Posts Tagged ‘University of Pennsylvania’

George Woodruff’s Record

December 7, 2011

An article by Bob Barton in the November 2011 issue of the CFHS newsletter, among other things, discusses the elevation of Penn’s football program under George Woodruff’s leadership. Given the treatment that Woodruff received from Sally Jenkins, it seems necessary to present a more balanced view of his career. George Washington Woodruff (1864-1934) attended Yale University in the late 1880s, graduating in 1889. While at Yale, he played on the football team, rowed crew and ran track.

In 1892, he enrolled in law school at the University of Pennsylvania and took on the duties of coaching football and rowing crews. (One assumes that he initially took on these jobs to support himself while in law school.) Yale supporters did not take Woodruff’s shift of allegiance well as Woodruff had been a guard for the Eli. They also didn’t like the change in competiveness. The eleven games played between Yale and Penn between 1879 and 1892 all ended in victories for the Eli, often in a rout. Scores in Yale’s favor of 60-0 and 48-0 were quickly reduced by Woodruff to 28-0 and 14-6 in 1893. Claiming that Woodruff had recruited ineligible players although the rules weren’t in place before the 1893 season started, Yale broke with Penn and didn’t play them for 32 years. That didn’t seem to bother George much as his 1894 team went undefeated with victories over Princeton and Harvard and was retrospectively named National Champions. He repeated the feat in 1895 without Princeton, who remained off the schedule until 1935. Not only did George Woodruff bring the quality of Penn’s football to the highest level, he maintained it at that level, going 124-15-2 for the ten years he coached the Quakers. After dropping out of coaching following the 1901 season, he returned to the arena twice: first in 1903 to lead the Illini to an 8-6 season and again in 1905 to go 7-2 with the Carlisle Indians. His charges beat Army, Penn State and Virginia but lost to Harvard and Penn.

Woodruff’s .885366 winning percentage was far above the minimum required for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

The Yost Affair

November 22, 2010

Fielding Yost was a contemporary of Pop Warner known for coaching the point-a-minute Michigan teams. After reading in the same article that triggered the previous blog that after coaching Kansas in 1899, Yost moved to Michigan. Knowing that was wrong, I checked the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, and found something I didn’t expect to find. That nugget was “The Yost Affair.”

Fielding Yost, a West Virginia native, enrolled in Ohio Normal School (known today as Ohio Northern University) in 1889 and played on their baseball team. Sometime after leaving Ohio Normal, Yost enrolled at West Virginian University where he played football beginning in 1894 at age 23. In October 1896, West Virginia played, and lost, to Lafayette in three successive days in games all played at or near home. Not liking to lose, Yost transferred to Lafayette in mid-season to play on Parke H. Davis’s national championship team. So, just a week after playing against Lafayette, he played for them in their big game with Penn and helped them win.

Penn officials didn’t miss noticing Yost’s sudden appearance on Lafayette’s roster and dubbed this “The Yost Affair.” The Philadelphia Ledger quoted him as saying that he came to Lafayette only to play football. Two weeks later, he was at West Virginia. However, he reassured all concerned that he intended to return to Lafayette for at least three years of schooling. The next fall, in 1897, he embarked on a coaching career instead. The Big Ten’s account of Yost’s early history has him graduating from Lafayette with a law degree.

1897 found Yost at Ohio Wesleyan; in 1898 he was at Nebraska; and, as stated earlier, in 1899 he was at Kansas. 1900 did not find him at Michigan but at Stanford from which he was forced to depart because they began requiring that coaches be graduates of that institution. Somehow he was also co-coach of San Jose State that year. One wonders how he was able to do that considering that San Jose played Stanford twice. Some conjecture that Michigan’s merciless drubbing of Stanford on January 1, 1902 was a bit of revenge on Yost’s part.

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 .

George Woodruff’s Coaching Record

June 8, 2010

Recently, biographer David O. Stewart asked “Who’s Checking the Facts?” in his blog at: In that blog, Stewart pointed out a gross error in a book that “just received a respectful review from NPR.” The book in question described Aaron Burr as “tall, elegantly dressed…” when it is widely known that Burr was short and that he was called “little Burr.” Stewart wonders “Why don’t book reviewers catch such howlers? Laziness? Ignorance? You tell me…” I have asked myself similar questions with regard to the 2007 books on Jim Thorpe by Sally Jenkins and Lars Anderson. Stewart’s question caused me to revisit Jenkins’s glaring omission of the 1905 Carlisle-Army game.

While trying to determine where Jenkins came up with a 10-5 record for the Carlisle Indians (she apparently included the Second Team’s loss to Susquehanna University on the same day the Varsity lost to Harvard), I noticed that Advisory Coach George Woodruff is generally credited by usually accurate sources, such as the College Football Hall of Fame and, with Carlisle’s 10 wins and 4 losses that year. This error is understandable because head coaches normally lead their teams for the entire season. That was not the case for George Woodruff and the 1905 Carlisle Indians.

After the Indians beat the Cadets at West Point on November 11, 1905 (the first time the Indians played Army), Woodruff left the team and headed to Washington, DC for a government job. Thus, his record for 1905 was 7-2. The remaining 5 games should have been awarded to Woodruff’s assistant, Ralph Kinney. Woodruff’s old friend, Gifford Pinchot, had taken the helm of the newly formed U. S. Forest Service and needed legal counsel. Woodruff accepted the position as the first Chief Legal Officer for the Forest Service.

Eliminating the 3 wins and 2 losses for games played after he was no longer coaching Carlisle does not dilute Woodruff’s worthiness for induction in the College Football Hall of Fame in the least. It’s just that records should be accurate.