A committee proposed that the University of Michigan remove Fielding Yost’s name from the campus ice arena after a review of his work, including his refusal to let a Black football player play a Southern school in 1934.
Yost spent about 40 years in Ann Arbor as football coach or athletic director and sometimes both. His teams won 83% of their games, the best mark in school history.
But Yost refused to let Willis Ward play against Georgia Tech, a response to a demand by that school. The decision greatly angered teammate Gerald Ford, who would become vice president and president of the United States.
“While we acknowledge that Yost had both successes and failures in his career, our historical analysis suggests to us that the benching of Ward was not an aberration but rather epitomized a long series of actions that worked against the integration of sports on campus,” said the President’s Advisory Committee on University History.
The committee also noted that some students who protested were expelled, based partly on an investigation by private detectives who were hired by Yost.
The committee is seeking public comment through June 7 and then will make a final recommendation to President Mark Schlissel and the university’s governing board.
“This is hard and controversial work. But without this reckoning the path forward is obscured,” the committee said in an April 27 report.
Yost died in 1946.