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Fielding Yost And The Amazing “Point A Minute” Michigan Teams of 1901-1905

Congressmen With Their Football Coach Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Another college football history video, this time it’s Michigan because.... well, honestly, Michigan being in the national title game should bring lots of web hitz!

Plus, this is a story that deserves to be told.

Summary:

Fielding Yost, renowned as one of the greatest college football coaches, elevated Michigan football to national prominence in the early 20th century. His teams, known as the “Point-A-Minute” squads from 1901-1905, were celebrated for their impressive performance. This video, narrated by Jon Johnston, delves into the history of these teams.

Yost was born on April 30, 1871, in Fairview, West Virginia. Initially a public school teacher and local deputy, he pursued a coaching career, a novel profession at the time. Yost’s journey in football coaching began in 1897 at Ohio Wesleyan, followed by stints at Nebraska and Kansas, with notable successes at each.

In 1900, Yost moved to Stanford, only to leave due to a new policy favoring alumni coaches. He then joined Michigan in 1901, marking the start of an extraordinary era. Prior to Yost, Michigan football, starting in 1877, was relatively unrecognized, often overshadowed by Northeastern teams. Michigan was part of the Western Conference, now the Big Ten, but hadn’t established itself as a dominant force.

Yost’s first season at Michigan in 1901 was a revelation, as the team went undefeated with a remarkable 550-0 point differential, including a historic 49-0 win in the 1902 Rose Bowl. His teams from 1901 to 1905 amassed a record of 55 wins, one loss, and one tie, outscoring opponents 2,821 to 42, earning the “Point-A-Minute” nickname. Yost’s innovative strategies, such as high-tempo offense and tactical plays, significantly impacted the game.

Michigan’s success under Yost began shifting the power in college football from the Northeast to other regions. Although there were controversies around eligibility and player payments, Yost’s impact was undeniable. He also had a sizable ego, often claiming various football innovations.

Grantland Rice, a sportswriter, highlighted Yost’s personality in his book, noting Yost’s insistence on being a pivotal figure in football’s development. Yost continued coaching at Michigan until 1926 and served as the Athletic Director until 1940. His teams are recognized for winning several national championships, contributing to Michigan’s status as a historically successful football program.

In conclusion, Fielding Yost’s tenure at Michigan significantly influenced college football’s evolution and established Michigan as a formidable power in the sport. Jon Johnston’s video explores Yost’s legacy, inviting viewers to appreciate the rich history of college football.

Complete Transcription:

Fielding Yost was one of the greatest coaches in college football history. He raised Michigan football to national prominence in the early 1900s, fielding some of the most impressive teams in history from 1901 to 1905. His teams were so prolific, they earned the nickname Point-A-Minute. That’s the subject of this video, Fielding Yost and the amazing Point-A-Minute Michigan teams of 1901 to 1905. I’m Jon Johnston, and this is Hardcore College Football History.

Yost was born on April 30, 1871 in Fairview, West Virginia. He was the oldest of four children, and his father was a farmer and a Confederate war veteran. By 17, he had earned a public school teaching certificate and also served as a local town deputy. As an adult, he was 6 feet tall, 200 pounds, although I also saw references to ambient 6’2”. Either way, he was a very large human being for that time.

At age 24, after wandering between jobs, including working in the oil fields of West Virginia, he decided to attend West Virginia Law School in 1895.

He played football there, and an interesting story from that time frame. In 1896, he transferred to Lafayette for one week to play against Penn and helped Lafayette beat them. The following week, he went back to West Virginia Law School. Penn had had a 36-game winning streak at the time, so it was surprising that Lafayette was able to beat Penn. And there were no rules against this type of transfer at the time. When he was asked about it later, Yost said he wanted to try out engineering for a week, and then decided against it and went back to law school.

What really happened at West Virginia was that he fell in love with football. He wanted a career in being a college football coach, but the problem was there was no such thing as having a coaching career at college football at the time. Coaches tended to be hired a year at the time.

There were some exceptions, let’s say Walter Camp at Yale, you know, in the Northeast, or Amos Alonzo Stagg at the University of Chicago was a rare one outside the Northeast. So Yost wandered from school to school until he created a career of his own. He started at 1897. He became the coach at Ohio Wesleyan in Delaware, Ohio. He also played tackle that season, and the team finished with a 7-1-1 record while beating Ohio State and tying Michigan. Then in 1898, he moved to Nebraska, where he finished with an 8-3 record. Unfortunately, Nebraska couldn’t pay him what they promised. They paid him only $160 of the $500 he was promised to coach.

This was a somewhat common problem at the time because most teams weren’t bringing in enough money to offset their traveling expenses. In 1899, Yost moved to Kansas and beat Nebraska, his former team, on his way to 10-0 record, while shutting out six opponents. Kansas scored 280 points that season, compared to 37 points for their opponents. So next, he left Kansas and he moved to Stanford in 1900.

The Stanford team that year finished 7-2 with three shutouts while scoring 154 points and only allowing 20 points total by their opponents. At the end of 1900, he was informed that Stanford had a new policy where they would only hire alumni as coaches. So he was cut loose again, left to drift until he found Michigan in 1901. Fate and destiny served him well from there.

Before we talk about the Michigan teams in 1901-1905, I’d like to put into context where Michigan football was in 1901. Michigan’s first year playing football was in 1877 and at the turn of the century in 1900, the power of football was largely concentrated in the Northeast with the Big Four, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Penn. Those teams were considered the powerhouses of football. There was only one team that was probably starting to be recognized as maybe good, and that was the University of Chicago Maroons as coached by Amo Solonzo Stagg. Stagg had started playing football in 1892.

Stagg was a known entity to the powers that be in the Northeast because he had played at Yale. Stagg is a charter member of the rules committee when it comes into being in 1902-1903, so the big teams, not big as in Big Ten, but the big teams as in the Northeast teams, are slowly starting to recognize that some other teams might be decent, begrudgingly. So being part of the rules committee gives him more power and more recognition, which is good.

Let’s go back to Michigan. So Michigan is coming into this thing is really, you know, they’re Michigan, they’re just another team at the time. In 1900, Michigan was a member of the Western Conference, which is a forerunner of the Big Ten, and they were already playing many of the teams they still play today. 1900, they played Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and they did play Chicago at the end of the season at a loss.

They went 7-2-1 for the season. So coming into 1901, the beginning of Yost, Michigan has yet to be recognized as a national power. They really aren’t completely recognized as a regional power because they’re still losing to the University of Chicago and Amos Alonzo Stagg.

In order to be recognized as a regional power, they have to start beating Chicago.

That’s where we are when Fielding Yost takes control of Michigan football in 1901. Yost has immediate and unbelievable success in 1901, his first season at Michigan. The team finishes with an 11-0 undefeated record, including a 22-0 win over the University of Chicago Maroons as coached by that Amos Alonzo Stagg guy. I can’t say that enough. They tie Wisconsin for the Western Conference Championship, even though Wisconsin played only two conference games, although Michigan played four. Things were kind of screwy back then. This is evidence of that. They beat Indiana, Northwestern, Carlisle, Ohio State, Chicago, as I mentioned, Iowa, and Stanford. They outscored their opponents 550-0. So they’re not only undefeated, but they are unscored upon.

They are the first team to play in an “bowl game.” In the 1902 Rolls Bowl in Pasadena, California, it wasn’t called the Rose Bowl then because nobody really had an idea that there were such things as bowl games. But it was just a football game on the West Coast at the time. Michigan beats Stanford 49-0, and the Stanford captain comes to the Michigan captain when they think about eight minutes left in the game and says that they’re done. They’re too tired to go on. They’re too tired to proceed. Too exhausted. Michigan beat them so badly that the Tournament of Roses organizers refused to have a football to represent an activity in the Tournament of Roses until 1916.

So it actually kind of turns out as kind of a catastrophic event for showing off football in the Rose Bowl, but that’s how dominant Michigan was in that game. Now I’m not going to go through every team from 1901 to 1905, but let’s just look at them from an overall perspective, and then I’ll point out some things about each team as the years went on. Yost earned the nickname “Hurry Up” because he is constantly yelling at his players to hurry up. From the Topeka State Journal on December 8, 1904,

Yost will stop a football man on his way to chapel or recitation, call off a number and demand, “Where should you be on that play?” Another one of his little peculiarities is the constant use of the words which give him his nickname. It is “Hurry up here and hurry up there until Hurry Up has become the name by which Yost is known all over the football world.” From Allison Danzig’s book, “The History of American Football,”

Willie Heston, an All-American halfback all four years from 1901 to 1904, writes to Danzig about fielding Yost, and he says this, “He brought to Michigan an entirely new brand of football not known to the Big Ten nor the Middle West. Particularly that was true of his offense.”

Speed and more speed was continually emphasized. Boss Weeks, the quarterback, was instructed to call his signal for the next play while the team was getting up for the last play. The linemen would jump into their respected positions. The quarterback would start giving another signal, but the first number was the starting signal. So the center would instantly snap the ball, the line would charge, and the play was off. The system would usually catch the opposing team off flat-footed.

During the course of the game, the opposing team would sometimes learn the method being used and would charge at the moment our quarterback gave the starting signal. When this happened, Yost gave us a signal for the quarterback to call in the place of the play signal that told every player to hold. The center would not snap the ball immediately.

The opposing line would charge over the scrimmage line. The ball would then be snapped, catching the opponents offside, which would bring a penalty of five yards and a first down, because five yards was all it took to get a first down at that time. Michigan ran an offense that was known to run around 200 plays a game. If you compare that to today’s game where you look at up-tempo offenses, today they might run around as many as 80 to 90 plays a game, and that’s considered a lot of plays in a game.

200 plays is unbelievable when you take into account the players played both ways and there weren’t any substitutions. They’re very limited, and I think in 1901 there were no substitutions really allowed unless a guy keeled over dead and probably shouldn’t be a joke, but that’s how it was. The 200 plays, you know, running this kind of offense is an amazing feat of human endurance when you consider that these games were largely played with mass play where there were just huge amounts of bodies smashing into each other over and over and over.

That’s not the most amazing thing though.

The most amazing thing is that from 1901 to 1905 his teams had a record of 55 wins, one loss, and one tie, and they outscored their opponents by a total of 2,821 points to 42. 2,821 points to 42. That’s astonishing. I don’t care who you are, who you’re playing that is out of this world. That is why they earned the nickname “Point a Minute.”

Now in 1902 Michigan goes undefeated and outscores their opponents 644 to 12, and this includes victories against Michigan Agriculture, now known as Michigan State, to the tune of a height near 19-0. They outscore Iowa 107-0 and they score 86-0 points against Ohio State. In 1903 they had a down year and they had a tie against Minnesota, and that tie ended up being the origin of the Little Brown Jug trophy, the rivalry trophy that the two teams still play for today.

Michigan finishes 11-0 and 1 and outscore everyone 565-6, the 6 coming from the tie at Minnesota. In 1904 they continue to bash teams into the ground where they have a 130-0 victory over West Virginia. They go 10-0 and outscore opponents 567-22. Then we get to 1905. In 1905 Michigan wins their first 12 games by a combined score of 495 to nothing.

And the last game of the season is with their nemesis, the Chicago Maroons, as coached by Amos Alonzo Stagg. They lose 2-0 because of a safety taken towards the end of the game. Now what happened was a young man named Denny Clark was tackled for his safety as he tried to feel the punt and bring it out of the end zone. And this is his own story because the story of Denny Clark is quite tragic and I will keep that for a separate video.

But the loss to Chicago stops a Michigan 56 game unbeaten streak and it marks the end of this era of Yost’s point a minute teams. Yost would go on to coach at Michigan until 1923 when he took two years off and then came back to coach for the 1925 and 1926 seasons. He served as the Michigan Athletic Director from 1921 to 1940. He compiled an overall head coaching record of 198 wins, 35 losses and 12 ties.

The Yost point a minute score a minute teams from 1901 to 1904 are recognized by the NCAA and Michigan as national championship teams. So they are included in the 11 total national championships that Michigan claims for football. At the time Michigan was paramount in starting to have other schools besides just the powers in the Northeast recognized as being good at football. Back in the 1901 through 1905 era they crowned national championships by really just kind of making them up.

Largely the Northeastern newspapers would have writers that were well known and they would just say this team is a national champion and this team is a national champion. It’s really kind of goofy but they just kind of declared some team as national champions and went on from there. So in 1901 Harvard Michigan recognized this national champions. 1902 was Princeton in Michigan. 1903 Yale in Michigan and in 1904 it was Penn in Michigan.

They just couldn’t give it up to Michigan and really what Michigan did in those days is they began to get enough recognition that they fueled the growth of football across the nation and they began to pull power away from the Northeast. The University of Chicago is important in that fact too. It was a slow change just like everything we see today is a slow change. But Michigan’s early success was central to that cause of pulling the power away from the Northeast.

There were some scandals around Yost regarding eligibility paying players basically in this era but I’m going to lead them for a later video when I do a complete biopic on Fielding Yost. Fielding Yost was a very interesting and controversial person. He had an enormous ego.

For example it’s hard to tell what innovations of football are actually credited to Yost because he tried to claim just about everything. This wasn’t uncommon. My buddy Amos Alonzo Stagg and Pop Warner did much of the same. Like Walter Camp kind of did the same thing too.

Everybody tried to claim that they invented the forward pass or they invented the huddle or they invented motion or they invented certain formations. With regards to Fielding Yost’s personality I’ll include the following tidbits. From the book The Tumult and the Shouting, My Life and Sport by Grantland Rice published in 1954.

Grantland Rice says he asked Pop Warner once in Yost’s presence, “Who invented the spiral pass?” “Yost,” Warner said looking directly at him. He also invented everything else in the game including the football. Yost seriously thanked Pop for the admission. Rice also said of Yost, “Yost never listened to anyone in an argument.

Once I met him and another coach in a violent debate in the lobby of a New York hotel around 5 p.m. I was going to a football party. They were supposed to be there. When I left for home around 2 a.m. they were still involved in the same wordy argument. I asked the other coach, name forgotten, why he had hung around for seven hours. I was trying to get in a word, he said. Just one word.”

There’s no doubt there’s some bovine scatology involved there, but there normally is around everyone who’s bigger than life. Fielding Yost was responsible for creating Michigan football for what it is today. He set the standard and today Michigan is the number one in the most winning school of all time. T

he Wolverines are the only team with over a thousand wins historically with a thousand three. I’m Jon Johnston and this is Hardcore College Football History. Please share this channel with your friends who love college football and consider subscribing as I wish to grow. Thank you.