Even the most fanatical of football fans is unlikely to know much about the “delayed pass” or “flying interference.” But those two plays, introduced by former Penn coach George Washington Woodruff, helped put Penn football at the top of the football world in the late 1890s.
Woodruff came to Penn to study law in 1892, and though he would earn his degree in 1895, he made his mark mostly as a coach: In 10 years of heading up the Quaker football team (he also was leader of the crew team), Woodruff compiled a remarkable 125-15-2 record, leading Penn to undefeated seasons in 1894, 1895 and 1897. Along with the “delayed pass” and “flying interference” (we could find no explanation of what these plays were), Woodruff also introduced the “guards back” play (again, we have no idea what this is)
But while his innovations may be long forgotten, his legacy as possibly Penn’s greatest football coach survives: He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
Woodruff resigned as Penn coach in 1901 and went on to a successful career in law and politics. He served as a federal judge in Hawaii, attorney general of Pennsylvania and Secretary of the Interior under President Theodore Roosevelt.
For more on this and other notable moments in Penn’s history, visit the University Archives web site at www.archives.upenn.edu.
Originally published on September 7, 2006.
Originally published on September 7, 2006