One of the most successful coaches in college football history and a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Glenn “Pop” Warner received his start at the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, where in 1896 he coached the Bulldogs to their first-ever undefeated season.
Glenn Scobey Warner was born on April 5, 1871, in Springville, New York. In June 1894 he graduated with a law degree from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he captained the football team during his last year of school. The oldest player on the team, he was given the nickname “Pop.”
Afterpracticing law for four months in Buffalo, New York, Warner turned to coaching. In September 1895 UGA, which had only 248 students at the time, hired him to coach its fledgling football program. Although the team lost four of its seven games in Warner’s first season, UGA won all four games his second year, marking the school’s first undefeated season. Despite his success, Warner was discouraged by the low salary and poor facilities. Homesick, he returned to Cornell to coach in 1897.
In spite of an impressive two-year record of 15-5-1 at Cornell, he moved on in 1899 to coach at the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In five years he transformed the school into a national power, amassing a record of 11-2-1 in 1903. After spending three more years at Cornell, he returned to Carlisle in 1907. His return coincided with the arrival of Jim Thorpe, generally considered the greatest athlete of the first half of the twentieth century.
During Warner’s second tenure at Carlisle, four of his eight teams lost only once, often against larger and more talented teams. In 1915, lured by a higher salary and better facilities, he took over the University of Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) program, remaining through the 1923 season. Four of his teams went undefeated.
In 1924 he moved to Stanford University in Stanford, California, where he coached the team in three Rose Bowl championships and went undefeated in 1926. His Stanford teams were noted for their speed and were led by legendary player Ernie Nevers.
Warner finished his career at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he coached from 1933 to 1938. After winning just three of ten games in 1938, Warner was forced to retire. His teams had won 313 games when he retired, more than any other coach at the time. Since then most experts have acknowledged six additional wins. As of 2010 Warner was sixth on the NCAA list of college football coaches with the most victories, with an overall record of 319-106-32.
During Warner’s forty-four years as a head coach he introduced many innovations to the game, including the spiral punt; naked bootleg; double reverse; three-point stance; screen pass; single- and double-wing formations; the numbering of players’ jerseys; the employment of shoulder pads, thigh pads, lightweight uniforms, and safer helmets; and the use of blocking sleds and tackling dummies at practice.
From Warner’s viewpoint his most important contribution was the formation, in 1929, of the Pop Warner Youth Football League for children. In 2010 approximately 250,000 football players and more than 160,000 cheerleaders participated in league programs all over the world. Known today as the Pop Warner Little Scholars Program, more than 65 percent of all players in the National Football League have participated in Pop Warner football.
Warner died in Palo Alto, California, on September 7, 1954. Two 32-cent stamps bearing his likeness were issued as part of a four-stamp set featuring Bear Bryant, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, and Warner.