University of Michigan seeks feedback on recommendation to remove Yost name from ice arena

Report: Yost had ‘profoundly deep and negative impact’ on people of color

The University of Michigan Synchronized Skating Team practices at Yost Ice Arena on Feb. 4, 2019. (Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR – A committee at the University of Michigan is seeking community feedback on its preliminary recommendation to rename Yost Ice Arena.

After a year of study and after receiving several requests by campus community members to remove Fielding H. Yost’s name from the building, the President’s Advisory Committee on University History is moving forward with the process.

Members of the school community have until June 7 to offer feedback on the recommendation via a new virtual portal. A email address is required to participate and responses can also be emailed or mailed to the university.

To submit a comment, click here.

Yost was U-M’s head football coach and athletic director from 1901-41. According to the committee’s report, his contributions to athletics at the school were unfairly placed above the “profoundly deep and negative impact he had on people of color.”

In 1934, Yost benched African American football star Willis Ward after Georgia Tech said it would refuse to play the Wolverines at home if an African American player was allowed on the field. The incident played a key role in the committee’s decision, which cites widespread racial problems during Yost’s tenure.

“We recommend unanimously that the name of Fielding H. Yost be removed from the Yost Ice Arena,” reads the preliminary report.

Yost developed and oversaw the construction of Michigan Stadium during his years as athletic director from 1921-1941. He also coached the football team from 1901-23 and from 1925-26, when he established the program’s winning tradition and was praised for his “point a minute” teams. Yost retired in 1941 and died five years later in Ann Arbor.

Due in part to a campaign led by the Michigan Daily, the university named the Field House for Yost in 1923. After it was remodeled in 1973, the facility was renamed Yost Ice Arena.

The committee will gather the community feedback for an overall summary that will be included in its final recommendation to President Mark Schlissel. The president can then decide to accept, reject or modify the recommendation, and only the Board of Regents has the authority to strip an honorific name of a campus building.