In a ten-year span during the 1970s and early 1980s, lacrosse had a bizarre life cycle as a varsity sport at NC State. The team went from worst in the ACC to nationally ranked, went to its first and only NCAA tournament in 1979, and left NCAA competition for good just three years later.
But for a four-year span, the team featured Stan Cockerton, a native of Oshawa, Ontario, who, at 5-foot-7-inches, had one of the most prolific careers in college lacrosse history.
His playing career at NC State and on the international stage — where he played for Team Canada in three World Lacrosse Championships — earned him an induction last month into the U.S. National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in Baltimore, Md.
“Any time you get those kind of honors, you just sit back and are extremely grateful,” he says. “My time at NC State and my time with the national team are my fondest memories of lacrosse.”
Cockerton, a four-time All-American and two-time ACC Player of the Year, arrived at NC State in 1977, hoping to have an immediate impact on a team that had struggled in each of its first three years as a varsity sport.
“I was considering Princeton, Johns Hopkins, and Cortland State,” he says. “But I wanted to play immediately, and when I came to NC State on a spring trip, I liked the team and the coaching staff.”
A year later, with Cockerton leading the nation in goals-scored at 54, the Wolfpack finished the season with a 10-6 record and a ranking of 14th nationally. “The single biggest reason for success was that we all got along on and off the field, and we played really hard,” says Cockerton.
The team’s early success eventually led to a berth in the NCAA tournament in 1979. At the time, only eight teams went to the tournament. “We were all excited as hell,” he says. “It was two years of hard work, and we were really proud of the strides we had made.”
The Wolfpack fell to Johns Hopkins – the team that took home the national title – but the team’s mark had already been made.
In his four-year career, Cockerton tallied 193 goals in 44 games, a NCAA scoring record that he held for nearly thirty years until 2008. He scored at least 45 goals in each of his seasons at NC State, and he still holds the record for average goals per game at 4.39.
Although lacrosse at NC State has been missing from the NCAA landscape for more than thirty years, Cockerton is hopeful that lacrosse will eventually make its return.
“You know, I’m still a Wolfpacker,” he says. “I keep in touch with my teammates and coaches. It’s taken something away from our careers not to be able to come back. We would all love to see lacrosse back at NC State. I’d be a pretty happy guy if that happened.”
Cockerton has served as president of the Federation of International Lacrosse since 2012, and he hopes that the sport continues to experience rapid growth in the United States and on the international stage. “Kids are seeing it, and they want to play it,” he says.