Lacrosse's Connection to We Are Marshall

Photo Credit: The College of Wooster

Everyone knows the story about the tragic plane crash in 1970 that killed almost the entire Marshall University football team and staff, as well as a some fans and boosters. The tragedy of that plane crash still has an effect on Marshall and the city of Huntington,WV today.

Marshall University decided to go on and field a football in 1971, but they would need to build from the ground up. The man that they brought in to be the new head football coach of the Thundering Herd was none other than Jack Lengyel. Coach Lengyle was coming from a college in Ohio called the College of Wooster. At Wooster he was the head football as well as the head lacrosse coach. Although he is most known for taking the coaching job at Marshall after that terrible tragedy, and rightfully so, he was also a key player in the building of the Wooster College men's lacrosse program.

The sport of lacrosse arrived at the college of Wooster in 1965 by way of  a couple freshman from Baltimore, MD who got together and formed a club. As you can image there were very few players that had any skill or experience that first spring in 1965. They needed to grow the program and one way they did that was just by playing. Spectators would walk by and be interested in this sport they had never seen before. They really did have to grow the sport as organically as you can get.

The main figure in the development of the Wooster lacrosse program was Cliff Roming. Cliff played lacrosse in Baltimore and came to Wooster to play football. He recruited many other football players to come out and try lacrosse as he would teach them the skills they needed. Now, they got their equipment from a player that went back home to Baltimore for spring break and collected a ton of equipment that they needed. The Wooster team was allowed to practice and play games on the field next to the football facility so they basically had to make their own field. For goals they had to go out and buy pipes to build goals. As far as lining the field goes they would take chalk from the football team and use that to line the field.

Wooster's first game was a scrimmage against Oberlin in 1965 where they lost 16-2, but it is said that they had a respectable showing. They have made up for that loss because as of 2018 Wooster is 46-13 all-time against Oberlin.

The members that had started the club that spring would submit a letter to the board of trustees to try and get lacrosse recognized as a varsity sport in 1966 but would fail. They even had the support of other college coaches that were on the board of the USILA at the time. The boys would have to continue to run the program on their own in 1966. That would be the year that they started to have more structure as they had a practice schedule and got teams like Ohio State to put them on their schedule. The program would be an independent club apart from the university until 1968.

Because of their success, which included two winning seasons, the Wooster club lacrosse program received a letter from the NCAA in the fall of 1967 inviting them to join. This was all because they had proved to other coaches at different schools that they were a legitimate program even with no funding at all. The Board of Trustees would accept the invitation to join the NCAA and adopt lacrosse as a full varsity sport starting in the spring of 1968. The school would have to provide a head coach and they would get none other than Wooster football coach Jack Lengyel.

In their first year as a varsity program the Wooster College lacrosse team would go 7-1. The next two seasons they wold go 1-5 and 2-5. Jack Lengyel would leave the school after the 1971 season to take the head football job at Marshall. Jack Lengyel was born in Akron, OH and there is a good chance that he had never seen lacrosse before these young men brought it to Wooster with them. His record as a lacrosse coach is 10-11 as he only coached those three years from 1968 to 1970, but he has the eight most wins out of the twelve coaches that have been at the helm of the Fighting Scots.

Here are Some Articles I found in Old Wooster Student Newspapers that featured the Lacrosse team back in the day. (Photo's courtesy of The College of Wooster)

*Some of these papers contain language that we no longer deem as acceptable today. Please keep in mind what was going on at that time period.*