Well, for starters, he won national championships in each of his first four seasons as coach of Michigan.
And then he just kept on winning.
In a stellar 25-year career in Ann Arbor, Yost won more than 83 percent of his games, took home six national championships and 10 conference titles, won the first Rose Bowl, spearheaded the construction of Michigan Stadium, revolutionized offensive game-planning and, between 1901 and 1904, fielded four of the greatest teams college football will ever see—including one that didn’t allow a single point all season.
By the time his run at Michigan was over, Yost had secured the Wolverines a place atop the college football world.
They remain there to this day.
A Coach On The MoveYost began his football career as a player at West Virginia in 1894. He transferred a year later to Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, helped the upstart Leopards upset the University of Pennsylvania in 1895, and graduated in 1897. He immediately decided to pursue a career in coaching.
The first stop on Yost’s job-search tour was, of all places, Ohio State, where he was turned down. Unfazed, he kept up his search and eventually landed at Ohio Wesleyan, where in his one and only season, he exacted some revenge by registering the school’s first—and last—win over the Buckeyes.
After leaving Wesleyan, he made stops at Nebraska (1898) and Kansas (1899) before taking the top job at Stanford in 1900. Not content to coach just one team, however, Yost stayed busy in Palo Alto by coaching four—both the Stanford varsity and freshman teams, the varsity squad at San Jose Teachers College, and a local high school team.
“Hurry Up!”Yost’s success caught the eye of Michigan president James Burrill Angell, who was impressed both with Yost’s obvious enthusiasm for the game as well as the results he delivered on the field—wherever Yost landed, his teams seemed to improve quickly. Angell hired the young coach to lead the Wolverines in 1901. Yost accepted and found his long-sought coaching home.
He quickly realized, however, that his Wolverines—which, in the years before his arrival had been mediocre at best—needed serious shaping up. According to Michigan legend, Yost apparently grew so impatient with his sluggish players that he eventually snapped, barking at his team: “Hurry up! … If you can't hurry, make way for someone who can!"
With that, the frantic coach soon earned the nickname “Hurry Up” Yost.
The Point A Minute OffenseYost liked his team to practice fast. He like them to play fast, too, and that was reflected in his groundbreaking offensive gameplans.
Though his greatest contribution to the game was probably the introduction of the spiral pass in 1906, Yost’s early teams reflected their coach’s philosophy that offense should be about speed, agility and basically doing whatever possible to flat-out exhaust an opposing defense. None of his teams did this better than his first.
The 1901 Michigan squad outscored opponents 555-0, beat Stanford 49-0 in the first ever Rose Bowl and won the national championship. In the Rose Bowl win over the Cardinal, Yost’s “Point-A-Minute” offense so thoroughly exhausted the Stanford defense that the game had to be ended 10 minutes early.
The Original Michigan ManYost’s Michigan coaching career stretched 25 years, including stints from 1901-1923 and again in 1925-1926. His career record was 165-29-10, including a 42-10-2 mark in the conference. Only in 1919-1920—a time when many potential Wolverines were out fighting World War I—could Michigan be said to be average. They were just 8-6 in those two seasons.
The coach’s contributions weren’t limited to the football field, however. He was named athletic director in 1921 and, in that role, was responsible for the construction of both the Fielding H. Yost Field House (1923) and the mammoth Michigan Stadium (1927), as well as a golf course and other athletics facilities. He retired as athletic director in 1941 and died in 1946.
Five years later, he was inducted, with the inaugural class, into the College Football Hall of Fame.