Pop Warner… "Coach of All the Years"

The Bootleg feels compelled to call attention to the innovative old ball-coach that helped put Stanford Football on the map in the 1920s and 1930s. Before Pop Warner arrived in 1924, Stanford had lost the Big Game five years in a row! Pop immediately guided the team to a thrilling 24-24 comeback tie in '24 and proceeded to go a sparkling 5-1-2 against Stanford's arch rival across the bay!

Editor's Note: The following article appeared more than a half-century ago in 1952's Great Moments in Stanford Sports. The mighty fine compilation of outstanding essays has been out of print for more than 50 years, but The Bootleg feels compelled to call attention to the innovative old ball-coach that helped put Stanford Football on the map in the 1920s and 1930s. Before Pop arrived in 1924, Stanford had lost the Big Game five consecutive years plus one unofficial game in 1918! The future member of the College Football Hall of Fame immediately guided the team to a famous 24-24 tie in 1924 and proceeded to go a sparkling 5-1-2 against Stanford's arch rival across the bay and make three Rose Bowl appearances in nine seasons as head coach! His 10-0-1 team of 1926 is considered Stanford's only recognized national championship in football. The 1926 team was awarded the Rissman National Trophy and later declared national champions through a combination of the Dickinson System, Helms Athletic Foundation, National Championship Foundation and Sagarin Ratings.


We managed to obtain permission from the editor, our friend, the late Professor Peter Grothe [AB '53, AM ‘54] to reprint it here for our Bootleg readers' enjoyment.


From 1952:


Bill Leiser, Stan ford '21, was editor of the Stanford Daily as an undergraduate. He joined the San Francisco Examiner sports staff in 1925 and became sports editor of the San Francisco Chronicle in 1934. He has initiated several movements, such as making Edwin Atherton Commissioner of the Pacific Coast Conference and starting "Living War Memorials," which developed a national following. He has received numerous awards for sports stories and is ex-president of the Football Writers' Association of America.


Why is Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner "Coach of All the Years?"


Who else could be?


We have no way of knowing what was in the mind of the Scripps-Howard editors but we doubt if they sought a man to fit the title they invented. We suspect they said among themselves, "Old 'Pop' Warner, out in Palo Alto, deserves recognition that has never been accorded him. Let's make him 'Coach of All the Years.' "


They did, and "Pop," who coached Stanford from 1924 through 1932, was honored along with Charles A. Taylor of Stanford who was named as "Coach of the Year" for 1951.


Amos Alonzo Stagg might have merited such an honor. Mr. Stagg did much with the forward pass in the early days. He has contributed a great deal, but it is difficult to say exactly what, in any material sense. Perhaps his greatest contributions have bordered on the spiritual.


Clark Shaughnessy? His one-year development of the T formation at Stanford in 1940 revolutionized the college game for the time. But his "system" was a clever combination of others.


Knute Rockne? If he had lived he might still lead the football world, but his life was crushed out. His "Notre Dame shift" and box offense were abandoned, even at Notre Dame.


Glenn "Pop" Warner can watch any football game presenting any two teams anywhere in the land and see employed something he himself first invented.


Take the crouch start for backs. A man leaning slightly forward with one or two hands on the turf can get away faster than a man from a stand-up start. Sure, "Pop" invented it.


Simple items invented by "Pop" Warner have become integral parts of football, so much so that nobody remembers that somebody had to invent them in the first place. Like the wheel in machinery, maybe, or the white line down the highway.


His greatest contribution was the wing back-the back who takes an attacking position to block a tackle in from the outside. There is no "system" that does not employ the wing back one way or another. When "Pop" brought 'it out it was so different that the late Walter Camp styled it the "Carlisle Formation" in honor of the Indian school with which Mr. Warner first won great fame.


There was a time when T formation "systems" threatened to diminish the importance of wing backs. All through that time "Pop" Warner insisted, "Smart coaches will bring back the emphasized wing-back attack, sooner or later."


"Pop" lived to see his prediction fulfilled. The University of Michigan under Fritz Crisler is credited with having developed the greatest attack in the last ten years of college football. It was strictly wing-back business.


"Pop" took his wing and made it a double wing. The fullback handled the ball from center on every play. To get wide of end on something besides the double reverse he installed a guard-out lateral. It was one of the most beautiful of all gridiron attacks, back in I928. The so-called "buck-lateral" featured by many Big Ten teams today is but slightly different in principle.


The rules makers had trouble with "Pop" at times. Against Harvard in I903 he had Jimmy Johnson stuff the football up the back of the jersey of a fellow Indian, Charles Dillon, who romped unmolested to goal. That was Pop's idea of a good joke on Harvard.


He developed a screen pass against a charging line in his first years at Stanford. If all members of the opposing line charged, as most did in those times, there was no defense against it. That caused the restrictions on the screen which exist today.


Mainly, "Pop" liked power, masked power. Concentrate more power at a given point than an opponent could resist, but apply it before the opponent knew just where it would hit.


When Mr. Warner had his offense going right, he didn't care what his quarterback called. He figured any play ought to work. Within reason, of course. If opponents started concentrating defense at particular points, the quarterback was supposed to find out and act accordingly. He had reverses, doubles, and laterals with which to beat concentration.


"Pop" sat on his own bench in Portland one afternoon and watched his own Stanford team, striking for the goal, go through the reversing sequence from center to full to halfback. The play appeared to jam.


"Aw, heck," grunted "Pop," "what did they do, fumble?" At the moment quarterback Tex Walker was crossing the end zone far in the left comer of the field. Yes, "Pop" liked to fool people, and that day he was quite happy, even though he had fooled himself along with everyone else.


He has contributed much to football imagination, for the benefit of anyone able to pick up where he left off. More, he has contributed to the basic structure of the game. Many have offered fads, hunches, ideas good for the moment. Their formations blossom and fade, but many of "Pop's" formations will be used forever. His "wing back system" will never die. [Ed. Well, maybe "never" was a bit of a stretch]


That is why Glenn "Pop" Warner, 80 years old now, is properly designated "Coach of All the Years."

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