The President’s Advisory Committee on University History is inviting members of the University of Michigan community to provide feedback on the committee’s preliminary recommendation to remove Fielding H. Yost’s name from Yost Ice Arena.
The committee’s preliminary recommendation comes after a year of study by the panel of university historians. The request to remove the name was made by several members of the campus community through the university’s established process for reviewing historical names on buildings.
University community members have until June 7 to share feedback on the recommendation through a new online portal. A umich.edu email address is required to submit comments. Feedback also may be submitted by email or U.S. mail.
The committee completed an in-depth review of Yost’s tenure as head football coach and athletic director at the university from 1901-41. The report asserts that Yost’s contributions to U-M football and athletics were inequitably placed above the “profoundly deep and negative impact he had on people of color.”
A key fact in the recommendation is Yost’s role in benching famous African American football star Willis Ward in 1934 in response to a refusal by Georgia Tech to play Michigan at home if an African American were allowed to play. But the committee reported that this was symptomatic of larger racial problems in the athletic department while Yost served as coach and athletic director.
As coach of the Michigan football team from 1901-23, 1925 and 1926, Yost gained acclaim for his “point a minute” teams and laid the groundwork for the program’s winning tradition. As the university’s athletic director from 1921-41, Yost conceived and oversaw the building of Michigan Stadium. He retired in 1941 and died in Ann Arbor in 1946.
The Field House was named for Yost in 1923 based in part on a campaign led by the Michigan Daily. The facility was remodeled in 1973 and renamed Yost Ice Arena.
“We recommend unanimously that the name of Fielding H. Yost be removed from the Yost Ice Arena,” the committee’s preliminary report reads.
The committee indicated it is posting its preliminary summary of recommendations and the historical analysis online to collect feedback during an unusual year on the campus when many people were working and learning remotely.
An overall summary of the community’s feedback will be included as part of the committee’s final recommendation that will be shared with President Mark Schlissel. The president then has the authority to accept, reject or modify the committee’s recommendation. Only the Board of Regents has the authority to remove an honorific building name.
I say no to removing name.
I oppose the removal of Fielding Yost’s name from the Ice Arena. The committee appears to have proffered an unbalanced ad hominem attack of the same sort forbidden in this comment section.
Figures from history cannot and should not be judged by the standards of today. Fielding Yost was a great man who did incredible things at UM and brought great glory to our athletic teams and our university. His name should always remain on the ice arena, and perhaps a class should be taught on campus about his achievements and the times in which he lived. Leave the name as it is, now and always.
I strongly deplore the idea of this name change. Although I am sure this is presented with the best intent, I think it is just plain wrong headed. We must be able to look at behaviors in their historical context not as we view the world today. When we use the lens of today to judge events of the past we can end up in very strange places. For example, should we change the name of our Nation’s Capitol because George Washington owned slaves?
Looking back I disagree with what Yost did, but given the era he was in, I think we must be forgiving. Therefore to change the name of Yost arena is a mistake.
While we can’t always judge historical figures by today’s standards, the committee’s report is clear that Yost’s racism was purposefully damaging.
Name the building after Red Berenson. He deserves it.
I feel that I must comment again. Coach Yost had a black player on his team, one of very few black players in the Big Ten in the mid 1930’s. Would we be having this discussion if he did not have a black player on the team?
Furthermore, he did what other teams in the Big Ten did at that time. During that same period Ohio State, Minnesota and Michigan State benched black players when they played Navy, Tulane, And Texas. What happened then was wrong, but to judge someone’s actions nearly 90 years after the fact and use the standards of today is also wrong. I’m not sure that we want to be judged based on standards 90 years hence.
The name needs to stay. Yost literally built the Michigan athletic campus. Yost undeniably did racist things. But there is also proof that later in his life he learned from his past mistakes and tried to change. Judging men from history by the standards of today is deplorable.
“Ward recalled his first trip to Chicago with the team in 1932. At the time, black players usually stayed with local families because the pricier hotels still did not accept black guests. Sure enough, when the team tried to check in, the hotel manager told Yost they did not admit blacks, and they weren’t about to start now. According to Ward, Yost became outraged.
“‘We’ve been staying at this hotel since 1900,’” Ward recalled Yost saying, “‘and we’ll pull every [Michigan] team and I’ll get other Big Ten teams to not stay here!’”
The angry appeal to their financial interest was enough to desegregate the hotel for one night. Ward became only the second African-American to stay in the hotel, the first being the singer Marian Anderson.
There are other examples of Yost’s surprising change of heart from his racist past. He successfully lobbied to get black track star DeHart Hubbard into the university; he volunteered his influence and field house to support an athletic exhibition to raise funds for the Dunbar Center, a local organization that promoted social betterment for African-Americans; and he started Benny Friedman, a practicing Jew, at quarterback in the mid-1920s, then helped him become athletic director at Brandeis University.”
“Column: The Other Side of Fielding Yost”
-John U Bacon
I will be submitting a detailed response to the Committee, however, I wanted to add my support to those in this forum who oppose the name change . I think that it is misguided and myopic to view events and judgement (good and bad) from the early 20th century through a 21st century lens. This represents contemporary bad judgement.
The task before the loyal opposition is rendered even greater in that we are granted a short response time (June 7) during which to react to a “hit piece” developed over a year by full time academicians and historians.
Mark Fielding Yost
Keep the name. Yost lived in a different world and, when judged by those standards, was a proud Michigan man who did great things for the University.
Why do we continue to erase history in this country. We should be teaching our young people about the history of this country so that we can change our future history. During that period in time and that’s what it is just a period in time. It was what was happening across the country. It doesn’t make it right but it happened. It doesn’t mean that he didn’t do a lot for the athletic program at Michigan. I’m so tired of this country thinking that if we take away statues and change names on buildings that our history will change. Don’t change the name teach how to be respectful of a diverse society.
Keep the name. Coach Yost had a black player on his team, one of the very few black players in the Big Ten in the mid-1930’s.
As many have stated before me, it is a shame that we are judging someone’s actions from the early 1900’s by today’s standards. We must stop trying to eliminate or rewrite the past because it does not fit today’s narrative. What are we teaching young people by wiping away the past? The past moved our society forward, in good at bad ways. We have learned from the past and worked to make corrections. I am fairly certain that none of us are perfect and if our past was dug into there would be things we would have done differently even 5, 10 or 20 years ago, let along 80+ years ago. Its a shame these are even conversations we are having.
We’re having this conversation because the university doesn’t want their name attached to past mistakes done in the university’s name, who would actually want this stain attached to them? We’ve glorified these individuals for too long, because the past is just that, the past, but we can still change the future.
I am saddened that this is even being considered, yet I understand the pressure that the University might be under. But, according to your report, Coach Yost had a lot of outside pressure, assuming from the fans, etc. about what he chose to do and that in itself should NOT be held against him, or the University, related to this iconic institution and Yost Arena is well know by this name for many, many years! It would be a shame to buckle under pressure, much as Coach Yost did in the past!
History is not always glamorous. Changing the name would erase history and negate how far society has come. The name should remain.
Tell me how this would erase history, just because your name isn’t on a building doesn’t mean you’re a part of history.
Please do not change history!
How is this changing history? He did racist things, reconciled for it, but taking his name off a building doesn’t change history.
Like so many have already commented, to change history, remove names because of today’s standards of events from 90 years ago is wrong. Leave the name. As one commenter wrote, we should take into consideration the context of the time Yost lived. and not ignore it because it doesn’t fit today’s standards.
Leave the name on the building.
Ridiculous. I guess Georgia Tech should shut their doors then?
No to the name change.
Goodbye, Fielding H. And while they’re at it, the Regents could also remove the (new) name of that tall building just north of East Hall. . . .
I’m going to go with remove it, no sweat off my back, no pride of mine is hurt because of racist actions in the past.
The act of no longer honoring a person or an event in history is clearly not an act of rewriting (removing) or distorting history. Much of the history that is generally made available justifies the behaviors of that time, even if tacitly. So, I continue to be appalled by my colleagues who want to use the “standards of the time should not be judged by the standards of today” argument. Just as slavery in the United States was wrong and abhorrent from 1619 until June 19th, 1865, along with the murderous continued desecration period of “Jim Crow” that followed, was wrong then and now. However, there were standards at the time that found such destructive behaviors as justified.
So, Yes, I agree with the decision of the President Schlissels’ Advisory Committee to remove the name of Yost from the Hockey Arena, but maintain and post positive achievements of Mr. Yost, for the University, along with posting biographical data on Willis Ward.
A bad idea and a bad precedent in the bargain. Where do we go from here?
I suppose we could look to rename all the Taubman monikers on campus structures. After all he was a convicted felon who served prison time for price-fixing.
Let the past rest in peace and let’s all learn from this for a better future.
I won’t opine either way on whether to remove the name or not, since what will happen will happen, regardless. But I question the logic here: Yost was hired by the University from 1901 to 1941–his history as head coach and athletic director is the University’s history in Athletics, a department which is a significant part of its operation and appeals to alumni, students, and possibly donors. If his actions were problematic, one could ask why he continued to be coach/athletic director. Instead, he served in his capacities for 40 years at the pleasure of the University. I think there are more effective ways to have a teaching moment around the institution’s past, such as acknowledging what happened (for example, a visible plaque on the arena detailing the positives and negatives of Yost’s tenure as the University’s coach/athletic director), learning from it, and finding ways to erase today’s racist, sexist, ageist, etc., offenses.
This travesty is all based on the fact that in order to play a game against Georgia Tech he took a black player off the roster? Let’s never play Georgia Tech again and In fact let’s never play any southern team because I’m sure they all had the same restrictions in those days.
Naming the building for Willis Ward would be a first step in reconciling UM’s past history of racism.
Don’t change the name. Again the past should not be judged by todays standards.
It’s interesting how many are saying the past should not be judged by today’s standards. So many atrocities are now crimes because of what was learned from the past. Crimes against women, anti-Asian hate, the stain of slavery, Jim Crow, lynching (shall I say more?), have all been judged, and rightly so, by today’s standards because of the effect it still has today. In order to have a better future, we MUST judge the past by today’s standards.
The only perfect man to live on planet earth was Jesus Christ and he was killed by mankind. So it doesn’t surprise me that some attached to the University would look for something, so they can be on the “tear down bandwagon”, that exists in the United States. We learn from history and if we eliminate names like Yost from our past, we eliminate our very root system as humans; it is so self-destructive. Yost was born in True, West Virginia (probably a little coal mining town) Why is that important to me? That is where my father was born also. True is gone and I’d like to see Fielding Yost’s name and history live on.
I am a Charter Victor Club member. Our group spear-headed Schembeckler Hall. That is part of Michigan history and tradition. Don’t erase the past to be just like everyone else ie Notre Dame, and U Va.
As other posters have noted, the John Bacon Editorial Column, entitled, “The Other Side of Fielding Yost,” clearly demonstrates how Yost evolved from his racist West Virginia background to a person who fought for the Ward and other black players.
If this committee and the Board of Regents insist on removing his name from the Field House / Ice Arena, why not erase his name as coach and AD for 40 years? And while they are consumed by a lack of honor and logic, they should remove the names of Presidents Angell, Hutchins, Burton, Lloyd (acting), Little, and Ruthven, who all had the power and opportunity to remove this apparently “heinous” individual!
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” as the saying goes. I am generally appalled with the self righteousness taking place amongst the Left of today (of which I include myself). A person makes a mistake at one point in their life and they are to be condemned forever? I don’t believe Yost was a complete racist throughout his life. He, along with most Americans, learned and became aware of the lack of minority rights through teachable moments over time. Make this a teachable moment. We can honor both Willis Ward and honor Yost for different reasons.
Keep the name, remember the history.
I believe the report by the President’s Advisory Committee on University History is thorough and fair. Yost’s actions during his tenure at the University of Michigan were racist and damaging. The argument suggesting that the “standards of the day” were different in the early 20th century from today’s “standards” seems grossly inaccurate. Excluding an African American athlete solely because of his race was an intentional and unapologetic concession to the widely criticized Jim Crow laws and norms of the early 1900s. Yost ignored the widely expressed arguments by social justice advocates of his time.
Theodore St Antoine
I like to think I have a long, positive record in supporting Black interests, from winning a “pro bono” case for them before the U.S. Supreme Court, to helping as AFL-CIO counsel to get a ban on employment discrimination included in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to being part of the group urging the start of affirmative action at the Law School in 1965. But I oppose dropping the Yost name, despite his racist views. Fielding Yost was more responsible for establishing the Michigan athletic tradition than any other singe person. He deserves to be recognized for his contribution. Sadly, his racism was common in his era. What were the Regents and the University President doing about the Willis Ward incident and the rest of Yost’s actions at the time?
If you are going to remove Yost from the areana WHY NOT STOP THERE AND RENAME THE Gerald Ford school of Public Policy and dont forget the Presidental library. What happened in the past is “OUR” history . WHY DO YOU WANT TO FORGET HOW THE UofM HAS CHANGED THROUGHT ITS HISTORY and HAS EVOLVED INTO WHAT IT IS TODAY. The name should stay along with any other names on campus as the builbings were named for a reason not for the whim of a few that want to FORGET/CHANGE our past.
I find it curious that while comments cannot be made anonymously, the letter in which the complaint is made carries no name. Moreover, it would be useful if the actual number of complaints were published.
I agree removing Yost’s name is myopic and self-serving. A few may remember that the University condoned the banning of women from entering the front door of the “Men’s” Union until the late ’40s. A uniformed guard stood at the front door.
William L Kopp BS ’51, MD ’54, MS ’62
No buildings at UM carry the name of a Black woman; only one carries the name of a Black man, the Trotter Center (and even that was almost replaced with Mark Bernstein’s name). It is high time that we un-name every building on campus and start from scratch. Yost is a great place to begin this process.
I do not believe in removing the name.
May those who have never said anything wrong, done anything wrong, offended or upset anyone cast the first stone
U-M should not celebrate those who have hindered the success or advancement of women or people of color. The world would be a much better place if things like that never happened. The name of the arena should be removed to honor someone more deserving.
Also, those who think people shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions because they took place in a different time period might not be saying that if it were their gender/ethnic background/ etc. that was being negatively impacted. It’s 2021- we’re slowly changing for the better and that needs to be reflected in all ways, big and small.
I do not believe that “Yost” should be removed from the Ice Arena name..others have expressed my views so I won’t repeat them here. BUT I was raised to believe that you should not judge others lest you be judged. That having been said, the Committee is not only judging Mr. Yost who gave a significant part of his life to our University but helped to establish its reputation. But no only is he being now judged, but so also is the Committee judging those who voted to put and then keep the Yost name on this building. While you do this, ask yourself how your life achievements and actions will look to others.
A person or event should be judged in the context of the times. Yost should be recognized for appointing the first modern black football player at Michigan in 1933.*. in 1934 he had to follow the legal game contract which included the southern “Jim Crowe clause” forbidding teams to have a black player. The one night student protest was because Ward was the best player, not because he was black. Yost made Georgia Tech bench its best player. This was about football, not race. In 1934 President CC Little and Dean of Women Alice Lloyd were leading an ongoing fight to keep black women out of all -white womens dorms.Aren’t their names on buildings? By the way, the first time “racist”is in a dictionary was 1942. *there was one in 1890.
I oppose the removal of the name.