MEQUON, Wis. – Concordia Wisconsin's football coaching pedigree runs deep and on March 30 Mike Bartholomew was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He became the third Falcons coach to join the prestigious group, joining his father, Bill, and Jim Kehoe.
Mike, a 1984 graduate of Concordia Wisconsin, played offensive line for three years under former head coaches Andy Luptak and a year under Courtney Meyer. He returned to Concordia to join the coaching staff in 1990 under former head coach Jeff Gabrielsen and was on staff for nine years.
"Jeff Gabrielsen gave me an opportunity to join the staff as an assistant in 1990 and I am forever in debt because of that," Bartholomew stated. "It was a tremendous opportunity to coach at a high level of Division III. The experiences that I gained not only from a football perspective but a relationship perspective were important. I have made some lifelong friends during my time and I began to understand the relationship aspect of coaching years after my time at Concordia, which is more than just the Xs and Os. The relationship part is what matters in coaching."
After leaving in 1999 he went to Kenosha Bradford High School where he was for seven years, making the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Mike then coached at Oak Creek High School before retiring this past year and during his time there he guided the program to several conference championships and trips to playoffs seven times in 11 years.
"What we tried to do was not only win football games, but teach kids how to be good sons, husbands, uncles and friends," Bartholomew expressed. "We were pretty tough on kids through the years, but we wanted them to be good people down the road."
One of the many outcomes of his time at Concordia that changed his life was meeting his wife, who has recently became the principal at Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas. Mike has also become an assistant coach with the football program.
"The small school aspect was perfect for me. There were so many blessings in having decided to go to Concordia. I met my wife and that is the biggest thing that happened to me while in school. The people you meet and spend that time with, those people become your lifelong friends. You are becoming a man or woman during your years in college and the impact that people you encounter have on you, you can't put a monetary value on those great experiences."
Being inducted into the WFCA Hall of Fame was a special moment for Mike, but joining his father Bill who was a WFCA Hall of Fame inductee in 1995 made the moment even more joyful.
"It's a humbling experience," Bartholomew expressed. "My dad was inducted into the WFCA Hall of Fame in 1995, so that was a highlight in joining him. My dad was a longtime coach and did coach at Concordia for some years while I was there. I have always thought of coaches as stewards of the game. We all just pass through and the game is larger than us. That is how I approached coaching in the community with other coaches. You want to do the best for your program and players, but really it has to come down to what is best for the game overall. I took a wide view of the game in that regard. The game has thought me so many lessons, successes and failures that you run into in a competitive atmosphere. Those are things that prepare you to handle the tough times and obstacles to have in your life when you grow up."
Mike has always been grateful for what Concordia has given him and the game of football, but he knows there is a bigger plan in place for all of us.
"God has a plan and he led me to Concordia, where I met my wife. All the dominos fell into place. If you have faith, that God will take care of you in the good times and in the bad. He will guide you in the right spot. You may not understand it right away, but things will always end up what's right for you."