The Bowling Green State University Sports Hall of Fame received a rare gift on Tuesday during a luncheon at Sam B’s Restaurant downtown.
The small, wooden plaque commemorates the 50th anniversary of BGSU’s men’s lacrosse victory over archrival Denison University on May 16, 1973.
Paul “Red” Lehman, team manager and scorekeeper 50 years ago, said the plaque is “modest, but holds a major significance in Falcon lacrosse history.”
BGSU head coach Cornelius “Mickey” Cochrane, now 92 years old, was the featured celebrity at the luncheon.
“Although he has recently endured several health issues, Cochrane still has a sharp memory and demonstrated the same acuity that has made him a collegiate lacrosse coaching legend,” Lehman said.
Other attendees included assistant coach Jim Plaunt; Bowling Green native and Falcon defenseman Tom Vogtsberger; decorated prep basketball coach and BGSU midfielder Paul Wayne; the team’s historian, archivist, and one-time Falcon midfielder Dennis Vereb; Cochrane’s wife Pat, or “Mrs. C” to the players; and Jack Carle, retired sports editor of the Sentinel-Tribune.
In the 1973 game, the Falcons broke a halftime tie and went on to post an 8-6 win over the Denison Big Red to claim a playoff victory in the U. S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association’s postseason tournament.
Denison, a prohibitive favorite after routing BGSU during the regular season and posting an undefeated regular season, hosted the tournament game played on the expansive front lawn of the Bryn Du Mansion in Granville, Ohio.
In so many words, Lehman called Cochrane’s strategy to win the game a mark of genius. This week, Cochrane emailed the game-winning strategy to the Sentinel-Tribune, not missing a beat because he had the scoresheet from 50 years earlier.
“’Peach’ came the grizzled cry from Cochrane during the game as he called his favorite play,” Lehman stated. “The Falcons’ left midfielder cut toward the goal and set a formidable screen on the Big Red crease defender.
“BG attackman (third team Little All-American) Bob Decker curled around the screen into the left flat. Seconds later, a wide-open Decker received a pass and rifled a shot past the left ear of (second team Little All-American) Denison goalie Dave Wright,” Lehman continued.
“Meanwhile, BGSU goalie Pat Collura, ‘the little Collura Bear,’ sparkled that day with 21 saves to keep the Big Red’s powerful offense in check. Once BG established a lead in the fourth quarter, Cochrane deployed his ‘Brown’ offense.
“The semi-stall, unique configuration placed two Falcons behind the goal, two in the crease and two near the restraining line to spread the Big Red defense and severely limit its ability to double-team or trap the ball until time expired preserving the win. The strategy exemplified the extent of details typical of (Cochrane).”
Lehman said BGSU was a collegiate powerhouse in men’s lacrosse in those days.
“Mickey did a good job recruiting from the Baltimore, New Jersey, and the Long Island areas,” Lehman said. “He brought in some skilled players who had high school experience or pre-college.
“The rest he basically molded using Ohio kids that had never experienced the sport before. (Tom) Vogtsberger, a Bowling Green native, was probably one of his biggest success stories.”
Cochrane, the father and architect of the BGSU men’s soccer and lacrosse programs, has earned nearly every award possible in both sports. He initiated both the soccer and lacrosse programs at BGSU in 1966, after serving as club coach of both sports the year before.
In lacrosse, Cochrane had an outstanding record of 88-24 in his 10 years. He led the Falcons to an undefeated season in 1970, securing the Midwest Lacrosse Association title and a top 10 ranking by the Baltimore Sun newspaper.
The Falcons also won MLA titles in 1974 and 1975. They participated in the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association’s postseason tournaments twice during his tenure.
Cochrane was named the USILA Coach of the Year in 1970 and coached in the Intercollegiate North-South All-Star game in 1969 and 1974. He also coached the university’s womens lacrosse team for a year. Cochrane was inducted into the Ohio Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1995.
A 1952 graduate of Oberlin College, Cochrane was a member of the first NCAA Tournament selection committee that shaped the sport’s inaugural tourney in 1959.
Team meeting and a poem
Lehman said the culture around the team was too much fun.
“Back in the day, the team would assemble every Friday night at the Cochrane’s home on Maple Street for a short team reception,” Lehman said. “Mrs. C was the ever-respected, consummate hostess providing home baked cookies and lemonade.
“The Friday night team meetings became a Falcon lacrosse not-to-miss ritual that were reverently attended — even during the turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s when lemonade was not necessarily the beverage of choice for college-age men. Each meeting culminated with a poem written and recited by Cochrane.”
Lehman, originally from Orrville, Ohio, said he got involved with the college team because of a request from one of the BGSU players. At first, he questioned being team manager, but that did not last long.
“It was one of the best events of my life. I was kind of recruited by my resident adviser my freshman year, who was on the team,” Lehman said.
“He came down and said the team needs to get a manager, and I said, ‘OK, what’s lacrosse and what does the manager do?’
“He told me a little bit about what lacrosse was and what my job would be initially. I was equipment oriented and I’d give out towels at practices and gather the balls and do all those kinds of things.
“Then as I did it for more years, my role became a little bit more administrative. That’s how I got involved and I came back the second day and I was hooked.”
Lehman said the inspiration for Tuesday’s meeting at Sam B’s began several years ago when he learned from Cochrane that all records, including scoresheets, of the BGSU lacrosse teams had been destroyed when the team ceased varsity operations.
However, the actual score card from the epic Denison game, in Lehman’s own handwriting, had been decoupaged onto a plaque and presented to Lehman at the team’s end-of-season award banquet in appreciation of his four-year tenure with the team. It became the sole surviving lacrosse scoresheet.
“The scorecard plaque has now been returned to BGSU for posterity and enshrinement into the Falcon Hall of Fame archives at the Stroh Center on campus,” Lehman said.
Lehman said when the group first met at Sam B’s, it took a few minutes to recognize each other after, in some cases, nearly 50 years.
“It was awesome. Nobody recognized anybody,” Lehman said. “They told me they were still expecting Red from 1973 to walk through the door. Obviously, you could tell by the picture I’m white-haired and old, but then again, we all are.”
Lehman describes it is “a 50-year saga worthy of a poetic ending,” a reference to the team meetings held at the Cochrane home nearly a half century ago.