Coaches are the human face of a college football team. Players come, players go, but coaches remain -- the successful ones, anyway. That permanence goes a long way toward describing why coaches provoke hate. To the fan who has invested heart and soul into a game only to have them crushed, the winning coach is the embodiment of that devastation.
But this story is not about the fan. This story is about two of the greatest coaches to ever walk a sideline. To say that Fielding Yost of Michigan and Knute Rockne of Notre Dame didn't care for each other, and to say that their feud altered the path of the sport, is an understatement the size of the Big House.
Yost coached the first dynasty of the 20th century. In 26 seasons in Ann Arbor (1901-23, 1925-26), he went 165-29-10 (.833). Rockne topped him and everyone else to this day, going 105-12-5 (.881, 1918-30). He also became a beloved figure of the Golden Age of Sport, as the Roaring Twenties are otherwise known.
The feud between the coaches had its roots in a game played nearly a decade before Rockne became head coach. When Yost became head coach in 1901, he transformed the Wolverines into the most dominant program in the nation. Michigan didn't lose a game under Yost until 1905. These were known as the "Point-A-Minute" teams, both for their margins of victory and to reflect the head coach's personality. Chicago sportswriter Hugh Fullerton would describe Yost's methods as "tramp on the injured and hurdle the dead."
Yost married an infectious enthusiasm with sanctimony and an absolute inability to concede defeat or give an inch to any man. He talked and talked and talked. Sportswriter Grantland Rice once asked colleague Ring Lardner if he ever had had a conversation with Yost.
To read the rest of Ivan Maisel's column from May, click here.