Friday, December 18, 2009

Yost won at all costs


After all the recent talk about Kansas University football coaches and their records, good and bad, several have written wondering why I’ve never done anything about a legend who never lost a game here, leaving with a 10-0 mark in 1899.

If you’re a relative or a diehard fan of Fielding H. Yost, you might not prefer some of the local material that surfaced about the Michigan hall-of-famer. His foundation for success, which Kansas helped create, apparently involved more than a little skullduggery.

Talk about a job-jumper! Yost was at Ohio Wesleyan (7-1-1) in 1897, Nebraska (8-3) in ’98, Kansas (10-0) in ’99, Stanford (7-2-1) in 1900. He went to Michigan in 1901, and in his first five seasons, Yost had records of 11-0, 11-0, 11-0-1, 10-0 and 12-1. The figure for that span is 55-1-1; the Woofies outscored their opponents 2,821-42. The lone loss — Chicago; the tie — Minnesota.

Michigan and Stanford met in the first Rose Bowl in 1901. UM won 49-0 against the team Yost had coached the year before. In ’01, Michigan scored 550 points, opponents zip.

Michigan gained fame as a point-a-minute juggernaut that created the nickname of “Hurry Up” Yost. He was head coach from 1901 through 1923, again in ’25 and ’26. His teams in those 25 seasons were 165-29-10; there were national titles 1901-02-03-04, then in ’18 and ’23.

The career record for the onetime West Virginia tackle was 197-35-12. Michigan boasted 56 consecutive games without a loss from 1901-05.

From 1921 through 1941, Yost was Michigan athletic director. As the Lew Perkins of his era, Yost conceived and engineered today’s athletic campus in Ann Arbor. His projects included massive Michigan Stadium, the university’s 18-hole golf course, the nation’s first intramural sports building and the nation’s first multi-purpose fieldhouse, now the Yost ice arena. He died in 1946 at age 75.

One Michigan sports historian says Yost as AD “continued Michigan’s tradition of accepting only the highest personal, academic and athletic standards while spreading that ideal to the facilities which support Michigan’s athletic pursuits.”

Well, maybe not totally.

Apparently, Fielding Yost got squeaky clean in later life, but he began his career with a reputation for winning teams at any cost. From the Dec. 29, 1909, Lawrence Daily World:

“Recent disclosures at Michigan showing that some of the football players at the big western school were not even enrolled call to mind the golden days of coach Fielding Yost at Kansas. Yost came in 1899 and had the reputation of turning out winning teams at any cost. ... The merchants and the alumni of the university wanted a winning team. ... Kansas had never had an ever-victorious aggregation. The merchants here raised money to further the team. Under the careful manipulation of coach Yost, an ever-victorious team was collected ... though it cost considerable money they were all satisfied.

“Yost was always a winner ... Michigan was wise to the fact that Yost’s coaching ability was not alone responsible for his success. ... Yost could always get a good team at least as long as the cash held out.”

In 1900, KU reverted to 2-5-2 under Charles Boynton.

Anybody ready to kick in a few extra bucks to help Turner Gill buy some KU superstars?


meganpfaff18 10 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Tim Quest 10 years, 7 months ago

Bill Mayer was already drawing his retirement pension from the LJW during that glorious 1899 season.

RockCaCO3 10 years, 7 months ago

njjayhawk- I'm sure Bill give a sh!* about your little nap.

Interesting article Bill. I had no idea we went 10-0 before.

5yardfuller 10 years, 7 months ago

After reading the headline I thought for sure this was going to be about Yost’s ringer, Rollo Krebs.

Krebs played five years of football at West Virginia from 1894-98 and is also listed as the coach of the 1897 team. Yost was his teammate and fraternity brother at West Virginia in 1895-96.

In 1899 Krebs enrolled as a freshman at KU under the name of George Kreps, listing his hometown as South Cedar, KS, and intentionally got himself noticed by James Naismith. Krebs was a huge man for his time. If you look at a picture of the 1899 team he is guy in the back row, far right, towering over his teammates. Because of his size, Naismith introduced his “discovery” to Yost as a candidate for the football team. Krebs pretended he knew nothing of the game and his “inexperience” kept him off the team until the end of the season when he played and starred in games against Nebraska and Missouri. Two Missouri players were carried off the field in stretchers after tangling with Krebs. After the last game Krebs disappeared and was not heard from again until 1934 when Phog Allen invited him back as a guest for the KU-MU football game. Krebs explained his disappearance stating he came to Kansas to play football, not to acquire an education.

jhawkjunkie 10 years, 7 months ago

I know a lot of people gave KU crap in 2007 about "Tradition since Sept", but I wonder how many fans, KU and others just know about some of the tradtion KU has in football like Fielding Yost, Phog Allen for 1 season, John Outland,(The Outland Trophy), as well as Hadle, Riggins, and Sayers. We're not Notre Dame or USC, but we've had our moments.

amatxjayhawk 10 years, 7 months ago

Fun article.

"Anybody ready to kick in a few extra bucks to help Turner Gill buy some KU superstars?"

Me thinks the process has already begun.

"University officials said the settlement would be paid through private funds raised by Kansas Athletics Inc., and that no state taxpayer funds would be used."

Dyrk Dugan 10 years, 7 months ago

football in America, in 1899, is just a tad different than football today. plenty of stuff that would be big scandal today, was just brushed under the rug back then.

that being said, just think if Yost had stayed here for 25 years in the early 20th century.....would Phog Allen have been given a chance to build basketball like it was?

if the football team was doing so well, there would have been no need for good basketball....or even to consider basketball as something worth being developed.

It all worked itself out...Michigan became one of the kings of college football. and KU has its unique place in bball history.

Ryan Shelton 10 years, 7 months ago

43-6-2 in five years at five different schools is just amazing. I dare say that if the same feat were attempted today, a coach's record would look more like 6-43-2. Heck, in MOST cases it takes three years of rebuilding for a new coach to have success.

roc_chalk_a_fella 10 years, 7 months ago

mvjayhawk....interesting point.

bill.....great article

jhawkjunkie.....i didn't know the Outland - KU connection. neat!

5DecadeHawk 10 years, 7 months ago

The last line of this article is the most irresponsible personal attack I've ever seen Bill Mayer make.

Even as a joke that insinuation is not journalism. If Bill has EVIDENCE of players being bought, he needs to produce that evidence. If not... he needs to edit this article, remove that line, print a retraction, and apologize.

Bill... I enjoy your looks into the past, but that last line isn't about history. It's just another obvious bitter angry attack at KU. The fact that you put it in the form of a question doesn't let you off the hook.

I could write just like Bill Mayer and ask the following question: "Will readers contribute to Bill Mayer so he can keep buying prostitutes?"

It's the same principle.

I have no evidence that Bill acts in that manner, and I only say that comment to illustrate my point. I admit that the comment is completely off-base.

However... it's easy for others to see how the damage is done just by asking such a leading question, even as a joke.


jayhawk2062 10 years, 7 months ago

Everyone is taking themselves and Bill way too seriously.

Lighten up guys....we can take a joke....he's not attacking current boosters, he's making light of people that bend the rules to suit them, like John Calipari.

Happy Holidays.

jhokfan 10 years, 7 months ago

Nice piece Mr. Mayer. I'm glad there are people who have an appreciation for history. Some interesting comments as well.

okiedave 10 years, 7 months ago

When Bill Mayer stops writing and enters into the permanent room of retired sports writers, all you bellyachers will probably be complaining that we do not have anybody around who has any historical information on the KU program. We can learn from History. We know how Yost won at Michigan in their glory years.

KUFan90 10 years, 7 months ago

If KU was 10-0 in 1899, why weren't we National Champs? I'm not even sure if there was a Natl Champ back then or if so how it was decided, but if we were undefeated it's worth asking. Anyone know? (I know Mayer never reads or replies to comments on his articles so I'll ask the general population).

100 10 years, 7 months ago

The most interesting part of this story to me has always been the inventor of basketball's hand in us going 10-0 in football.

Naismith was actually the Freshmen football coach & helped with the varsity.

When Krebs showed up in one of his classes, Naismith took him down for a practice.

Naismith was a tough as nails nose guard at springfield college & he played in the first ever indoor football match (in nonother than Madison Square Garden). His team almost beat an unbeatable team, Yale, thanks to a new play Naismith had developed where blockers would lock arms.

Again it's truly fascinating who the inventor of basketball was --he was many things, but he was this:

  1. The inventor of basketball
  2. The inventor of the football helmet.
  3. The inventor of the forward pass in football.
  4. Brought Krebs (not knowing connection to Yost) to KU football team, helping KU to go 10-0.
  5. Much later, helped Coach Phog Allen coach the football team in a year where the newly signed football coach took another job (I believe to Michigan strangely enough). This coaching staff yielded the biggest tie ever in the history of KU football -- a 20-20 tie which caused loads of money to come in for a new football stadium, which would be Memorial Stadium, poured by good old John Wooden.

roc_chalk_a_fella 10 years, 7 months ago

I didn't know that about Naismith's claim to the helmet! haha, neat.

MitchumMan 10 years, 7 months ago

Looks like Geneo Grissom is at OU today on an official visit. Doesn’t look like we’re going to keep him. If he’s taking visits to other schools after our D coordinator talked to him, we’re out of the running.

jhokfan 10 years, 6 months ago


This is pure speculation on my part but I believe during that time, all of the "elite" football programs were considered to be east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The available modes of transportation would not allow for the type of schedules we have today. The Ivy League teams could play one another with relatively short traveling times but a game between USC and Notre Dame would not be practical. Look up that 1899 schedule and I would not be surprised if some of the teams we played were not colleges. Probably some area YMCA teams and local football clubs were on our schedule. There was likely a number of 10-0 teams as well. That’s my theory.

kureader 10 years, 6 months ago

Mayer ... interesting article. I'm guessing he wasn't the only coach who broke some rules during that time period.

strongbadia 10 years, 6 months ago

they didnt even wear helmets in 1899 bill. drink your sanka before your next article please

100 10 years, 6 months ago

Not sure when KU players started wearing them, but Naismith invented the concept of the helmet.

It mustve been about 1890 (certainly before 1891), as a first year at Springfield that he invented it. As a 5'10" stocky 170 lb center his ears were getting pulled & yanked at (he called them Cauliflower ears).

He cut apart an old soft American football & strapped it to his head with a specialized strap he made out of something sitting around his room. His ears were covered nicely with the way he cut the football & attached the straps.

So this was about 1890 although it mightve happened a year earlier, I can't remember offhand the exact year (my dad knew Naismith at KU & knew many of these old tales).

So again Naismith invented it & he became Freshman football coach at KU as one of his side "charity" jobs he did at KU, but someone would have to find some old pictures to see if Naismith & Yost's football teams were wearing helmets...

Rock Chalk

s6u6r6f 10 years, 6 months ago

Mayer's article is fine, and 5yardfuller's follow-up about Rollo Krebs even better. And though I have no money to give to his fund, I do support and encourage Mr. Mayer's enjoyment of prostitutes. But I think one cannot purchase a prostitute, one can only rent. At least in the states. Rock chalk.

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