Jerry Mosser liked the idea of a Bellevue University Athletic Hall of Fame, but not the part about being the first to go in.
Mosser only relented when he thought about the future honor it would create for many of the Bruins whom he either coached or oversaw during his 35-year career at the school.
“Jerry is very modest,” current Bellevue Athletic Director Ed Lehotak said. “At first he was like, 'I don't want to do that. I don't want to do that.' But he warmed up to the idea when we explained we have to do this (to get it started). So he's agreed to it.”
The Bellevue University Athletic Hall of Fame will be launched Saturday night with Mosser, 67, as the first inductee. About 250 are expected for the banquet, which also will include the floor at the Gordon Lozier Athletic Center being named the “Coach Jerry Mosser Court” and the announcement of a scholarship in the name of Mosser and his wife, Gloria.
“Without a doubt, it made sense that Coach Mosser be the first and only one for the first year,” said Buzz Garlock, who played basketball for Mosser from 1972 through '76.
Mosser came to BU in 1972, just two years after the athletic program was started with three sports and six years after the school was founded as Bellevue College, to support a growing military community because of its proximity to Offutt Air Force Base.
The Omaha Tech and Idaho State graduate then served 20 years as basketball coach and athletic director, and stayed in the A.D. role until resigning in 2008.
“What he did was take a very small school with a very small athletic program and turned it into a nationally recognized program,” said Lehotak, who was hired by Mosser to start the Bruins' softball program in 1997.
Bellevue stuck to men's basketball and baseball — wrestling was dropped in 1973 — before adding volleyball as its first women's sport in 1976. Softball and men's and women's soccer came in the 1990s. With the recent addition of men's and women's golf under Lehotak, BU is at eight sports.
Bellevue has won the Commissioner's Cup six consecutive years as the top athletic program in the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference, which Mosser helped form.
“All I've ever had to do is maintain what he started,” Lehotak said.
The chance to coach basketball, however, was the reason Mosser made it to Bellevue. Some of it likely trickled down from playing for his father, the late Neal Mosser, during the glory days at Tech High.
Mosser spent a year on the staff at Idaho State before going into the Army. Then there were seasons at Creighton Prep and Bryan Junior High in Omaha before arriving at Bellevue College, where he was only 5 years older than some of his first players.
“I wanted to be a college coach,” Mosser said. “This one just happened to come up. I thought I was going to be there a couple years, but it turned out to be longer.”
Mosser finished with a 221-300 career record, and Bellevue just missed making the 1990 NAIA national tournament. But the Bruin program was pointed toward making 14 national tournament appearances in the future, including runner-up finishes in 2004 and '08.
Bellevue won a baseball national championship in 1995. Overall the school has racked up 33 regular-season conference championships and 32 conference tournament titles.
“The best thing about that university is we went from being just a patsy to being a competitive program,” Mosser said. “Every one of our sports has gone to nationals, thanks to the kids and coaches that have gone through there.”
Mosser is glad that the establishment of a hall of fame will give many of them a chance to be recognized down the road, and he will be included in the selection process. The hall of fame idea was hashed out by Garlock and former Bruin basketball teammate Kevin Riley, with help from Lehotak and longtime Bellevue Leader reporter and editor Ron Petak.
“I said I'd go along with it,” Mosser said, “so future kids could make it.”
Petak will emcee the banquet. Garlock said it will include a top 10 of “Coach stories,” and a Facebook page is being set up for people to share more or send well-wishes.
“When you think about Bellevue, you think about Coach Mosser and the community that he's built there,” Garlock said.
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