On December 12, 1961, Bill Yeoman agreed to become the head coach at the University of Houston. Yeoman left a job on the staff at Michigan State to take over the Cougar program.
Yeoman chose UH instead of waiting for a chance to return to his alma mater, West Point, who had fired Dale Hall. Yeoman was considered a candidate but the Academy intended to take their time. Yeoman decided to go to Houston and the Cadets did not hire their new coach, Paul Dietzel, until January 6, 1962.
“It’s quite a challenge,” Yeoman told the Detroit Free Press when he announced he was leaving Michigan State. “I’m anxious to get down to work.”
Yeoman replaced Harold Lahar, whose resignation was made public on November 8th, just days after a 17-0 loss to #4 Alabama. The 11-0 Tide won the national title that year, not giving up a touchdown in their last seven games.
Lahar had actually turned in his resignation at the end of September but the school waited to make the announcement. During a teary-eyed resignation speech, Lahar said UH “stands on the threshold of fulfilling a great man’s dreams,” referring to Hugh Roy Cullen.
UH officials first contacted Michigan State head coach Duffy Daughterty in mid-November to seek permission to speak to Yeoman. Once UH’s season ended on December 2, AD Harry Fouke and his Screening Committee went to work to identify their next coach.
Yeoman flew to Houston to finalize the deal around December 10th and his name was leaked to the Houston Chronicle a day in advance of the official announcement.
“I’m very pleased and happy, and so is the family,” Yeoman beamed. “Houston is a major university with exciting prospects.
“The people I met there are selling their product. They believe in it and their enthusiasm is infectious. I’m really excited about joining them.”
Harry Fouke said Yeoman was the unanimous choice of the screening committee.
Yeoman started his college career at A&M but left after receiving an appointment to West Point. He played under the legendary coach Red Blaik from 1946 to 1948, serving as team captain on the ’48 team that went 8-0-1 and finished #6 in the country. Yeoman was featured on the back page of the New York Post when he became Army team captain.
After graduating from West Point, Yeoman served in the Army from 1950-53. After the service, he was hired as an assistant coach at Michigan State and worked there for eight years before coming to Houston.
For nearly six decades, Yeoman played an outsized role at the University of Houston. Known simply as Coach to the hundreds of men that played for him and a generation of fans that idolized him, he was a folksy father figure to players and fans alike.
“I like for my football boys to have four things,” Yeoman said in the first month he was at UH. “Initiative; backbone; integrity; and humor. Life is serious enough anyways, don’t be too serious to enjoy yourself.”
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