Citing racist past, Michigan considering removing Fielding Yost’s name from hockey arena

Yost Arena has been home to the Michigan hockey team since 1973 (photo: Michigan Athletics).

A committee commissioned by the University of Michigan has recommended that the school remove Fielding H. Yost’s name from its hockey arena, citing a history of racial issues involving the former football coach and athletic director who worked at the school from 1901 to 1941.

According to published reports, an eight-person panel of university historians recently made the unanimous preliminary recommendation after a year-long review of Yost.

The school said the committee started looking into Yost after it received requests in 2020 to review the name on the home rink of the Wolverines.

“Even at that time, Yost’s racist beliefs were known; Yost’s racist policies were enacted,” reads one request, published in the committee’s final six-page report. “In naming the Field House after Yost, the University chose to place one man’s contributions to football and to athletics above the profoundly deep and negative impact he had on people of color.”


The report also mentioned Yost’s “record of upholding the ‘gentleman’s agreement’” to help draw a color line with football at Michigan,” pointing to just one black athlete (Willis Ward) who lettered in football at Michigan from 1901 to 1932. Ward, of Detroit, was later held out of a game by Yost in 1934 following a protest from Georgia Tech, a school that was reportedly reluctant to play Michigan with a black player on the field.

“While we acknowledge that Yost had both successes and failures in his career, our historical analysis suggests to us that the benching of Ward was not an aberration but rather epitomized a long series of actions that worked against the integration of sports on campus,” the committee’s report reads. “When the Regents declared in 1870 that the University was open to ‘any person who possesses the requisite literary and moral qualifications,’ they meant to remove all barriers to admission based on non-academic background factors and so set a very high aspiration for the institution.

“The University has not always met this aspiration, but in our time, it has firmly and decisively rejected in principle the racist value system of Yost’s time. Part of this rejection must include historical reckoning. This is hard and controversial work. But without this reckoning the path forward is obscured.”

Michigan is seeking public feedback now through June 7.