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The loss of a giant: looking back at legendary UH coach Bill Yeoman’s legacy


Bill Yeoman spent 25 seasons with Cougars, starting in 1962 and coaching them until 1986 season. He won 160 career games with UH. | File Photo

The UH community lost a giant on Wednesday.

Bill Yeoman, the longest tenured head coach in the Houston football program’s history, a program pioneer and leader on campus, died aged 92 of pneumonia and kidney failure.

Yeoman was born Dec. 26, 1927 in Elnora, Indiana. Although not a native Texans, Yeoman found his way to the Lone Star State after graduating from Glendale High School in Arizona before attending Texas A&M University in 1945 as a freshman. His first stint in Texas quickly was cut short after he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, where he played at center for the Black Knights football team from 1946-48.

He served in the Army between 1950-53. Once returning from his service, Yeoman became an assistant coach for Michigan State from 1954-61 before being hired as the head coach for Houston in 1962.

Under Yeoman, the football team became a respectable national program and played a large role in the integration of college football in the South.

“He had told the University before he came that he was going to recruit Black players,” said Warren McVea, the first Black football player in UH’s history, to the Houston Chronicle in 2015. “He had gotten everybody prepared for something like that happening.”

In his 25 years with UH, Yeoman led the Cougars to 11 bowl games, winning six.

Yeoman is credited for inventing the veer formation offense, in part the reason for the team leading the nation in total offense in 1966, 1967 and 1968.

Arguably his best year came in 1976 when the Cougars went 10-2 and ended the season by defeating No. 4 Maryland in the Cotton Bowl. The Cougars finished fourth in the AP Poll that year, Houston’s highest-ever final ranking.

Yeoman was with the program when UH was finally accepted into the Southwest Conference as his team won the conference title in its first year in the league. 

The Cougars also won the conference title in 1978, 1979 and 1984.

The legendary coach retired in 1986, ending his 25-year tenure as the winningest coach in Houston football program history.

In 2001, Yeoman was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. 

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