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."

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