Posts Tagged ‘National Museum of the American Indian’

Guiding The White Brethren

October 26, 2012

The electronic version of the Fall 2012 edition of the magazine for the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) is finally out. My article on Carlisle Indians who went on to coach other teams is on page 46 (page 44 of print version). The idea for this article came to me after attending Lone Star Dietz’s enshrinement ceremony into the College Football Hall of Fame. He is the only Carlisle Indian to be inducted as a coach. Six others, some of whom also coached, were enshrined previously but as players. It is unlikely that any others will receive this honor because no other Carlisle Indian coached as long or with nearly as much success as Dietz.

American Indian athletic prowess is getting much attention this year due to 2012 being the 100th anniversary of Jim Thorpe’s extraordinary triumphs in the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Games. Anyone unfamiliar with Native Americans’ success in the Olympics can read my several previous blog entries on this topic.

Worthy of note is that Dietz and the others had great success coaching white college and professional players. Many of them, including Dietz, coached Indian teams at one time or another but the vast majority of their coaching careers were with white college teams. Having played with Carlisle and knowing the Warner System gave these men instant credibility and opened doors for them. After going through those doors, success or the lack of it was the deciding factor. After all, sports have always been a meritocracy. Performance matters above all. Carlisle players succeeded on the field both as players and coaches. The graduate system of coaching that was tried in the early 20th century limited coaching opportunities for those who hadn’t attended major colleges but numerous smaller schools welcomed Carlisle Indians to lead their teams. Although far from an ideal situation, these men were given the opportunity to succeed or fail on their own merits and they largely succeeded.

1913 Carlisle Indians Were Not Demoralized

June 22, 2012

The current (Summer 2012) issue of National Museum of the American Indian magazine devotes most of its pages on Indian athletes, especially those who competed in the Olympics. Of course, Jim Thorpe figured prominently in several of the articles in that issue of the magazine. One of these pieces, The Jim Thorpe Backlash: the Olympic medals debacle and the demise of Carlisle, even mentions me and, of course, disagrees with me:

Whatever the facts, the investigations eviscerated the athletic program. Its surplus funds, totaling $25,640.08, were turned over to the school superintendent, and Warner left Carlisle. The football team was a shadow, losing the rest of its schedule by lopsided scores. Although the school lingered on until August 1918, when the Army took it back for war uses, the noted Carlisle scholar Tom Benjey dates its true demise to the visit of the Congressional investigating committee. And although students and faculty had many grievances, it can fairly be said that the retraction of Thorpe’s medals was the fatal blow to morale.

I can’t figure out exactly what time period is being discussed. Thorpe lost his medals in the spring of 1913. The Congressional inquiry took place in February 1912. Warner left Carlisle for Pitt in early 1915. And, the Carlisle football team never had a winless season, even in the seasons after Thorpe’s medals were returned. So, I’ll wait to address this statement until I know what time period this was supposed to have happened.

While losing his medals had to be devastating to Jim Thorpe and surely affected the morale of other Carlisle athletes, I question whether it struck “the fatal blow to morale” as suggested in the article. It seems unlikely that the Carlisle Indian School football team would have performed well if player morale was low. A 10-1-1 season for a team that lost its greatest player from the previous year sure doesn’t sound like low morale held it back. The 1913 team’s tie was against Penn, the team they lost to the previous year. The 1912 tie with Washington and Jefferson couldn’t be avenged because the teams didn’t play each other in 1913. 1913’s only loss was due to a fumbled kick return that Pitt converted into the winning touchdown. Major wins included one of Warner’s favorites: a 35-10 upset of Dartmouth. George Orton gave Warner high marks for developing such a good team when he had so many inexperienced players. 1913 was one of Carlisle’s best seasons and was not an example of demoralized players.

The Summer 2012 issue of National Museum of the American Indian magazine can be found at:

Lone Star Gets His Due

May 24, 2012

Tonight, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, DC holds a reception to kick off its new exhibit, “Best in the World: Native Athletes in the Olympics,” to celebrate the athletic achievements of Native Americans on the 100th anniversary of the 1912 Stockholm Games that featured legendary performances by Jim Thorpe and Lewis Tewanima. I am attending because Bob Wheeler, Jim Thorpe’s Boswell, is to speak there. While making preparations for attending this event, I received some unexpected news.

The National Football Foundation (NFF) released its selections for induction in the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012 and Lone Star Dietz was finally on the list. As blog followers probably know, Greg and John Witter, first cousins and rabid Washington State football fans, and I campaigned to get Dietz placed on the Hall of Fame ballot some years ago. Getting his won-loss record corrected was the key to getting him nominated but there were larger obstacles yet to come.

Lone Star Dietz died in 1964 and there are few people still alive that knew him. Also, he coached at schools with smaller alumni bases and less clout than the major football factories. Washington State, for example, couldn’t muster the support for him that, say, Ohio State could for John Cooper or Michigan could for Lloyd Carr. While both these recent coaches had very good careers, neither had the impact on the history of the game as did Dietz. It’s one thing to inherit a strong program and be a good steward, but it is quite another to rebuild a floundering program from the ground up, something that Lone Star did multiple times.

The closest he came was in 2006 when the selectors chose Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno instead of the people who were on the ballot. A couple of years ago, when Lone Star’s name was dropped from the ballot, I gave up all hope of him ever being selected. I didn’t even know that his name was on the Divisional ballot this year, so was shocked when I started receiving phone calls from reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

All I can say is that it’s long overdue. Although he’s being brought in through the back door, so to speak, he will finally be in. He’s the first Carlisle Indian to be inducted as a coach; the rest were as players. Whether this honor is enough to offset the many indignities Dietz suffered and mollify the Lone Star Curse is yet to be seen.