(Photo: "Michigan Today," The University of Michigan)
Fielding Yost was one of the early pioneers of college athletics, and in particular, college football. Yost was a player at West Virginia and later Lafayette College before he was named to his first coaching job in 1897 at Ohio Wesleyan.
Through his career, Yost also coached for Nebraska, Kansas and Stanford, and like Ohio Wesleyan, all of these coaching stints lasted just one season (he also coached one game for State Normal College of California, now San Jose State while the head coach at Stanford).
Then, in 1901, Yost took a job at Michigan that would make him a household name and usher in his status as the father of college football coaching.
Yost spent 25 seasons (1901 to 1926, with the exception of 1924) as the head coach for the Wolverines. During Michigan's 15 seasons in the Big Ten Conference over that span, the Wolverines won 10 conference titles and six national championships.
Yost was also the engineer of Michigan's famed “point a minute” team in 1901, which outscored its opponents 550-0 in 11 games, including famously blanking Yost's previous team, Stanford, in the first-ever Rose Bowl Game (then the “Tournament [of Roses] East-West football game”).
Michigan was so dominant that season that Stanford requested permission to end the game with eight minutes left on the clock, down 49-0.
From 1901 through 1904, Michigan never lost a game, going 43-0-1 (the only tie coming in 1903 to Minnesota). Michigan was named “national champions” by the National Championship Foundation for each of those four seasons, the first non-East Coast team ever to receive such an honor.
Yost's teams were also awarded national championship honors in 1918 and 1923.
But Yost's lasting contribution to the sport comes with the dozens of head coaches that came from his tutelage. Elton Wieman (Michigan, Princeton), Billy Wasmund (Texas), Tod Rockwell (North Dakota, Louisiana Tech), Bennie Owen (Oklahoma), Bo Molenda (New York Giants, Green Bay Packers), Frank Longman (Notre Dame, Arkansas) and Bennie Oosterbaan (Michigan) are just a few of the many future head coaches that got their start in football either as a player or assistant under Yost.
Yost remained the athletic director at Michigan until 1940, and during his tenure, he was credited with many innovations that still have an impact on today's world of college football and college athletics in general.
Yost was instrumental in the design and construction of Michigan Stadium, the largest stadium in the nation. He also is credited with inventing the football position of linebacker.
Yost is also the genesis of the much beloved (if you're from Michigan) or reviled (if you're from Ohio) pronunciation of the name of the state: “Mee-shee-gan.”
The first “field house” in the nation was designed by and constructed under the supervision of Yost while at Michigan, and it still standing and in use today (as Yost Ice Arena).
Finally, Yost's personal rivalry with Knute Rockne led not only to one of the great college football rivalries but also allegedly led to Big Ten programs boycotting Notre Dame in the first half of the 20th century—a wound that still has not completely healed.
With such an impact on college football and college athletics in general, one that we still feel over a century later, it's absolutely crazy to think that to this day there is not a single statue of Fielding Yost anywhere on the campus of the University of Michigan.