Friday, September 16, 2011

Pop Warner at Stanford

By the time Glenn Scobey Warner arrived in Palo Alto in 1924, he was already an institution. The 53-year-old coach known as "Pop" took over the Stanford football program after leading Cornell, Pittsburgh and, most famously, the Carlisle Indian School to gridiron success.

A trailblazer in the sport, Warner is credited with introducing a host of innovations that have become not simply commonplace but are the backbone of how the game is played. These include the unbalanced line, the backfield, the screen pass, the rolling block, the naked reverse and the practice of numbering plays.

Warner's success at Stanford was founded on his double wingback offense from which he befuddled defenses with "a bewildering set of spins, reverses, double reverses, fake reverses, runs from fake passes and passes from fake runs" as sportswriter Tim Cohane put it.

Alabama and Stanford battled
to a tie in the 1927 Rose Bowl
When Stanford contacted Warner in 1921 to move west and coach the Indians, he first sent a pair of his assistants to help the team transition to his approach. He himself arrived in 1924 and immediately took the team to the Rose Bowl (where they lost to Notre Dame). He returned to Pasadena twice more in the next three years including the 1927 game against Alabama that resulted in a 7-7 tie.

Warner was also an innovator. He is credited with the creation of shoulder and thigh pads and he was known to experiment with equipment to give his teams an edge. In the 1927 Rose Bowl he outfitted his team with silk pants in hopes it would make them faster and tougher to tackle.

Another innovation Warner used against Alabama was a zone pass defense. While the strategy didn't earn Stanford the victory, it was effective in stymieing the Crimson Tide aerial assault. Alabama attempted seven passes and completed only one.

After the 1932 season, Warner left Stanford and headed back east to coach Temple. In his nine years in Palo Alto he had collected a 71-17-8 record. He retired from coaching in 1938 with a lifetime 319–106–32 record. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.