BGSU athletics mourns passing of trailblazer Crystal Ellis


Bowling Green State University Athletics trailblazer and 1971 BGSU Hall of Fame inductee Crystal Ellis passed away at the age of 91.

Ellis, a 1957 Bowling Green graduate, was the first Black men’s basketball player at BGSU, earned three education degrees from the university and captained the 1956-57 basketball team.

A native of Springfield, Ohio, Ellis earned a basketball scholarship and in 1951 became the first Black basketball player for the Falcons. Ellis played in 22 games as a freshman.

During his sophomore season, he finished third in scoring on the team with 251 points and finished as one of the top rebounders in the MAC before leading the team in rebounding during the 1955-56 campaign with 197. At the conclusion of the 1955-56 season, Ellis was named the Team MVP.

During his career at BGSU, Ellis put his time as a Falcon on pause to serve in the U.S. Army from 1953-55. In the military, he played on the military basketball team and was the quarterback for the military football team. While serving in Germany, he ran the athletic field house on the base as well.

Upon returning to BGSU, Ellis went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from BGSU in 1957, a master’s in 1975 and an honorary doctorate in 1994. He became the director of a YMCA in Toledo and spent more than a decade there.

Ellis began with the Toledo school district in 1969, working his way up through the district ranks before being named the Toledo superintendent of the schools in 1991, becoming the first Black superintendent for Toledo Public Schools. During his time in the Toledo school system, he served as principal in six different schools.

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