catch a pass.

Both of these plays relate to the 1907 Carlisle-Chicago game played in Chicago against what Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg thought was one of his best teams. That year, Carlisle had a great pair of ends in Albert Exendine and William Gardner (both of whom became lawyers but that isn’t part of this story). Stagg’s defensive scheme involved hitting each end with three defenders, one at a time in succession, every time they went out for a pass. Before on play, Exendine told fullback Pete Hauser (who had passing responsibilities that day due to Frank Mount Pleasant being injured in the Minnesota game the previous week) to hold the ball as long as he dared then heave it as far as he could. Exendine let a defender push him off the field, then scooted behind the Chicago bench and streaked along the sideline until he was deep in Chicago territory. He dashed back onto the field and waved his arms wildly to get Hauser’s attention. Hauser arched the ball high downfield to the wide open Exendine for a touchdown.

A few years later when William Gardner was coaching duPont Manual High School in Louisville, he had one of his ends nonchalantly wander over to a group of sportswriters standing along the sideline. When the ball was snapped, the end headed downfield and the tailback hit him with a pass. Gardner’s only miscalculation was that he picked too slow a runner for this trick play. The play was only partially successful because his end was tackled before he could score a touchdown.

These plays are just two examples of how Carlisle Indians have affected football rulesmaking.

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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.

 

The Dangers of Awarding Honors Prematurely

November 15, 2011

Current events interrupt the scheduled blog for today. The Big Ten Conference announced that they are removing Joe Paterno’s name from the conference championship trophy. I haven’t made my mind up regarding Paterno’s involvement, if any, in Penn State’s cover up of the crimes committed on its premises to young boys, but I do see the folly in bestowing honors on coaches still in the midst of their careers. If the evidence eventually exonerates Paterno, will the Big Ten return his name to the trophy? What will Penn State do about the statue of Joe Paterno that stands in front of Beaver Stadium.? Penn State would not have to make a decision regarding the statue if they had waited to put up a monument dedicated to him.

A few years ago, the National Football Foundation (NFF) interrupted the counting of votes on ballots submitted by voting members of the NFF to determine which coaches would be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame to select two coaches for induction who were not on the ballot because they were not eligible for induction because of the rules in place at that time. The NFF quickly changed the rules in a tortured way to make Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno eligible, disregarded the ballots that had been cast, and selected Bowden and Paterno for the upcoming induction. That might have been Lone Star Dietz’s chance to be inducted but we will never know that because all the votes for him and the other candidates on the ballot were ignored.

Because of their premature action, the NFF now has to decide to strip Paterno of their honor as has the Big Ten Conference or to let him remain in the hall in spite of what happened while he was actively coaching. If the NFF had simply followed their own rules, the NFF would not have a decision to make.

Professionalism of Athletics Not Allowed at Chicago

October 7, 2010

Further research is needed to determine if the Universities of Chicago, Wisconsin and Michigan actually stopped charging people to see their athletic contests. One thing that is sure is that Michigan and Wisconsin charge for theirs now and in a big way. What was formerly called Division IA football is big business today with correspondingly high ticket prices. And professionalism among college athletes was almost as big an issue then as it is now. The University of Chicago’s often-taken stance against professionalism was largely something for public consumption rather than an indication of the school’s conduct of its athletic program, so the pronouncement that they wished to stop charging for admission to football games and other contests should be taken with a measure of salt.

Perhaps they had a benefactor waiting in the wings to fund the endowment proposed to support the Maroon athletic department. If they did, it would have had to be a hefty one because the athletic department had gotten used to having money at its disposal to spend as it pleased. For example, as early as 1895, gate receipts were used to pay for a meal for the team at a French restaurant on Clark Street after each game. Gate receipts were also used to buy Thanksgiving dinner for the players and their dates after the annual game with Michigan.

Athletes received other benefits from the University as well, but it isn’t clear where the money came from to pay for them. Gate receipts are the usual suspects. Beginning in 1896, Chicago’s football players ate together at a special training table and live together in two flats in a private apartment building paid for, one concludes, from the proceeds of paid admissions to football games. That living arrangement was not renewed the following year because the landlord claimed the players had “played such havoc” that they were no longer welcome as tenants. So, the University moved them into Hitchcock Hall, the newest and most luxurious residence hall on campus. No, Amos Alonzo Stagg and the University of Chicago did not support professionalism of their athletes.

More on the Writer’s Digest review

March 24, 2010

This time we’ll discuss other parts of the Writer’s Digest review of Oklahoma’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals, beginning with “The U. S. tendency to treat Native Americans like animals means that their biographies reflect the glory of sports—and the sorrow of poverty and bigotry.”

For starters, biographies of these men must “reflect the glory of sports” because, in their youth, these men were famous across the country as a result of their athletic abilities. Sure, newspaper coverage was often racist but it was respectful of their abilities and accomplishments. Sports opened doors to them that were not open to most young whites of that period. College was largely reserved for the elite. Few from the working class darkened the doors of these hallowed institutions. However, several Carlisle Indians were enrolled in major universities. These same schools complained about Carlisle not conforming to the same eligibility rules that they gave lip service to while recruiting the Indians to leave Carlisle and come play for them.

Others leveraged their Carlisle fame into jobs away from the reservations where opportunities were few. Not many of them became rich, but sports were not a route to wealth for all but a few in those days. Amos Alonzo Stagg was probably the highest paid man in sports because he was making $6,000 a year as a tenured professor with the University of Chicago. Jim Thorpe’s contract with the New York Giants paid him as much but only for five years. It wasn’t until Red Grange and Babe Ruth arrived on the scene that athletes became rich. By then, the Carlisle Indians who hadn’t retired from competition were in the twilight of their athletic careers.

Most of the Carlisle football players I have researched rose from poverty into the middle class. Many of them worked with their hands in occupations that some consider menial today. But most Americans worked in “menial” jobs those days and very few went to college. The grandchildren of these men who have contacted me have gone to college and living middle-class lives. Ironically, their family histories parallel those of immigrant groups given that Indians are the only non-immigrants in the country.

Carlisle’s Most Important Game

October 30, 2009

The following question was posed to me this week:

I have to do a college speech on an event in the 20th century. I decided to do it on a Carlisle Indian School football game and how that particular game brought attention to the school, the players, and the whole story behind it. If you had to pick ONE game that, in your opinion, put the Carlisle Indian School and their football team on the map what game would you pick.

This is a very difficult question to answer because there are several possibilities:

1. In just their third full season of football, the Indians played The Big Four (Princeton, Yale, Harvard and Penn) in successive weeks and were competitive in all four games. A bad call cost them the Yale game and they held Harvard to just four points. National Champions 10-0-1 Princeton beat all of their opponents except Lehigh, Army and Harvard worse than they beat the 5-5 Indians. The Tigers were held to a scoreless tie by Lafayette. Carlisle smashed Penn State 48-5 and beat the previously unbeaten Champions of the West Wisconsin 18-8.

2. In Pop Warner’s first year at Carlisle, the Indians notched their first win over a BIG FOUR team, Penn, 16-5. They also beat California 2-0 in a game played on Christmas Day in San Francisco. Halfback Isaac Seneca was named to Walter Camp’s All America First Team, the first Carlisle player to be so honored.

3. The 10-1 1907 Indians beat a BIG THREE team for the first time when they took Harvard 23-15. They also beat Penn 26-6, Minnesota and Chicago. Their only loss was to Princeton. Warner considered the set of players on this team to be Carlisle’s best and Jim Thorpe was on the bench! The win over Amos Alonzo Stagg gave him much personal satisfaction.

4. The 11-1 1911 team also beat both Harvard and Penn. Warner considered this team to be Carlisle’s best but it lost to Syracuse by one point due to overconfidence and listless play. Clark Shaugnessy ranked the 1911 Carlisle-Harvard game as one of the twelve best games of all time. Jim Thorpe described it as his most favorite game of his long career.

5. The importance of the 1912 Carlisle-Army was debunked in “Jude and the Prince,” an article written by James G. Sweeney and published in the May 2009 journal of the College Football Historical Society.

I’d appreciate reading your opinions regarding Carlisle’s most important game.