BGSU lacrosse honored at sport’s national home

Mickey Cochrane in the athletic archives in the Stroh Center


BG Independent News

Mickey Cochrane, retired Bowling Green State University professor and coach, is a member of four halls of fame. (That’s not including the Baseball Hall of Fame where his namesake the legendary Detroit Tigers catcher is enshrined.)

The 86-year-old added another honor when a pillar at the entrance of the headquarters of US Lacrosse was dedicated to the BGSU lacrosse program that he started.

He and about 65 players along with families and fans traveled down to Maryland to mark the 50th anniversary of the team’s founding. For once, Cochrane was taken by surprise when the pillar was unveiled. Each of the 20 pillars along the perimeter of the field at the headquarters honors a college program, but BGSU is the first to be formally dedicated.

Receiving this Legacy Honor is especially notable, Cochrane said, because BGSU no longer fields a varsity team, the program lasted from 1965-1979, when financial retrenchment forced the shuttering of several programs.

Cochrane arrived in BGSU in 1964 from Johns Hopkins where he was recruited to coach both lacrosse and soccer. The soccer stadium now bears his name.

At that time, both sports were little known in the Midwest. BGSU president at the time, William Jerome, came from Syracuse, New York, Cochrane said. Upstate New York has been a hot bed of lacrosse since before the arrival of Europeans.

Jerome gave Cochrane 10 out-of-state scholarships and sent him east to find players, especially if they could play two sports.

Many players, he said, competed in soccer in the fall and lacrosse in the spring, though some had a mix of other sports, including football. Football legend Jim Brown played lacrosse in high school and at Syracuse.

When Cochrane traveled, he recruited students for the university not just players for the team, and if a young woman was interested in attending BGSU, he spoke to her as well.

In these days of one-sport specialization, a few things are missed. Playing more than one sport, Cochrane said, allows a player to fully develop as an athlete and a person.

Also, focusing on one sport, always moving the body’s muscles in the same ways, poses greater dangers of injury. The prevalence of torn ACLs among women soccer players is a notable example.

During his tenure, the BGSU team won a couple Midwest championships and was nationally ranked and participated in the NCAA Division I tournament. He coached lacrosse until 1974.

That earned him a place in the Ohio Lacrosse Hall of Fame. He’s also in the National Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame (he coached soccer until 1976) and the Oberlin Athletic Hall of Fame, and, of course, the Bowling Green Athletic Hall of Fame.

Lacrosse continues at BGSU with a strong club program. Club programs, he said, wax and wane based on student leadership, so he’s always heartened when he sees the lacrosse cages appear on the intramural fields.

He played neither soccer nor lacrosse as a youth growing up in Maryland. He played football in high school and at Oberlin as well as playing tennis and running track. But at Oberlin, known for teaching coaches and physical education teachers, he had to learn to teach a multitude of sports and ended up coaching soccer and lacrosse along the way. That included coaching the soccer team at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, when he was in the military during the Korean War.

Cochrane retired in 1985 when, as a member of a faculty committee, he helped write an early retirement package too good for him not to accept.

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He’s remained a presence on campus. His interest in history and artifacts dates back to his growing up in Maryland where he could dig up minie balls from the Civil War in the fields. He remembers in 1936 seeing a gathering of veterans of the Union Army.

He helped with creating the short-lived National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, NY.

He’s also worked on creating an athletic archive for BGSU. A number of artifacts are on display in the first floor lobby of the Stroh Center, with many more packed into a converted janitor’s closet in the basement.

Each item seems to have a story, and Cochrane knows them all. Now a new chapter of that story is on view back in his native Maryland, celebrating the achievements of BGSU lacrosse.