Skull Session: Fielding Yost Sabotaged Ohio State in 1922, the Buckeyes Are an Elite Team and Zach Harrison is Playing His Best Football in Year Four

By Chase Brown on November 25, 2022 at 5:00 am
Zach Harrison

One. More. Sleep.

It's time for Ohio State to beat Michigan. Whatever it takes.

Let's have a good Friday, shall we?

 SABOTAGE. Buckeye fans have long wondered whether Michigan's famed football coach, Fielding Yost, played a part in ruining Ohio State's 1922 season by derailing it four days before the Buckeyes took the field for their first game.

According to letters uncovered by Neal E. Boudette of The New York Times, he absolutely, unequivocally did, and Boudette proved it in his latest article:

Michigan and Ohio State, which meet on Saturday as they jockey for national championship contention, have one of the most intense and deeply rooted rivalries in American sports.

Yet the origin of that animosity has long been debated. Never was the rivalry more heated than in the epic “Ten Year War” from 1969 to 1978, when Bo Schembechler coached Michigan against his former mentor, Woody Hayes. Some historians also point to a 34-0 thrashing by Ohio State in 1934, when the Buckeyes started the tradition of awarding small pendants to players to commemorate each victory over Michigan.

But correspondence from the schools’ archives recently discovered by The New York Times gives new insight to an even earlier tale, one of treachery and revenge stemming from the 1922 game, giving new fuel to a century-old feud.

The letters show that Michigan’s coach, Fielding Yost, had learned from an alumnus that Ohio State’s star quarterback going into the 1922 season was ineligible to play and that Yost strategically took steps behind the scenes that led to the athlete’s disqualification just days before the season started.

When the rivalry game hit later that season, Michigan won, 19-0, spoiling the opening fanfare of the newly built horseshoe-shaped Ohio Stadium.

Yost, called an "evil genius" by Michigan football historian John U. Bacon, was so discreet in his steps to sabotage Ohio State that when Boudette contacted spokespeople from both programs, they were unaware of the background of the 1922 game and that Yost played a part in the disqualification of Ohio State's quarterback.

Here's how Yost got away with it – at least for 100 years:

The Buckeyes had high hopes going into the 1922 season, with its offense powered by Noel Workman, a quarterback from West Virginia who was nicknamed Dopey, and his brother Harry, a halfback. The Workman brothers chose Ohio State over Michigan in 1919.

But about a week before the season began, Ohio State announced some crushing news. Evidence had surfaced that Noel Workman, the quarterback, was no longer eligible to play college football because he played at a small West Virginia school in 1917. Players were limited to three seasons of eligibility at the time, and Workman had reached that limit with one season in West Virginia and two at Ohio State. The final decision to disqualify Workman was made by John L. Griffith, the commissioner for the Big Ten, who was responsible for enforcing eligibility rules.

The decision, said Ohio State’s student newspaper, The Lantern, deprived Ohio State of “the most uncanny quarterback” in the conference and “the man on whom most of its faith was pinned this season.” The team’s coach, John Wilce, moved Harry Workman to quarterback, and the Buckeyes’ offense sputtered early in the season. And against Michigan, before a crowd of more than 70,000 fans packed into grandstands plus extra chairs and bleachers, Harry Workman threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in Michigan’s rout.

The game was so lopsided that Buckeyes fans began heading for the exits in the third quarter, abandoning their new edifice to delirious Michigan supporters. Ohio State alumni “pulled out their eyebrows listening to them,” The Detroit Free Press reported. The Michigan band, along with some 5,000 Wolverines fans, marched through the streets of Columbus playing their fight song, “Hail to the Victors,” according to The Lansing State Journal.

As Boudette continued his article, he revealed discovered letters between a man named Lou Barringer and Yost. The men were friends, and Barringer had even pushed for Noel Workman to attend Michigan to play football before he chose Ohio State.

In Barringer's letter, he shared evidence that Noel Workman had played a year of football at Bethany College in 1917 – a circumstance that was difficult to track at the time –which meant Workman would only be eligible for two seasons at Ohio State. This information, unknown to the Buckeyes, would be what Yost would use to derail his rival's season before it began.

Yost wrote back to Barringer: “This matter will be treated entirely confidential as far as any names are concerned.”

By then, Yost had begun pushing the Big Ten Conference to appoint an athletic commissioner to enforce athlete eligibility rules. Yost’s candidate for the job – Griffith – filled the post in July.

Two months later, Ohio State began preseason practice with Noel Workman running its offense, unaware of what was brewing. Then, in a letter dated Oct. 3 – four days before Ohio State’s first game and 18 days before it was to face Michigan – Griffith wrote a letter informing the university that Noel Workman appeared to be ineligible for football.

Ohio State officials objected, but Griffith wouldn’t budge, and the Buckeyes were forced to figure out a new offense days before their season opener.

As mentioned above, Ohio State lost that game 19-0 to Michigan. And it was all because Yost played the long game, slowly working behind the scenes to make sure he could ruin an entire season for the Buckeyes.

Devious stuff. I mean, truly devious. But it's things like that which make this rivalry so great. One hundred years later, Ohio State can avenge the loss the Buckeyes suffered because of such trickery, and it will be oh-so-cool when they do.

 AN ELITE TEAM. Ohio State is an elite football team. We know it. Michigan knows it. The entire college football world knows it. But what makes the Buckeyes elite?

FOX's Joel Klatt broke down some of the reasons why Ohio State has been so dominant this season and discussed how the team could use those things to their benefit in their battle with the Wolverines on Saturday.

Spoiler: This video talks a lot about C.J. Stroud, Marvin Harrison Jr., Ryan Day, Jim Knowles and many other familiar names. But, honestly, is it really that surprising that these names are associated with the word “elite”?

 ZACH HARRISON, EVERYONE. When Zach Harrison arrived on campus as a top-five recruit in 2019, he was seen as a player already on his way to becoming the next Joey Bosa, Nick Bosa or Chase Young. That's not exactly how things turned out for the Lewis Center, Ohio, native.

In this week’s episode of Big Ten Network's “The Journey,” Harrison told the story of his time at Ohio State. Now in his fourth season with the program, he's realized that he never had to be the next Bosa or Young to make a significant impact for the Buckeyes – he only needed to be Zach Harrison.

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys.

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