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August 20, 2020 Rest in Peace Fielding H. Yost

Posted on August 19, 2020 by Barry Gallagher

Today is a great day to honor the memory of a Wolverine legend named Fielding H. Yost who went to rest on this day in 1946. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Fielding Harris Yost was born on this day in Fairview, West Virginia in 1871. 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.

After earning his law degree from West Virginia, Yost became a “vagabond” coach who did four one-year stints at Ohio Wesleyan, Nebraska, Kansas and Stanford from 1897 to 1900. 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 Ann Arbor in 1901. Michigan Athletic Director Charles Baird made the biggest decision of his career when he hired Yost to lead the Wolverine Football Program. As they say, the rest is history! 

(Note - Fielding H. Yost is shown above with his last team - the 1926 Big Ten Champion Michigan Wolverines. Mr. Yost is seated in the second row - fourth man from the right. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)

Part I. Wolverine of the Day: Fielding H. Yost

Fielding H. Yost came to Ann Arbor in 1901 and retired as a legend. His teams won 6 national championships and 10 Big Ten titles. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

Right from the start, Fielding Yost’s Michigan Wolverines set the world of college football on fire. He won his first eleven games in 1901. One of those wins was a 49-0 victory over Stanford in the first Rose Bowl on January 1, 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. He punted a lot if he didn’t have good field position. He wanted the other guy to make mistakes deep in his own side of the field. 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.

The Best of His Generation!

Even though he coached in a much different time, Fielding 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. 

Coach Yost finished with an overall record of 165 wins, 29 losses and 10 ties. His winning rate of eighty-three (.833) percent.is the best in Michigan Football history. 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 H. Yost wasn’t just a successful coach. He was also a visionary leader who helped build some of the finest athletic facilities in collegiate history - like the Big House! Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

Some of Mr. Yost’s Michigan Football “Firsts”

Fielding Yost also coached twenty-one All-American players who earned twenty-five selections. There are actually a ton of them. So, I will just mention some of his best!

·         Fielding Yost was the first Michigan coach to win 11 games in one season in 1901 and then 12 games in 1905.

·         Coach Yost was the first to win back-to-back National championships, and then to do it two more times for a 4-peat.

·         Yost is the only coach in Michigan Football History to win six National championships.

·         Fielding Yost won the first bowl game in Michigan Football History against his former employer, Stanford, in January 1902.

·         Coach Yost was the first, and only, Michigan Football Coach to play eleven home games in one season. (Note, he won them all in 1905.)

·         Yost is the only Michigan coach to defeat the same Big Ten Team (Minnesota) twice in the same season during regular season play (1926).

A Michigan and College Football Legend

Fielding H. 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 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 “Meesshegan” was nonpareil. Please take a moment today to remember the enormous contributions of Fielding Harris Yost to Michigan and all things Maize and Blue! As the year’s pass, his legend grows and his amazing work at Michigan is harder to fathom, but easy to appreciate. May Fielding H. Yost continue to rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!



Part II. August 20, 2020 National Day Calendar Update

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