Big Plays by the Bay No. 10: Yost Abdicates to Michigan with a Future Hall of Famer

College football has been played in the Bay Area for 133 years with numerous great players and games – plus some remarkable stories that have been forgotten. Bay Area Blitz contributor Mark Purdy has picked the 10 best stories and will count them down in the monthly newsletter leading up to January’s College Football Playoff National Championship at Levi’s Stadium.

[RELATED: Big Plays By The Bay:1 | Big Plays By The Bay:2 | Big Plays By The Bay:3 |Big Plays By The Bay: No. 4 | Big Plays By The Bay: No. 5Big Plays By The Bay: No. 6Big Plays By The Bay: No. 7Big Plays By The Bay: No. 8Big Plays By The Bay: No. 9]

The early days of college football in the Bay Area—and across the entire country-- were often a loosely-run adventure. Players jumped on and off of various rosters. Modestly-paid coaches worked for multiple teams. Thus it was in 1900 season. A tall young man from the Midwest named Fielding Yost came to Northern California to serve as Stanford’s head coach as well as an assistant coach at San Jose State.

That season, Stanford compiled a 7-2-1 record while outscoring opponents 154 to 20.  San Jose State was a less impressive 3-3-1. However, Yost became enamored of flashy Spartans running back Willie Heston.  The following year when Yost was named head coach at Michigan, he invited Heston to join him and leave San Jose for Ann Arbor. 

Yes, recruiting was quite competitive in those days, too.

After some deliberation, Heston agreed. He and Yost literally became an unbeatable combination, creating college football’s first real superteam. Over the next four years, the Wolverines compiled a 43-0-1 record while winning four straight national championships. Heston After the 1902 season, Yost brought his Michigan team west to face his former Stanford squad in the very first Rose Bowl game. Heston gained 170 yards as the Wolverines rolled to a 49-0 victory.

The upshot? Yost and Heston both became College Football Hall of Fame inductees, while Stanford and San Jose State could only wonder what might have been if both had remained in the Bay.