October 20, 2017

Fielding “Hurry-Up” Yost and Tom Osborne: The Only Two

Throughout the history of college football, many coaches have left their mark on the game. Of all that have patrolled a sideline, only two major college coaches were on the job for at least 25 seasons and also compiled a winning percentage of eighty percent or greater.

Fielding “Hurry-Up” Yost and Tom Osborne are the field generals who accomplished this feat. They were leaders of schools that make up college football lore. And in fact, both coached at the same school—75 years apart.

Fielding Harris Yost’s coaching rein lasted from 1897 through the 1926 season. According to football legend, he was nicknamed “Hurry-Up” for trying to motivate his players by yelling “hurry up” at them. By looking at his record, I suppose it worked.

His time as a head coach would take a round-a-bout way to stardom. His legendary coaching career of 29 years began at Ohio Wesleyan in 1897. This would be Yost’s first stop of five different schools in five seasons.

From the Buckeye State, he would, like many of America’s early pioneers, “Go West, young man!” He followed this motto, popularized by nineteenth century newspaper editor Horace Greeley, and headed to Lincoln, Nebraska for the 1898 season; as it was 75 years before Tom Osborne would take over the reins of the Cornhuskers. After the 1898 season, he hit the trail again; ending up in Kansas as the 1800’s would come to an end.

He had hoped for a new start with the beginning of a new century. He began the 1900’s as the coach of Stanford; but it would be like the previous stops — one season and gone!

While at Stanford, he was the fifth of seven coaches that served just a single-season on “The Farm.” Stanford implemented a rule that all coaches had to be an alumnus. Yost had graduated from West Virginia in 1896.

It was reported that this new guideline didn’t sit too well with him! One could only think that this was in the back of his mind when he would lead Michigan westward to play in the very first Rose Bowl; as Michigan shellacked Stanford 49-0 following the 1901 season. But before his career in Ann Arbor would start, he had some unfinished business in California.

Further research has uncovered two additional wins not noted with his NCAA-official record. A researcher, combing through the Cornhuskers’ scores, discovered that a game was initially listed as a loss; when in reality it should have been recorded as victory.

Playing in Kansas City, Missouri, the Bugeaters’ (an early name that Nebraska was known by from 1890-1900) game was originally recorded as a 24-0 loss to William Jewell; while the research revealed the score against the Cardinals as a 38-0 triumph!

Even though it was two seasons later—in terms of when the games were played—his next additional victory has never been credited to his career record.

During the 1900 season, in addition to coaching at Stanford, he also served as interim head coach at San Jose State Normal School. Checking the 2009 San Jose State Media Guide, three coaches are listed for the 1900 season with two credited with records for the seven games that the school played:

• 1900 James E. Addicott 2 3 1  .417
• 1900 Fielding Yost     1 0 0 1.000

No reason was given why Addicott left after the sixth game. Yost is listed as the coach in the finale, played on December 8th. San Jose State Normal School was victorious over Chico State Normal School (Chico State’s name from 1897-1921) 12-0.

After the 1900 season, he headed to Michigan.  In his first five seasons with the Wolverines, his record was 55-1-1. Yost won his 100th career game on November 7, 1908 against Kentucky, as the Wolverines were victorious 62-0. This was the only shutout win by Michigan in 1908 (5-2-1) who also played Michigan Agriculture to a scoreless tie and would lose to an 11-1-0 Pennsylvania, 62-0.

U of M would also drop its season finale 28-4 to Syracuse—as this would be the first time a Yost-coached Wolverine eleven ended the season with back-to-back setbacks. Despite these late season losses, Yost had finally found a home…as he stayed in Ann Arbor for the remainder of his career, compiling a 165-29-10 record. His career record, counting the two previous victories discussed above, was 198-35-12 for a .833 winning percentage.

Tom Osborne took over the Cornhuskers from the retiring Bob Devaney (in a 16-year career from 1957 through 1972, Devaney compiled a 136-30-7 record and .806 winning percentage) after the 1972 season, continuing the winning tradition at the University of Nebraska. Osborne’s career mark would ultimately end up as 250-49-3 with a .836 winning percentage!

Osborne in his 25 years on the Cornhuskers’ sideline turned in some impressive statistics: 25 winning seasons, an equal number of bowl appearances (12-13-0) and his teams were ranked in the final polls every season.

He won his 100th career game in 1983, a 41-10 win over visiting UCLA (7-3-1).

In 1983, the Cornhuskers were 12-1-0; scoring 654 points; while the famed “Black-Shirt Defense” would hold the opposition to just 217 points. A heart-breaking 31-30 loss in the Orange Bowl, when a two-point conversion pass was tipped away, prevented Dr. Tom from winning his first National Championship. However, in his final four seasons as Nebraska’s coach, Osborne compiled a 49-2-0 mark and was No. 1 in three of those seasons: 1994, 1995 and 1997.

Both Yost and Osborne were inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and 1999, respectively.

 

Tex Noel is the Executive Director of the Intercollegiate Football Researchers Association.