Bill Yeoman: His Legacy to UH Was Loyalty.

When Bill Yeoman took over as the head football coach at the  University of Houston prior to the 1962 season, the Cougars  had j ust wrapped up sixteen years (1946-61) of poor to  mediocre play  at the least distinguished level of NCAA  competition. It was  hoped that the 34-year old former assistant  at Michigan State  would come down to UH and stay long  enough to finally get the  program on the right track. The TV  money in college sports was  next to nothing back then, and t  there was no BCS, of course, but  the major universities, the big  dog conferences, and four major  bowl games (the Rose, Cotton,  Sugar, and Orange) still decided  who played where in any  contests of post-season consequence.

Yeoman brought an impressive resume with him to UH for a    man so young. He layed his 1945 freshman year at Texas A&M  and then transferred to West Point. He played his three college ball eligibility seasons (1946-48) for  Army as a center under  the legendary Earl Blaik.  That ’46 club finsihed the year at 9-0-1 behind dual Heisman trophy winners and All Americans Doc Blanchard (“Mr. Inside”) and Glen Davis (“Mr. Outside”). Yeoman served as captain of the ’48 team during a season in which he achieved his own acclaim as a second team All American center. During his career at Army, Yeoman’s clubs finished with a total record of 22-2-4. Following graduation, Bill Yeoman served four years as an officer in United States Army (1950-53). After the service, Yeoman went to work as an assistant to  football coach Duffy Suagherty (1954-61) for seven years.

I had only been out of UH a couple of years when Yeoman arrived on the UH campus and I was still pretty tied as a young adult alumnus to whatever was going on at the old frat house of Phi Kappa Theta. We were all surprised when a simple phone call invitation to Bill Yeoman to join us for dinner at the animal house was not only accepted, but kept. The guy was just as down to earth and enthusiastic about UH football as could be. We all sensed that UH was in for a different deal from our young new coach. We simply had no idea how big and broad that echo of Yeoman’s loyalty to UH would carry.

After leading the Cougars to a 7-4 record and a win in the Tangerine Bowl during his first (1962) season, Yeoman became the man who led UH to integrate its athletic programs with the  signing of all-everything-world running back Warren McVea of San Antonio on June 11, 1964. During the 1965 season, Yeoman integrated something else quite powerful, introducing the world of college  football to his own invention, the veer offense. By 1965, the Cougars were also now playing in the new Astrodome – and beating name schools like Kentucky and Mississippi with the Yeoman veer attack. Things would never be the same on on old Cullen Boulevard. The Cougars proeeeded to lead the college football nation in total offense for three consecutive seasons from 1966-1968.

Improved play, victories over nationally big name opponents (like the 37-7 pasting of Michigan State in their own house in 1967) soon elevated UH to higher status, better scheduling, and greater positioning for membership in the Southwest Conference. When UH joined the SWC in 1976, it proceeded to celebrate the occasion by knocking off UT in Austin by 30-0 in Darrell Royal’s last year as coach, capturing the SWC crown, and then drubbing Maryland in the Cotton Bowl for a 4th place finish in the final polls.

Under Yeoman, UH went on to win three SWC championships in their first four years, and four SWC crowns altogether. The Cougars also made it to 11 bowl games during Yeoman’s 25 year reign as coach.  Coach Yeoman finished with a UH record of 160 wins, 108 losses, and 8 ties. He stayed on at UH after his retirement as coach following the 1986 season to help promote the university and  its football and other atheltic programs.

Wikipedia reports Bill Yeoman’s post-coaching awards in this way: He “was inducted into the University of Houston Hall of Honor in 1998. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. Also in 2002, Yeoman received the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award Lifetime Achievement Award.Yeoman currently works as a fundraiser and Development Officer in the athletic department of the University of Houston.

Bill Yeoman could have become a wildly rich football man at places like Notre Dame, USC, Alabama, or Texas, but he didn’t go that route. He stayed with the lesser known university that gave him his big break long ago. Those of us who bleed Cougar Red shall be eternally grateful, as we also hope daily that current Cougar mentor Kevin Sumlin proves over time that he is made from the same stuff.

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