Editor’s note: Craig Yeast was announced as the new head football coach of Kentucky Wesleyan College on Tuesday. His introductory press conference was held Wednesday. Yeast is a former standout at the University of Kentucky and played in the NFL before starting his coaching career. Read his full profile here.
In a search that included nearly 200 applicants wanting to take over as the next head coach of the Kentucky Wesleyan football team, one name stood out above the rest: Craig Yeast.
During his introductory press conference Wednesday, Yeast emphasized the importance of building a winning culture both on and off the field.
Championship trophies are certainly a goal, but his top priority is ensuring his players turn into great men.
“To me, life is not about wins and losses,” Yeast said. “We’re going to win, I can tell you that. But I don’t care as much about championships as I do building young men into champions in life. There’s an opportunity here to build something special. But it’s not just about me, it’s got to be about everybody. More importantly, it’s got to be about the young men that are in the program.”
In fact, his number one goal for players is to earn their degree, and winning games is secondary. Yeast also wants players to get involved on campus and in the community.
He wants the players to turn into great husbands, fathers and businessmen who come back to Wesleyan not just because of football, but because the entire situation was good to them.
Kentucky Wesleyan Director of Athletics Rob Mallory said that mindset was part of why Yeast was chosen. Finding the best fit was about more than coaching, Mallory said, and was about life off the field as well.
“(Finding the best coach) means preparing our team to win on Saturday,” he said. “That means supporting and encouraging the academic endeavors of our scholar athletes. That means making sure those that come here graduate and they are prepared for life after graduation. It means doing things the right way, the Wesleyan way.”
Yeast said everyone in the program — coaches and players alike — will follow the Wesleyan Way. He said it’s important for everyone to buy in so they can build a culture that’s part of something that’s greater than football.
“As a football program, we’re going to graduate our young men,” he said. “We’re going to hold every single young man in our program accountable — accountable to themselves and accountable to the guy that is standing next to him. We’re going to be a disciplined program.
“We’re going to win. Winning to me is simple. Win in the classroom. Win on the field. Win in life. That’s what we’re going to build here at Kentucky Wesleyan.”
Yeast continued to emphasize his role is going to be more than a coach to the players. He wants to be a father figure and role model, helping them through tough times.
“Sometimes you have to just love on them,” Yeast said. “Sometimes you have to open your door and say ‘come in and have a conversation with me.’ Then sometimes you have to just flat out tell them what they don’t want to hear. I think I have the ability to do all those things.”
He said it’s really just about making sure the players know that Yeast is there for them no matter what the situation.
“I think when young men have that and they feel that and they know it, you can change a lot of people’s lives, and that’s what I’m hoping to do,” he said.
Yeast talked to the team Tuesday night, a conversation he thought went well. Now, he’s going to work on getting a staff put together, and he’s ready to get started with recruiting.
With great success as a former player at the University of Kentucky, Yeast knows his name can help get him in the door, but he isn’t relying on that to connect with families. Instead, he’s going to prove he has a desire to build relationships. His message in consistent and revolves around having a foundation built on character.
“Building that character and doing things right on a consistent basis give you an opportunity to be successful not just on the football field, but it gives you a chance to be successful in life,” he said. “If you can do those things right on a consistent basis, you have a chance. It’s all really about doing things right and building the right culture and foundation.”
Mallory said the combination of strong morals and high football IQ should help Yeast in bringing plenty of local talent to the Panthers.
“His energy and enthusiasm shines through right from the start,” Mallory said. “It doesn’t take long to see that he brings that to the table. (His name) generates that buzz and excitement. But at the end of the day, none of that matters if you can’t coach football. I’m certain, based on my conversations with him and others, that he is a high-caliber football coach and is a rising star in the profession.”
Yeast will work to transform Kentucky into a championship contender following a 3-7 (2-6 G-MAC) season. Though it will likely take some time to get to the end result, Mallory has plenty of confidence.
With Yeast, he said they usher in a new era for Kentucky Wesleyan football, one he believes will see the program achieve unprecedented success both on and off the field.
“He’s the centerpiece,” Mallory said. “There’s not mistake about it, he’s the face of Kentucky Wesleyan football. I think he brings all of the qualities that we’re looking for that can get us to the top.”