Legacy of BGSU lacrosse celebrated

Championship program began 50 years ago

lacrosse

By Matt Markey ‘76

They came from across the country, and some needed assistance just to make the journey, while others battled physical ailments, but all deemed the celebration too important to miss. To mark the 50th anniversary of its inception, Bowling Green’s varsity lacrosse program was honored over the weekend with an emotional reunion at the National Lacrosse Center in the Maryland countryside.

More than 125 former Falcon players, coaches and their families were on hand to renew friendships, tell stories of their days on the BGSU campus, and share their memories of the program. One of the highlights of the event, the first official ceremony held at the new headquarters of US Lacrosse, was the unveiling of a brick pillar that commemorates BGSU’s lacrosse glory days.

The pillar, one of just 20 at the facility, sits prominently at the entrance to the main gate that opens to the promenade overlooking the artificial turf field. The pillar contains a plaque outlining the history and many accomplishments of the BGSU program, which was in existence from 1965-79.

“We’ve had a lot of reunions, but this one was exceptional in so many ways,” said former Falcon lacrosse player Leif Elsmo. “There’s a special bond with this Bowling Green group that I think is unique, and it has certainly stood the test of time. It’s nice to see our story will be told at the National Lacrosse Center.”

“There’s a special bond with this Bowling Green group that I think is unique, and it has certainly stood the test of time. It’s nice to see our story will be told at the National Lacrosse Center.”

Elsmo said BGSU lacrosse three-time All-American Mike Wilcox ’75 was the driving force behind the celebration and the construction of the commemorative pillar at the Maryland home of US Lacrosse.

“This was all about celebrating this important milestone for BG lacrosse, and honoring the legacy of the program. And when they unwrapped the pillar, the place went nuts,” Wilcox said. “It was quite emotional for many of us, but in the end it was a huge success. We had guys come in from all over the country, and some of them hadn’t been with their teammates in decades. I think this brought everyone back into the fold.”

BGSU lacrosse evolved from a club level sport to full varsity competition under the direction of Mickey Cochrane. He served as varsity head coach for 10 seasons, and posted a record of 88 wins and 24 losses, which is one of the best career marks in history among Division I coaches. Cochrane is in the BGSU Athletic Hall of Fame and the Ohio Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

He said he was taken aback by the turnout for the reunion, and the surprise unveiling of the commemorative pillar. It was wrapped in an orange and brown shroud prior to the ceremony and only Wilcox, Elsmo and a few other former players were involved in its production.

“This event shows how strong Falcon bonds are,” said Mary Ellen Mazey, Ph.D., president of Bowling Green State University. “The camaraderie and the love that these lacrosse players have for one another, Coach Cochrane and BGSU was really on display during this celebratory event. I am glad to see the Falcon Family story be part of this national center.”

“The memories, the words that were spoken – it was a very emotional time,” Cochrane said. “And no one knew about the pillar, so when that cover came off it was amazing. You struggle to come up with the right words to describe that moment.”

The former BGSU lacrosse players consider Cochrane the link that has kept them so close over the decades.

“We were different – we played lacrosse and not everyone at Bowling Green was familiar with that sport, plus most of us came from the east coast so we were a tight knit group, and there was a lot going on when we were on campus, with demonstrations and the Vietnam War and the Kent State shootings,” Elsmo said.

“But we had a coach who every day let us know where we needed to be and what we needed to do. At a time when college students in general were being pulled this way and that way, Mickey was a great compass for the science of life, not just sports.”

Cochrane led the Falcons to a Midwest Lacrosse Association championship and an undefeated season in 1970, and had the team ranked in the top 10 nationally.

“I think our success started with having great people, and I got to coach some wonderful guys at BG,” Cochrane said. “The fact they have stayed so close with each other for so many years tells you a lot about what quality individuals these guys are. We won a lot of games, but I think I’m most proud of the type of people I got to coach.”

Under the leadership of Cochrane and his successor Jim Plaunt, BG lacrosse produced 14 All-Americans and nine consecutive winning seasons, won more than 75 percent of its games, and was ranked as one of the top 25 teams in the country in five different seasons.

Cochrane said the group was honored that incoming BGSU Athletics Director Bob Moosbrugger ’94 traveled to Maryland for the event.

“For me, BGSU is all about family,” Mossbrugger said. “I am honored that I could join these special Falcons as they celebrated the legacy of their team and coach.”