Today is a great day to celebrate a Happy Birthday Anniversary of Michigan Legend, Fielding Yost. Fielding Harris Yost was born on this day in Fairview, West Virginia in 1871. So, today is the one-hundred and forty-eighth anniversary of his birth. He was one of the early pioneers in the game of college football as a player and a coach. He got the “football” bug while playing the tackle position at West Virginia University.
(Note – Fielding H. Yost is shown above with his last Michigan Football Team. The 1926 team won Yost’s tenth championship. He is seated in the second row – in the center. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
After earning his law degree from West Virginia, Yost became a “vagabond” coach who did four consecutive one-year stints at Ohio Wesleyan, Nebraska, Kansas and Stanford. He actually coached Stanford and San Jose State in 1900. He won championships at every school, but couldn’t “keep a job.” Yost lost the Stanford job because the school opted to hire only former players to coach their athletic teams. Fielding Yost finally found a home in 1901 when Michigan Athletic Director Charles Baird hired Yost to lead the Wolverine Football Program. The thirty-year old coach was happy to settle in Ann Arbor.
Right from the start, Fielding Yost set the world of college football on fire. He won his first eleven games in 1901, including a victory over his former employer (49-0) in the first Rose Bowl in January 1902. Yost’s first team outscored his opponents by a margin of 550-0. Yes, his offense was great, but his defense was pretty good too! Fielding Yost’s first five teams won 55 of their first 56 games. His first loss took place at Chicago (0-2) in the last game of the 1905 season.
Yost’s methods were unorthodox, but very effective. His teams played fast and hard. I called his brand of football “Fast Break Football.” Yost was always after his team to “Hurry Up” and re-set so they could run more plays. For the first five years, no one could keep up with his high scoring “Point-a-Minute” teams. Yost’s teams slowed down for the last twenty-years of his coaching tenure, but continued to play at a very high level until 1926.
Even though he coached in a much different time, Coach Yost is the standard of excellence that all Michigan Football coaches must be measured against. Nobody will ever duplicate his coaching feats, but comparisons are inevitable. Let’s take a closer look at why Fielding Yost was so good at Michigan and why all those who followed him have trouble measuring up to his legacy.
Coach Yost finished with an overall record of 165 wins, 29 losses and 10 ties which was a winning rate of eighty-three (.833) percent. He posted a record of 42 wins, 10 losses and 2 ties in the Western Conference. Yost’s Big Ten winning percent was just under eighty-percent (.796). He won six National Championships and won 10 conference championships in 14 years of Big Ten play.
Mr. Yost helped create the great rivalries that Michigan is part of today. However, they weren’t so much fun for Notre Dame, Minnesota, Ohio State and Michigan State in the early years. Coach Yost is the only coach in Michigan football history to hold a winning record against every one of Michigan’s “rivals.” He won 2 and lost 1 game against Notre Dame. Yost posted 10 wins, 1 loss and 1 tie against Minnesota. He bested Ohio State with a record of 16 wins, 3 losses and 1 tie. Finally, he ended his career with a final record of 16 wins, 2 losses and 1 tie against Michigan State.
Fielding Yost also coached twenty-one All-American players who earned twenty-five selections.
Of course, Mr. Yost would not be the topic of today’s blog if he wasn’t connected to some Michigan Football “firsts.” There are actually a ton of them, so, I will just include some of his best!
Fielding Yost left a legacy of excellence that is unmatched in college football history. In addition to his coaching accomplishments, he left an indelible mark on The University of Michigan by building the finest athletic facilities of his time. Today, Yost Field House, Michigan Stadium, the golf course and the Intramural Building all stand as reminders of his incredible vision. Fielding Yost’s great love for “Meechigan” was nonpareil. Please take a moment today to remember the enormous contributions of Fielding Harris Yost to Michigan and all things Maize and Blue! After giving Michigan the best forty-five years of his life, Fielding Yost died on August 20, 1946. As the year’s pass, his legend grows and his amazing work in Ann Arbor is hard to fathom, but easy to appreciate. May Fielding Yost always rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!
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