Alexandria, VA – Bill Yoast the assistant T.C. Williams High School football coach who helped lead an integrated team to win the 1971 state championship, has passed away at the age of 94. The announcement of Yoast’s death was made by Alexandria City Public Schools.
“He was like my right hand,” Herman Boone, the former head coach of the T.C. Williams High School football team told The Zebra from Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, where he is recovering from pneumonia. “Bill Yoast and I created something that most teams and most people and most cultures will be better off if they learned, and that is that at the beginning we didn’t trust each other, we hardly knew each other, but when we went to Gettysburg College to practice we had to live with each other, we became roommates and we learned to talk and we learned to believe in each other and then trust each other, and trust is the greatest gift God can ever give to you to get along. We became best friends. A lot of people thought that we were enemies, but we were best friends. Whenever we got together for a meeting before a game, you better look out when we came back out.”
“Today we remember legendary #RememberTheTitans Coach Bill Yoast, who has passed away,” ACPS posted on social media. ““Along with Coach Herman Boone, Yoast helped transform the T.C. Williams High School Titans into a model team and model school, leading the newly integrated football team to win the state championship in 1971.”
Yoast passed away at the Aarondale Retirement and Assisted Living in Springfield.
“Coach Yoast served our country in WW2, and then served generations of students in Alexandria City Public Schools. Our City is better off and grateful for his legacy,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson posted on social media.
The actions of the team were later immortalized in the 2000 film Remember the Titans, with Denzel Washington as coach Herman Boone and actor Will Patton as Yoast.
Glen Furman was the coach of the Titans from 1982 until 1991, and was also an assistant coach with the team when it won in 1971. Furman met Yoast when he arrived in Alexandria in 1963, to be a biology teacher at Hammond. And while Furman was later hired over Yoast at T.C., who also applied for the head coaching position, the relationship between the two never soured.
“When we first met I was in my early 20s, and he said to me, ‘You’re a new teacher?’ and I told him I really wanted to be a football coach and he told me to go tell them to get me a hat and a whistle,” Furman said. “When I got the head coaching job at T.C., the first thing Bill said to me was, ‘Tell me what you need me to do, coach.’ He was incredible. Bill was always looking for the best in everybody.”
William Yoast was born in Florence, Ala. in 1924, and served a three-year stint in the U.S. Air Force before graduating with a bachelor of arts in physical education degree from Mercer University. He later received his master’s degree at George Peabody College. He moved to the area in 1960 and became the head football and track coach at the former Francis C. Hammond High School, and led the Admirals to a number of regional championships. When the school system combined Alexandria’s three high schools into T.C. Williams, Yoast was named assistant coach under Herman Boone. He retired at a coach and physical education teacher in the early 1990s.
“It was not the record-breaking achievement obtained on the gridiron that made this coach ‘A Titan to Remember,’” wrote Richard Arcadia in Yoast’s book, Remember This Titan: The Bill Yoast Story: Lessons Learned from a Celebrated Coach’s Journey. “It was his ability to see and develop talents in those he touched. He possessed a quiet strength; an invisible power that awakened the spirit in others. Bill Yoast knew how to build people. He knew that success off the field mattered more than what happened between the hash marks.”
Yoast’s death is the most recent loss since Julius Campbell, a defensive lineman on the 1971 team, passed away earlier this year.
“I’ve always learned more from failure than success,” Yoast wrote in his 2005 book. “For me, failure has been a teacher. On occasions it has been a friend. And like a friend, it gave me the straight scoop. It was failure that exposed my shortcomings. Failure that told me I wasn’t ready. And because there was nothing I hated worse than a ‘know it all,’ failure became the catalyst to succeed. No I don’t fear failure; I embrace it because in the end, failure will make me better.”
Former T.C. quarterback Kenny White, who graduated in 1974, said that Yoast was a calming influence.
“I got the best of both worlds with Coach Boone, who was like a drill sergeant and could get me riled up and upset and Coach Yoast would settle me down,” White said. “That was one of the most gratifying things about being around him, to keep you focused. Whenever I saw him I’d remind him how he made me feel and kept me intact.”
Former T.C. Principal John Porter said that Yoast understood young people.
“His reputation preceded him,” Porter said. “He didn’t get too excited or excitable, and he kept his cool. He knew what he was talking about, he knew football and he knew physical education. He was a gentleman, he was funny with a quick wit. You know, it’s funny. He started talking about retirement three years before he retired, and he’d say, ‘This is it, I’m retiring,’ and he’d put a big calendar in the boys locker room and he’d mark off the days. And then at the end of the year he’d end up staying.”
Bill Yoast is survived by his ex-wife Betty, three children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. No funeral arrangements have been released.