Posts Tagged ‘University of Utah’

Why Was Utah Chosen as the Opponent?

May 17, 2011

My blog will be less regular from now to the end of summer as I deal with some other things. Keep the ideas coming; some of my best blogs come from researching questions readers submit. Now, back to Carlisle’s 1903 postseason trip to the West Coast.

One of the questions I was asked was why did Pop Warner pick the University of Utah as an opponent. My guess is that Utah was located in a location that was convenient and that they had the potential of drawing a large enough crowd of ticket payers to make stopping for the game worthwhile. A basic reason for a having a game somewhere between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Ocean was to keep the players sharp and to keep them off the train for awhile and give them some physical activity. Some other western colleges and universities met these criteria, too. What think made the difference was that Salt Lake City was a regional rail hub through which the team would likely be passing anyway. The question was, which team should Warner choose to play?

The only viable choices were Utah and Utah State because Brigham Young was not yet fielding college-level football teams at that time. Utah had had a pretty nice run from 1900 to 1902 but had lost to all of its college-level opponents in 1903. Utah State, on the other hand, had a poor record from 1900 to 1902 but had beaten both its college-level opponents in 1903 and one of them was Utah! The issue of how large a crowd Utah State could draw in Salt Lake City was probably asked. Utah State is located in Logan, 82 miles from Salt Lake City, so its supporters could make the game. But would Salt Lake City residents turn out? The thought was probably that they wouldn’t turn out as well as they would for a game with Utah and State probably wouldn’t bring enough people from Logan to offset this difference. Shock! Shock! Money probably played a role in the decision.

To be continued….

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Utah Prepares for Carlisle Game

May 5, 2011

Coach Holmes wasn’t wasting any time in preparing for the Carlisle Indians because, as The Salt Lake Herald reported the next day, December 12, the varsity was out for signal practice the day before and would be practicing again that day. As predicted, Fred Bennion and “Fat” Robbins had joined the team for the big game. Benny was a fleet-footed halfback, and one supposes, a relative of Fat Robbins.

Holmes also shared with the press that Pop Warner had written him the previous day informing him that a game had been arranged with Reliance Athletic Club on Christmas Day in San Francisco. A third game was mentioned—a New Year’s Day game in Los Angeles—but the Indians’ opponent was not mentioned by name.

A friend of Holmes who lived in the east wrote him that he had seen Carlisle play that year and that they would be a formidable opponent. He pointed out their use of the tackles-back and wing-shift formations. The latter formation was used more often and confused the defenders. No Utah team had used this puzzling formation and it was expected to cause Utah’s varsity a lot of trouble.

The next day, The Herald reported that Warner had telegraphed Holmes the day before that the Indians would arrive in Salt Lake on Friday morning and would remain there to Monday. Warner and Superintendent Pratt both felt that travel was a broadening experience for their students and had them take in as much as possible when traveling for games. Carlisle players didn’t just come into town at the last minute and leave as soon as the game was over. They availed themselves of the cultural opportunities that existed wherever they were playing.

Warner also requested that the game consist of two 30-minute halves. In those days, football games didn’t have a standard length. Sometimes, the two halves were even of different lengths. The Utah players were enthusiastic about meeting the Indians and said they would be perfectly happy if they could just score on them.

To be continued….

Carlisle-Utah Game May Be Rescheduled

April 28, 2011

The article went on to say, “It is the intention of Carlisle to play in Los Angeles on New Year’s Day, or one week after the Salt Lake game. Denver, and it is understood San Francisco, tried to land the game with the Indians for Christmas day, but Utah drew the lucky prize.” The rest of the article dealt with Carlisle’s perceived strength that year and how Utah would field an all-star team rather than the varsity’s regular starters. Even with that, the reporter expected Carlisle to win easily.

The December 4 issue of The Red Man & Helper remained silent regarding post season play but wasn’t a bit quiet about the recent victory over Northwestern. Although that game was played on a Thursday, the celebration of it was held on Saturday, after the team returned home and after The Red Man & Helper had gone to press for the week. So, reports on the night-shirt parade, fireworks, giant bonfire, drumming and dancing to celebrate the Indians’ best season to date were published almost a week after the fact. Also reported on was a performance that night by the Dunbar Male Quarter and Hand Bell Ringers, a favorite on the Chautauqua circuit. In addition to playing songs, they recited “There Once Was a Young Lady Named Hannah” (clean version, most likely) with a special verse added as an encore:

There were some men from Carlisle

Who went out west for a tour in style.

   They played some football

   In Chicago this fall,

And they beat the Northwestern a mile.

That brought down the house.

On December 10 the Deseret News announced that the date of the Carlisle-Utah game might be changed: “Game With Carlisle Indians Likely to be Played Soon.” According to the article, Utah’s varsity players wanted to be home for Christmas rather than in Salt Lake City playing football and that Carlisle was willing to play the Saturday before Christmas. Anticipating that the date shift would happen, the Utah team began practicing in earnest. The next day’s edition of The Red Man & Helper said nothing about the upcoming trip west.

To be continued….

Carlisle to Play Utah on Christmas

April 26, 2011

The next day’s issue of Deseret News out of Salt Lake City announced the upcoming Carlisle-Utah game with more vigor but no new facts; “The University football players had better get their scalps in pretty good shape between now and Christmas, otherwise they may lose them. Word has reached the city that the Carlisle Indians are due to swoop down on the Varsity bunch that day, and if possible ‘lift their scalps.’ …Nothing definite has been decided upon but the probabilities are that a sufficient sum of money will soon be forthcoming to induce the Indians to come here. The [Christmas Day] game would be the biggest gridiron event of the season and would undoubtedly pay well.”

The November 27 issue of The Red Man & Helper included game scores for the entire regular season, including the victory the previous day, Thanksgiving Day, over Northwestern but made no mention of post season games, either possible or scheduled. The next day’s “Notes of the Gridiron” column, probably circulated via a wire service gossiped about possible post season games: “Notre Dame and Indians are talking of a post season game. Carlisle and Haskell may play Dec. 5 for the Indian championship.”

That Sunday’s Salt Lake Herald blared “Big Game for Christmas Day” and “Varsity Signs Contracts to Play Indians Here.” In part, the article stated, “This game will be none other than one in which the famous Carlisle Indians will play the principal part and the other team will be made up from the present eleven representing the state university, with the pick of the players on several of the other teams to fill in the weak spots on the varsity. The date of the game is Christmas and it will be played on Cummings field. The contracts for the game were signed several days ago by the members of the varsity athletic committee, but the facts were not given out until yesterday, The signing of the contracts by Coach Warner, for the Carlisle Indians, would indicate that there can be no hitch now and that the game will be a sure go.”

To be continued….

1903 Carlisle-Utah Game – Part 3

April 21, 2011

Now that we have a hint that Carlisle intended to make a post-season trip to the West Coast in 1903, we need to dig further to find out more. More detail about this game appeared in the November 13 edition of Reno Evening Gazette with a dateline of Salt Lake City:

“The Carlisle Indians have agreed to meet the University of Utah football eleven here on Christmas Day, providing a suitable guarantee will be put up by the local management. This will be done. The Indians are coming west for the purpose of playing in California on New Years’ Day and en route will meet a number of teams.”

This article supports the November 2nd article about Coach Holmes wanting such a contest. Whoever released this story, possibly the University of Utah Athletic Department or a booster, was very confident that both attendance at the game would be good and that someone or someones would be willing to put up the guarantee money in case ticket sales didn’t meet expectations. That someone was probably already known to the writer.

The same day’s issue of The Red Man and Helper included a little piece that ties back to an announcement made the previous month:

“One of the football players of Sherman Institute, Calif., writes the following: ‘We play with Stanford University sometime soon, and also expect to play with the Carlisle Indians. We will show them some western tricks. It will take some pretty good players to defeat us.’”

That player’s boast implied that Bemus Pierce had a pretty good squad at Sherman. The next day Sherman Institute beat Southern Cal but lost to Stanford University in a big Thanksgiving Day game played at Prager Park in Los Angeles. Scholder was out at tackle but Bemis Pierce suited up and filled in at fullback.

To be continued….

1903 Carlisle-Utah Game Part 2

April 19, 2011

Since writing the first installment on this topic, I came across some more relevant information that may play into it. The October 9, 1903 issue of The Red Man and Helper included a paragraph that, on first look, seemed to have nothing to do with Carlisle’s post-season. Assistant Coach Bemus Pierce left Carlisle on October 7 to accept a “flattering offer from Riverside, California to coach the Sherman Institute football team….” The first hint of Carlisle’s post-season trip appeared came in a “Gridiron Gossip” column published in very late October in which claimed, “The team will play at the Northwestern University, Chicago, on Thanksgiving Day, and then go farther west and will play at Pasadena, Cal., on New Year’s Day.” The Northwestern game had been the last game on the schedule for months, so the trip west was new, though not surprising, information because the Indians previously played in California after the 1899 season.

On the 2nd of November, a story came out of Salt Lake City, Utah that stated, “Coach Holmes said last night that there is some probability of his securing a game with the Carlisle Indians when the football team makes its trip to the coast. He is now in correspondence with the manager of the Indian eleven and hopes to consummate a deal whereby it will be arranged for Utah State University to play Carlisle a football game in this city in the near future.” As usual, the reporter got some details wrong. In 1903 Harvey R. Holmes was head coach of the University of Utah team, not Utah State. Also, Utah State University is located in Logan, Utah not Salt Lake City. Besides that, Utah State was called Agricultural College of Utah or, colloquially as Utah Agricultural College (UAC). The gist of the article was correct, though.

To be continued….

1903 Carlisle-Utah Game

April 16, 2011

Not too long ago, I was asked why Carlisle chose to play Utah on its post-season trip to California. After all, the teams had no history of playing each other and the University of Utah didn’t have the reputation of being a big-time football power. So, why did Pop Warner arrange to play its only game ever with Utah on December 19, 1903?

The first hint that Carlisle was planning post-season play that year was a piece in the November 13 edition of The Red Man and Helper ironically titled “Haskell’s Well Wishes” in which Haskell Superintendent H. B. Peairs was quoted as saying, “We hope now to see Northwestern [Carlisle’s last regular season opponent] beat Carlisle, as Carlisle has refused for three years to give us a game, saying that we were not in their class. If Northwestern beats them, they may come down a peg or two.”

Carlisle’s unattributed response probably came from Warner: “Haskell has never asked Carlisle for a game of football until after our schedule has been completed. We have never asserted that Haskell was not in Carlisle’s class. A comparison of the records of the two teams makes that unnecessary. We congratulate Haskell upon her good showing in the game against Chicago.” This response implies that, if Carlisle was considering post-season games, the schedule had been set already and Haskell had asked too late to get on the schedule. These words could be interpreted two different ways:

1) The comments were meant to be complimentary to Haskell as their win-loss records were comparable to Carlisle’s at that time.

2) It was a bit of a shot because, even though Haskell had a good record, its competition wasn’t at the same level as Carlisle’s. Also, Haskell had just lost to Chicago 17-11 where Carlisle had a winning record against contenders for being the Champions of the West.

Carlisle and Haskell would finally meet the next year, in 1904, but that is another story.

To be continued…

Wing-Shift or Dead-Indian Play

July 19, 2010

One of the problems with dating Pop Warner’s innovations is that his memory 20 years after the fact was far from perfect, as are most people’s. The well-known difficulties in dating the births of the single-wing and double-wing with certitude are due, at least in part, to Warner’s inconsistent memories. A month and a half ago, I wrote a bit about the 1903 game with Utah in which Joe Baker led the Indians to a 22-0 win over the Mormonites by running the new wing-shift play several times for three second-half touchdowns (they counted 5 points in those days).

In his autobiography—actually a series of magazine articles written by Warner that were compiled into book form—Warner stated that during the 1912 Thanksgiving Day game against Brown, Harvard’s coach, Percy Haughton, was his guest on the sidelines to see Warner’s new surprise play—the wing-shift. Haughton disapproved, saying, “These series plays are never worth a darn. If such plays do work, it is usually in the first attempt, because they are trick plays and surprise is the feature that usually makes them successful.” After seeing Carlisle run them for long gains later in the game, Haughton grudgingly admitted, “Well, it did work that time.”

For a newspaper series of favorite plays from several coaches in the 1930s, Lone Star Dietz described the “Dead-Indian Play.” What he described was the old wing-shift that Carlisle ran so well. Because the wing-shift, or dead-Indian play, was a series of two plays it had to be called ahead of time. The player, generally a back, who carried the ball on the first play would linger on the ground long enough to give six of his teammates time to line up to one side of him. The rest would position themselves in the backfield. When the downed man could see that all were in place, he hopped up and snapped the ball to a backfield man to start the second play, catching the defense off guard.

1903 Carlisle-Utah Game

May 31, 2010

Not long ago, I wrote about a 1910 game that had received little coverage. Now, Adam Miller has written about a 1903 game that received even less attention. In 1903, Pop Warner put together a post-season road trip to the West Coast on which the Indians were to play Reliance Athletic Association, a team of the best former college players from the state of California, on Christmas Day in San Francisco. Perhaps Warner thought his team would need a scrimmage to break up the trip, or he saw an opportunity to make a little money along the way. Regardless of the reason, he booked a game with the University of Utah to a game to be played on December 19 in Salt Lake City. Miller’s piece covers that game: http://utahfootballcountdown.blogspot.com/p/december-19-1903-utah-vs-carlisle.html. It also includes one of those great period newspaper cartoons.

Pre-game hype heaped hyperbolic praise on James Johnson, who Walter Camp had recently named as quarterback of his All America First Team. Whether Johnson’s head had inflated after reading his newspaper clippings or if Warner was feeling threatened is not known. Warner wrote in what became his autobiography that he benched Johnson the morning of the game over a rule infraction. Because this happened before the game, the rule Johnson had broken was likely a team rule. Warner wrote that he played Joe Baker in his place and that Baker “did an admirable job that afternoon” in the 22-0 victory on a snowpacked field. Newspaper coverage of this game varies from Warner’s recollection.

The Salt Lake Herald’s play-by-play had Johnson playing the entire first half plus kicking a point after touchdown and missing a field goal. Baker replaced Johnson for the second half and led the Indians to three more touchdowns by using the then-new wing-shift play to good advantage.

It may be that Warner’s memory failed him as to when he benched Johnson, but he does appear to have done just that. Johnson’s reaction is the subject of another story.