Saturday, 25 July 2015

John U. Bacon: 'Real scholarship, original insights, page-turning stories'

Best-selling author John U. Bacon is the latest sports historian to praise Stagg vs. Yost: The Birth of Cutthroat Football.

"The best cure for nostalgia is a healthy dose of honest history," writes Bacon, author of Bo's Lasting Lessons, Three and Out, Fourth and Long and his new book due in September, End Zone: The Rise, Fall and Return of Michigan Football. "[John] Kryk delivers that by the bucket in Stagg vs. Yost, where wax figures come to life, revealing themselves to be far more clever, corrupt, complex and occasionally noble than we ever could have imagined.

"Kryk provides real scholarship, original insights and page-turning stories. In the process, he shows us how it all started -- and why it still matters. If you care about college football, and especially Michigan football, you'll devour Stagg vs. Yost."

Bacon parenthetically provides this spoiler alert: "When you finish, you might conclude that [Amos Alonzo] Stagg's name should be taken off the Big Ten trophy, and [Fielding H.] Yost's should replace it."

Kryk's book from Rowman & Littlefield can be ordered online in either hardcover or electronic format.

Friday, 24 July 2015

'Essential reading': Library Journal

Library Journal, a trade publication for librarians, calls John Kryk's Stagg vs. Yost: The Birth of Cutthroat Football "essential reading for those interested in the early history of college football."

The book from Rowman & Littlefield went on sale this week.

In a review posted to the web on Thursday, July 23 and appearing in the August print edition of Library Journal, John Maxymuk of Rutgers University's Paul Robeson Library wrote, in part:

"Using archival materials, Kryk (Natural Enemies) chronicles the lives of two pioneering coaches: the University of Michigan's Fielding H. Yost (1871-1946) and the University of Chicago's Amos Alonzo Stagg (1862-1965). While Yost is mostly forgotten today, his fast-paced 'point-a-minute' offense was an early precursor to modern no-huddle attacks.

"The venerated Stagg, who coached into his 90s, carefully burnished his pristine reputation as a paragon by moralizing about corruption in college football while demonizing the professional game as pure evil. Kryk discovered Stagg to be a shady recruiter and found that his dubious sportsmanship was expressed by publicly questioning the eligibility of players on rival teams . . . .

"Kryk doesn't dispute Stagg's greatness as a coach and innovator but suggests a fuller perspective of him, also advocating a reassessment of Yost as an imaginative strategist in football history."

Library Journal's "verdict" on Stagg vs. Yost: "Essential reading for those interested in the early history of college football."

Click here for the full review.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Book now on sale, in both hardcover and electronic forms

Stagg vs. Yost: The Birth of Cutthroat Football is now on sale, publisher Rowman & Littlefield confirmed on Tuesday, July 21.

John Kryk's newest book chronicles the untold story of how Amos Alonzo Stagg covertly punted many of his pious principles to dismantle one of the most powerful machines in college football history, Fielding H. Yost's "Point-a-Minute" Michigan Wolverines of 1901-05.

The book, which already is receiving rave reviews, can be purchased at Rowman & Littlefield's website, here -- as well as at other popular book-selling websites, such as, and, in Canada, at Chapters/Indigo.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

'Excellent book' of 'meticulous research' ... 'deserves a wide reading': Yost biographer

Dr. John Behee, a pioneer revisionist-sports historian, calls Stagg vs. Yost: The Birth of Cutthroat Football an "excellent book" that "deserves a wide reading."

Behee in 1971 authored the definitive biography on one of the principal builders of Wolverine football tradition, titled Fielding Yost's Legacy to the University of Michigan. Behee's bold revelations about Yost debunked many time-honored legends about the coaching icon, and in that respect Behee was years, even decades, ahead of his time in employing such an honest, warts-and-all approach to sports history.

Behee was the first author to painstakingly peruse the tens of thousands of correspondences included among surviving papers of both Yost and the UM athletic department, circa 1890s through the 1930s. (In 1974 Behee chronicled the accomplishments, hardships and prejudices experienced by African-American athletes at his Alma Mater, in Hail to the Victors!: Black Athletes at the University of Michigan.)

Yost is one of two principal figures in Stagg vs. Yost, along with the head coach and athletic director at UM's athletic arch-rival at the turn of the 20th century, the University of Chicago's Amos Alonzo Stagg.

"Meticulous research allowed John Kryk to write this story of the Chicago-Michigan football rivalry as if he were there," writes Behee, a retired phys-ed professor at Indiana's Trine University. "He came to know more behind-the-scenes facts than any of the decision-makers on either side knew. He could see how they bent rules, both written and unwritten, and cleverly concealed their tracks from each other.

"This work features two great coaches, Stagg and Yost, but it lets the reader gain insight about many 'big time' rivalries in the early years of college football. It is an excellent book and deserves a wide reading."

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Michigan football historians praise book as 'brilliant' ... 'can't recommend it highly enough'

Two prominent Michigan football historians have heaped heavy praise on Stagg vs. Yost: The Birth of Cutthroat Football, just weeks before the book goes on sale.

"This book is a masterpiece," writes Greg Dooley, proprietor of the blog and one of the leading authorities on Wolverine football's rich history. "Through his meticulous research, (John) Kryk deftly weaves the tale of this remarkable drama that played out at the dawn of the 20th century, much of it unknown until now. By tying together private correspondence with news accounts of the day, Kryk cuts through the fa├žade of purity and reveals the Machiavellian maneuvering of these two iconic coaches and their alumni supporters.

"Stagg vs. Yost also provides a fascinating look at football at the start of the 20th century, a period that gave birth to the unwieldy modern football behemoth and the wild popularity that the sport enjoys today. Particularly striking is Kryk’s exposure of Stagg, a man associated with the idealism of amateur competition and whose name alone adorns the Big Ten championship trophy.

"Stagg vs. Yost is a brilliant follow-up to Natural Enemies and Kryk once again raises the bar for college football historians."

Craig Ross, author of two Michigan football books (The Oscene Diaries of a Michigan Fan, and The Search for the Unified Field Theory [Football Version]), writes that Stagg vs. Yost "ranks with my favorites in the genre.

"The writing is as clean as the history is rich and heretofore un-mined. Kryk’s genius is that he makes events 115 years in the past feel like last week. I read the book over a couple of days and then, lamenting that it ended, read it again. I can’t recommend it highly enough."

Stagg vs. Yost: The Birth of Cutthroat Football is the untold story of how Amos Alonzo Stagg -- held up for more than a century as America's most incorruptible sportsman -- early in his career covertly punted many of the principles he espoused and nearly worked himself to death, all to dismantle football's first hurry-up machine. Namely, Fielding H. Yost's "Point-a-Minute" Michigan Wolverines of 1901-05, one of football's iconic dynasties.

The book goes on sale soon in both electronic and hardcover forms. It can be advance-ordered, here.