The Carlisle Indians football team represented the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in intercollegiate football competition. The program was active from 1893 until 1917, when it was discontinued, during the programs 25 years, the Indians compiled a 167–88–13 record and 0.647 winning percentage, which makes it the most successful defunct major college football program. During the early 20th century, Carlisle was a football powerhouse. Several notable players and coaches were associated with the team, including Pop Warner, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School was founded in 1879 by an American cavalry officer, Richard Henry Pratt, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Its purpose was to facilitate the assimilation of the Native American population into mainstream American society, in 1893, the Indians played their first season recognized by the NCAA. The Indians were consistently outsized by the teams they scheduled, and they in turn relied on speed, carlisles playbook gave rise to many trick plays and other innovations that are now commonplace in American football. The overhand spiral throw and hand-off fake are both credited to Carlisle, other strategems caused the National Collegiate Athletic Association to institute rules specifically prohibiting them. In 1903, an Indian team coached by Pop Warner first employed its infamous hidden-ball play against heavily favored Harvard, Warner, as coach at Cornell, had already used it against Penn State in 1897, but it had not achieved much notice. Carlisle led Harvard at halftime, and hoping to keep the games momentum, Harvard executed the kick, and the Indians formed a circle around the returner. With the aid of a specially altered jersey, the ball was placed up the back of the returner, the Indians broke the huddle and spread out in different directions. Each player feigned carrying the ball, except Dillon, the man with the ball up the back of his jersey, the ruse confused the Crimson players, and they scrambled to find the ball carrier. Dillon, with both his hands free, was ignored by the searching Harvard players, and he ran unmolested into the end zone, with the score, Carlisle extended its lead to 11–0, but Harvard came back and eventually won 12–11. Nevertheless, the match, and trick play, resulted in national attention. Warner had learned the trick from John Heisman while facing Auburn in 1895 during his tenure as coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, in 1907, Jim Thorpe, undersized even for the Indians, persuaded Warner to allow him to try out for the team. Thorpe immediately impressed his coach and secured a position on the team. On October 26,1907, Jim Thorpe and Carlisle trounced a powerful University of Pennsylvania team, 26–6, after graduating from Carlisle, he went on to stardom in numerous athletic endeavors, including as an Olympic athlete and professional player in football, baseball, and basketball. In 1911, the Indians posted an 11–1 record, which included one of the greatest upsets in football history. Against Harvard, Thorpe scored all of the Indians points in an upset over the period powerhouse
An early football team, called the "Pirates", at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in 1879.
The 1911 Carlisle Indians football team pose with a game ball from the upset of Harvard. Coach "Pop" Warner (standing, third from right) and Jim Thorpe (seated, third from right) are pictured.