LSU-heavy LSHOF Class of 2022 treasures its roots

CLASSY GROUP:  The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 gathered at the end of the opening Walk of Legends Saturday night during the induction ceremony at the Natchitoches Events Center.

By JASON PUGH, Written for the LSWA

NATCHITOCHES – For the 50th anniversary of its arrival in this small town located on Cane River Lake, the 2022 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony took time to celebrate the villages.

Those villages – whether it was Crowley or Bunkie or Mamou or Thibodaux or Opelousas — as well as the villages who helped nurture and produce the 12-member Class of 2022 that officially entered the state’s sports shrine were on display at the event inside the Natchitoches Events Center.

“I always tell people, like the saying, it takes a village,” said Garland Forman, the longtime journalist in Avoyelles and Evangeline parishes in central Louisiana. “Well, I had a lot of villages.”

Forman’s statement held true across the board Saturday night whether the inductees came from the more rural areas of Louisiana or if they plied their trades in Shreveport, Baton Rouge or New Orleans. Five inductees are former LSU athletes, and another (Claney Duplechin) graduated from LSU but didn’t compete there.

Rodeo great Steve Duhon, an Opelousas native who played one season of football at LSU, praised his parents for making the sacrifices necessary for him to chase his dreams and his brother for being his constant companion in the practice pen.

“God blessed me with a lot of abilities, but the best deal was him blessing me with my parents,” Duhon said. “They supplied me with whatever I needed. My brother took my hand and drove me to a lot of rodeos. All of my children rodeoed and now my grandkids are starting to ride. It’s one big family deal, and now I get to do it all over again on the other side.”

Few athletes in LSU history have been as successful as gymnast Susan Jackson.

A 12-time All-American (11 first-team honors) and three-time national champion, Jackson became a standout at a place she committed to sight-unseen and helped turn into a powerhouse program.

“Very early in the process, I knew LSU was for me,” said Jackson, who started the night by cartwheeling onto the stage during the Walk of Legends. “I bonded quickly with the coaches. I loved the fact they cared for me as Susan the person, not just the gymnast. I Googled LSU in typing class my junior year. The fact it was a one-hour drive from New Orleans didn’t hurt their chances either.”

The potential for a no-hitter always existed when Britni Sneed Newman stood in the circle for LSU.

A dominating right-hander who set a gaggle of Southeastern Conference softball records in her two-time All-American career, Sneed Newman tossed 10 no-hitters at LSU – six in her senior season – and helped lead the Lady Tigers to their first Women’s College World Series appearance.

That – not the 10 no-hitters – is what mattered most to Sneed Newman, now an assistant coach at Baylor.

“I don’t remember one of them,” Sneed Newman said. “I wish I did. It would be really cool to talk about. I do remember our team finally getting to the Women’s College World Series. We kept saying, ‘We’ve got to get past Courtney Blades so we can win the Women’s College World Series.’ That was my ultimate moment at LSU.”

Behind Sneed Newman, LSU laid the foundation for continued success.

“She put LSU softball on the map,” said Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Yvette Girouard, Sneed Newman’s coach her final two seasons. “She mowed down the SEC competition. She was truly as dominating a pitcher as there was. How easy was my job? As good as she was as a pitcher, she was even better off the field. She did a magnificent job as a player and now as a coach.”

The linchpin of a New Orleans Saints offensive line that helped Drew Brees set league passing records, Jahri Evans’ 11-year career produced a Super Bowl championship that forever endeared himself and his teammates to the city and state.

Evans felt the love – almost physically – from Who Dat Nation throughout his career.

“I was coming from Bloomsburg (University) where I probably played in front of 5,000 people,” he said. “In the Superdome, we fed off the crowd. We really fed off the crowd going to the hotel the night before. New Orleans knows how to party.”

Ruston’s Kyle Williams’ career took an inverse path from his NFL contemporary Evans.

A standout for the Bearcats, Williams became a starter midway through LSU’s 2003 national championship season and parlayed that into a 13-year NFL career with Buffalo – one of the NFL’s most passionate markets.

“I’m super happy for you and your family,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said. “Jill, I hope you don’t cry that crying face you did when Kyle retired. Kyle, I hope you smile a little bit and enjoy the moment you earned.”

Williams smiled plenty during his speech, but when it came time to acknowledge his village, it was the thought of his wife that nearly made the high-motor defensive tackle come to tears.

“Probably the greatest moment of my career is making a victory lap in Buffalo and getting to go into a secluded room and tell my family the reason I was able to do that was I made a commitment to be my best every day and do my best,” Williams said. “That’s why we get to experience this weekend. Last but not least – and maybe the shortest – I like to call her the Little General.

“Jill, when I hitched my wagon to your star, it took off. You’re the toughest person I know. You’re a monster. You’re the best. I appreciate you.”

Photo by CHRIS REICH, LSWA






Shreveport’s LSHOF inductees trace their success to others

MAKING A POINT: New Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee Jay Cicero (at right), a Shreveport native and Loyola High alumnus, makes a point Saturday night in an on-stage conversation with Victor Howell. 

By JASON PUGH, Written for the LSWA

NATCHITOCHES – Shreveport-born Jay Cicero has filled the big house in New Orleans repeatedly with crowds watching Super Bowls and Final Fours, while overseeing a multitude of events in the Crescent City.

Shreveport resident Teddy Allen brought down the house repeatedly Saturday night in his traditional turn as master of ceremonies at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s annual Induction Ceremony.

But this time, Allen played two roles – as usual, host of the show, but also, as one of the 12 stars, while  he and Cicero were among the dozen Class of 2022 LSHOF inductees.

Working as the president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, Cicero and his team are responsible for bringing a litany of events to New Orleans and its surrounding area. While a behemoth in the state, New Orleans faces challenges from much larger metropolitan areas in the country.

Cicero, for his efforts, was named the 2022 Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award recipient.  The son of a longtime high school baseball coach in Shreveport, Cicero credited his time growing up around the game with instilling in him a career path and a philosophy of success.

“It’s the right place, the right time and being around some great people,” he said. “I try to explain that to our staff, younger people, my kids and friends. Surround yourself with great people. Find somebody who is great and handles their business in the right way. You need to be around those people and absorb that.”

Cicero has absorbed plenty of New Orleans culture and ingrained himself in it as well.

“One of the greatest attributes is a mantra we say a lot around here – it’s amazing what we can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit,” said Dennis Lauscha, president of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans. “That’s Jay. He’s always in the back trying to make sure the event is successful, to make sure his organization is successful, to make sure his team is successful.”

No one in the audience of nearly 700 at the Natchitoches Events Center appreciated a good turn of a phrase or a laugh more than Allen, a Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism winner from the Hall’s parent entity, the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.

A statewide writer and columnist now featured in the Online Journals group featuring the Shreveport-Bossier Journal, the loquacious everyman took a 10-minute break from his master of ceremonies gig to be honored in his first year on the ballot.

“It helps to write like you talk,” said J.J. Marshall, Allen’s longtime friend and co-worker. “If you listen to Teddy and you read Teddy, it’s the same. It’s the way he talks. He doesn’t try to overwrite. Teddy opens up and types it. Here it is. It sounds simple, but a lot of people don’t do that.”

The son of a South Carolina preacher who famously bestowed “The Mailman” nickname on Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Karl Malone, Allen had one simple way to sum up his journey to the Hall of Fame.

“I’ve led a Forrest Gump-like existence,” he said. “I was working at Beacon Gas in Claiborne Parish, and literally the parish sheriff took me to Ruston and said this is where you’re going to school. I told him no. He said, ‘Yeah, this is gonna happen.’

“There have been a lot of people help me get from Point A to B to C. Such dear friends. I just like to laugh and love to hear you laugh.”

Photo by CHRIS REICH, LSWA






Journal scribes score big in 2021 LSWA awards contests

WE COMIN’:  Shreveport-Bossier Journal contributors were prominent in Sunday’s Louisiana Sports Writers Association writing and broadcasting 2021 contest results. (From left) Tony Taglavore, Teddy Allen, ceremony host and Shreveport native Kent Lowe, and John James Marshall posed after the SBJ trio made a big haul of honors.

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

It’s apparent the Shreveport-Bossier Journal has a talented group of contributors.

That was displayed Sunday when the Louisiana Sports Writers Association unveiled its 2021 contest results at the annual Awards Brunch held in conjunction with the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration weekend in Natchitoches.

The SBJ didn’t start publishing until mid-January. Journal scribes John James Marshall, Teddy Allen and Tony Taglavore had already produced award-worthy work for the 2021 LSWA contest by then. Savvy observers are expecting them and other SBJ contributors to have impact in the 2022 LSWA contest.

Marshall was a multi-media winner Sunday. He took a Pro-College Event writing first place for his “One special (sports day) in Shreveport-Bossier” piece written for DesignatedWriters.com, a website he and Allen created.

The out-of-state LSWA judge wrote: “A creative approach to covering a unique two-event day on the local sports scene. A fun read with writing flair. Nice work coloring outside the lines.”

Marshall also carried home a first in the “Best Radio Show Host (Duo-Team)” category for the long-running “Sports Talk with JJ and Bonzai Ben” show on 1130 The Tiger. Marshall, his brother Ben and producer Travis Stewart were honored.

The judge wrote: “This clip left me wanting to get the hosts takes on a bunch more stuff. I loved how fired up and passionate they were. It was also funny in spots, and finding that line between good, sincere analysis and fun is the line every host should try and toe. I think this show did it the best.”.

Marshall claimed the LSWA’s Columnist of the Year award for Division II (circulation of 40,000 or less) for a series of Designated Writers columns. That contest judge noted “excellent take on Brian Kelly hiring at LSU.”

Allen, then writing for the Shreveport Times, won the Best Pro Column award in Division I for his piece on legendary New Orleans sports editor Bob Roesler, which carried the headline “Former Times-Picayune sports stud sat humble, memorable example.”

The LSWA judge wrote: “The winning article was a heartfelt tribute to the author’s mentor in which they masterfully weaved a personal anecdote into a life lesson.”

Allen also won for a Designated Writers piece in the General Sports Feature category in Division II, a feature on “Baseball gods letting LA Tech play final 16 games of season in new home park.”

Exceptional piece capturing the scene and mood of a big event, “wrote the judge.

Taglavore was a writing winner with an impressive second-place finish in an open division category (all entries), with his 318 Forum story on Colin Evans climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Taglavore and his Captain Shreve High School football broadcast colleague, Jimmy Martin, on The River 95.7 FM, were winners in the Best Live Radio Broadcast Team contest.

“Well prepared, used stats well, tossed in coaches comments. Very good job. This was the best of the ones I heard,” the judge wrote.                                                             

Contact Doug at DougIreland@LaSportsHall.com

Photo by DOUG IRELAND






Harrison fights through qualifying to make it into Wimbledon men’s draw

MAKING A RACKET: Shreveport native Christian Harrison has qualified for Wimbledon and faces Great Britain’s Jay Clark in the first round of men’s singles today.

By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports

After winning three hard-fought qualifying matches last week, Shreveport native Christian Harrison made it into the men’s singles draw at Wimbledon. This morning on Court 18, he will meet Great Britain’s Jay Clark in the first round.

“As far as my first-round opponent, he’s a local British guy, so I will have to be mentally prepared for the crowd to be against me and just concentrate on the things I can control on my side of the net,” Harrison told the Journal on Sunday.

In the first round of last week’s qualifying, Harrison defeated Anton Matusevich of Great Britain 6-3, 6-4 and followed that with a 0-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over Dalibar Svrcina of the Czech Republic.

Harrison’s toughest qualifying match came in last Thursday’s third round when he came back from losing the first set to defeat Germany’s Daniel Masur 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 and earn his spot in The Championships.

“Qualies are always tough in Grand Slams because it’s three matches to get into the main draw,” said Harrison, “whereas most of the challengers are now two rounds. Wimbledon is also the only Slam with best-of-five (sets) in the last round.”

Harrison feels like his fitness was a benefit in last week’s qualifying.

In his second-round victory over Svrcina, Harrison was down 6-0, 2-0 and then got down 5-2 in the third set before coming back.

“I worked my way out of it,” says Harrison.

In his last qualifying match against Masur, Harrison had to mount another comeback.

“I was down two sets to one, but I played real solid in the fourth and fifth sets,” said Harrison. “My fitness definitely gave me the edge in that match.”

With a victory over Clark today, Harrison would face the winner of the match between No. 32-seeded Oscar Otte of Germany and Peter Gojowczyk of Germany in the second round.

Contact Harriet at sbjharriet@gmail.com

Photo courtesy of Susie Harrison






Lady Techsters’ coach Stoehr receives two-year extension

EXTENDING SUCCESS: Brooke Stoehr, who led the Lady Techsters to the Conference USA West Division title and an automatic bid to the 2022 WNIT, has received a two-year contract extension as head women’s basketball coach at Louisiana Tech.

JOURNAL SPORTS

RUSTON – Brooke Stoehr is the latest Louisiana Tech coach to receive a contract extension.

With the two-year extension, the contract of the head women’s basketball coach runs through the 2025-2026 season. Last week, Tech extended the contract of baseball coach Lane Burroughs to run through 2026-2027.

The contract extensions are pending approval by the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System.

Stoehr, who just completed year six at the helm of the Lady Techsters, led the program to a 21-12 overall record and the Conference USA West Division title, qualifying with an automatic bid to the 2022 WNIT during the 2021-22 season. 

“We are excited about extending Brooke’s contract to help provide stability for the Lady Techster basketball program,” said Louisiana Tech Vice President and Director of Athletics Eric Wood. “The program has been on a positive trajectory, and we are looking forward to the future.

“Despite a roster that included nine newcomers last year, Brooke and her staff were able to overcome a tough start in conference play and lead the program to the Conference USA West Division title and the championship game of the 2022 C-USA Tournament. I know this group’s goal is to win a championship and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament this coming year, and we look forward to watching them work towards those goals.”

Despite the new faces, Stoehr’s young group rallied for an 11-3 regular season finish, including winning the final four games to clinch the division title, and earn a one seed in the C-USA Tournament.

En route to their 21 wins last season, Stoehr eclipsed her 100th win at Tech, moving into third place all-time behind Sonja Hogg and Leon Barmore. 

“Ruston has been a great place to raise our family and call home,” said Stoehr. “We look forward to continuing to love and serve our young women in a way that allows them to compete to the best of their ability academically, athletically and socially.”

The Lady Techsters return 97 percent of their scoring and rebounding from the 2021-22 campaign, including all-conference performers Keiunna Walker and Anna Larr Roberson. The Lady Techsters also return all but one letterwinner while adding some talented newcomers, including P5 transfers Gabbie Green and Aaliyah Morgan.

Stoehr also recently announced two additions to her staff in associate head coach Nitra Perry and assistant Pierre Miller. 

“We are extremely excited about the group of young women we have coming back as well as the newcomers we have added,” said Stoehr. “We are eager to get back on the court for the first time with this group and our new staff additions. It’s an exciting time for the program, and we want to build on the momentum created with last season’s championship run.”

Off the court, Tech saw eight student-athletes earn a spot on the C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll and six were named C-USA Academic Medalists. The program also earned a perfect single-year APR rating, its second in the last three years. 

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to lead this storied program and couldn’t be more excited about the future with these young women,” said Stoehr. “I can’t thank (Tech President) Dr. (Leslie) Guice and Dr. Wood enough for their belief in me to lead this program that is so dear to my heart. I appreciate their commitment to the program, our young women, and my family.”

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Tech






Top DB Gianna Black takes interesting journey to North Caddo

By LEE BRECHEEN, Louisiana Football Magazine

Today’s feature article is on Gianna Black, a kid from a small town in North Louisiana, who plays defensive back for North Caddo High School. Black, a class of 2023 senior with a great personality, is mature beyond his years with an interesting, well-traveled family. The story about how he, his mother, and his family became a part of Louisiana is fascinating.

Black is tough, has good hips and is very smart on the field. He plays, as they say, “big for a small (5-7 to 5-8, 160 to 165 pounds maybe 170) player.” I think he projects as a legit cornerback for college and has a build similar to former Washington Redskin Darrell Green and so many small defensive backs in the league or college who are under 5-9.

Playing football in Louisiana was never in the plans for Black, whose home was in New York.

“Moving from New York to Louisiana was a big change in my life,” he said. “I didn’t know too much about sports other than Derek Jeter played for the Yankees and Usain Bolt ran every four years in the Olympics. I never played sports up there in New York. We didn’t plan to move to Louisiana; it was supposed to be a short visit. But due to my mother growing up in Jamaica, she felt like this would be a good place for us to grow up.

“My mother was raised in Jamaica until she was 17 and moved to Detroit. She had my big brother at 18 when she moved to New York, and three years later she had me when we were in Brooklyn. A few months before we moved to Louisiana, she had my little sister Gia.”

Black went through elementary and middle school in Plain Dealing. For his 8th grade year, he and his brother had the choice of staying at Plain Dealing and finishing their high school careers or moving right across the river to North Caddo.

“My older brother (Giovanni Smith) was the one who really pushed me to play football,” explained Black. “When we came to Louisiana, he started playing football but I wasn’t interested. Before I went to middle school, my brother told me he believed I would be good at it, so he signed me up. I didn’t like it at first, but after scoring my first touchdown and hearing everybody cheering for me, it made me take off. When we moved to North Caddo, we had two winning seasons and were back-to-back district champions. My brother had a chance to play college football, but he decided to go into the Army.”

Making the move to North Caddo proved to be a good choice.

“I really think a lot of my head coach,” Black said of John Kavanaugh. “My brother and I decided to move and play for coach Kavanaugh. We liked the school and what they were trying to do, so my brother and I agreed to go ahead and finish high school there. Coach Kavanaugh welcomed us with open arms, and we got to work.”

Black credits defensive backs coach Chase Thompson for helping him develop skills at defensive back.

“Coach Thompson has been like an older brother to me,” said Black, “and when it’s time to work, we work. He has a plan for anything that an offense can throw at us. He breaks down the game to us step-by-step so the whole team can know what to do. He has definitely been one of the most impactful coaches throughout my football career.”

NOTES ON GIANNI BLACK: His hobbies include chilling with family, sleeping, and working out. He has attended camps at Grambling, LSU, and Alabama.

Contact Lee at LBrecheen@aol.com






LA Blue Goose falls at league-leading Texas United after controversial ending

CLEARING SHOT: LA Blue Goose FC defender Daniel Burton clears the ball against the Little Rock Rangers in Wednesday’s 3-0 win.

By DAVID ERSOFF, Journal Staff

LA Blue Goose FC dropped a controversial 3-1 match Saturday to league-leading Texas United at Parish Episcopal School’s Gloria Snyder Stadium in Farmers Branch, Texas.

The Blue Goose took a 1-0 lead into the final five minutes of the game and were playing a man down when United intentionally fouled keeper Brett Ekperouh while he had possession of the ball. The foul was serious enough that Ekperouh required assistance from a trainer. 

Shortly afterwards, United took advantage of the injury and tied the game 1-1 with a goal.

The next attack involved more contact with Ekperouh — which required more treatment from the trainer and Ekperouh needing to come out of the game. However, the center referee declared Blue Goose had used their three substitute windows and the keeper must remain in the game.

United would take a lead 2-1 on a corner kick that was headed past an immobile Ekperouh.

Following the go-ahead goal, a Blue Goose defender began putting on the keeper gear to relieve Ekperouh, which would have put the visitors down two players. The fourth referee, realizing Blue Goose did in fact have a substitute window, allowed back-up keeper Shae Wirt to come in and finish the game.

Blue Goose played out the game under protest and intend on appealing their loss to the league.

Texas United added a late goal for a 3-1 final.  

The game started out with United controlling possession and had a couple shots at goal, but nothing dangerous. In the 10th minute, Blue Goose was on the counter when Yuri Schlingmann passed the ball to a charging Nico TheBerge, who beat the keeper and put Blue Goose up 1-0.

The flow of the game stayed the same until the 25th minute, when Blue Goose defender Gerardo Martinez went into a tackle near midfield. The center referee deemed it dangerous play and pulled a straight red card, which includes an ejection. Blue Goose played the rest of the game a man down. At this point the referee had already given a yellow card to players from both teams. He added three more yellow cards to players throughout the game.

Despite being a man down, Blue Goose had two great chances at adding to their lead, but the United keeper stepped up with two big saves. Ekperouh added two more strong saves to finish the half with four.

The second half saw United pushing hard into the Blue Goose defense. The Blue Goose’s defense would not yield, and when they did, Ekperouh came up big with four game saving stops.

Blue Goose held Texas United, the top team in the league, scoreless for 85 minutes.

Earlier in the week, Blue Goose defeated the Little Rock Rangers 3-0 on Wednesday in Little Rock. Blue Goose got goals from TheBerge, Schlingmann and Johan Arevalo. Marco Izurieta and Martinez were credited with assists. It was the most dominate game the team has played this season. They put together solid defense, good possession and were able to finish opportunities.

Blue Goose finally comes home this week with games Tuesday and Thursday against LA Parish, then Saturday with a rematch with LA Krewe. All games are at Centenary College at 7 p.m.

Photo courtesy of Little Rock Rangers






What to do when you put(t) yourself in a tough situation on the golf course

So you plan a golf trip for six months, carefully going over every detail. Course maintenance schedules, best routes to take, local hotel availability . . .  no stone unturned.

Then you make the seven-hour drive across three states to get there for the first of five rounds in five days on five different courses in five different cities.

You get all checked in – everything is paid for; golf bags are loaded on the carts – and head to the driving range to hit a small bucket. Little do you know that you will be bathing in your own idiocy in a matter of minutes.

Ten minutes on the driving range to stretch out from the long drive and you are ready to go. The moment you’ve been waiting for since this same trip 51 weeks ago is at hand!

But first, it’s time to roll a few putts on the practice green, just to get the feel in the final minutes before the tee time.

And that’s when you realize just how stupid one human being can be.

There is a club missing from your golf bag.

It might be OK if it were a 5-wood or even one of the wedges. That you could work around fairly easily. But not the most valuable club in anyone’s golf bag – the putter.

You are in Greenville, Ala. Your putter is in Bossier City, La.

At moments like this, you first have to come to the full and complete understanding that there is no one to blame but yourself. You took it out of the bag, you let someone borrow it for a putting contest 24 hours earlier, you are the one responsible for walking off and leaving it.

That was my Saturday. It was also going to be my Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

It’s like sleeping on a bed with only one sheet. Yeah, you can do it, but you’ll never get really comfortable. All you can do is try to make the best of it.

The first set of options for resolution were numerous, starting with: (1) putt with a different club; (2) go buy a putter in the pro shop; (3) borrow a putter from the guys in your group on each green.

(1) I’ve seen it done with a 3 hybrid as well as a sand wedge by really good golfers. Not feasible for my talent level.

(2) That’s a $200 surcharge, plus tax, for being stupid. I did consider it, but now I’d have two putters when I got back.

 (3) Thanks for the offer, guys. And for not just telling me to just go home.

Option #4 proved to be the best: grovel. Every morning when we would check in to a new course, I would give the self-deprecating story about how I’m just a dumb guy from Louisiana and is there any way I could borrow a pitter, even if it’s 20 years old and rescued from the nearby Putt-Putt course?

First day, I think I did get that putter (I was still in shock to ask for anything remotely nice). Next four days, the putters I borrowed looked like they had just been delivered from the factory.

Total cost? $0 (which is significantly less than $200, plus tax).

Plus, I had a ready-made excuse whenever I’d miss a putt. Which is all any golfer really needs.

Contact J.J. at JohnJamesMarshall@yaoo.com






SPOTLIGHT: Tigers aplenty in LSHOF’s Class of 2022

ROLE MODEL: At 4-foot-11, Susan Jackson doesn’t tower over many people, but she seemed like a giant Thursday to girls who were part of an area gymnastics club who came to meet her at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Welcome Reception.

By LARRY HYMEL, Journal Sports

NATCHITOCHES –Thursday’s annual press conference that launches the Louisiana Hall of Fame Induction Celebration was loaded with LSU athletes – more than ever before.

This year’s group of five former Tigers — six if you count LSU graduate Claney Duplechin — had an unusual twist.

As usual, there was an LSU football player in the group – two actually, Kyle Williams and the late Eric Andolsek.

The twist came with two female Tiger superstars, who represented the first players of their respective sports at LSU to earn LSHOF enshrinement.

Toss in a one-year football player who became a rodeo legend, and Duplechin, who didn’t compete at LSU, but since gained his distinction as a prep cross country and track coach, and you have a Tiger-heavy 12-person Class of 2022.

Dynamite gymnastics star Susan Jackson was joined by softball pitcher Britni Sneed Newman representing women’s sports from LSU, speaking Thursday on the 50th anniversary of Congress passing Title IX laws opening opportunities for women.

The Purple and Gold group also includes rodeo star Steve Duhon, who played one year of football before starting on his road to future stardom. Add in Duplechin, the most successful cross country coach in Louisiana history, and you have a unique bunch.

Another fun fact: Jackson and Sneed-Newman are following their LSU coaches into the Hall of Fame.

Jackson, who was a 12-time gymnastics All-American for 2017 LSHOF inductee D-D Breaux, has been active in Hall of Fame Foundation events since Breaux’s induction while living in Louisiana before returning to her home state of Texas in January.

The only three-time NCAA individual champion for LSU’s powerhouse gymnastics program, Jackson said her stay in Louisiana was awesome. “The love in Louisiana was inspiring,” she said. “Performing for a coach like D-D Breaux was awesome.”

Jackson said “they say you can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl. Louisiana is something special. It’s half of me now.”

She joins her coach and former Centenary standout Kathy Johnson-Clarke, a Centenary superstar and captain of the 1984 USA Olympic team, representing their sport in the LSHOF.

Two-time All-America pitcher Sneed-Newman is another transplanted Texan. She was originally recruited to LSU by Glenn Moore, who has since been her boss as she works as associate head coach and pitching coach at Baylor. Moore took that job after her sophomore year and she finished starring at LSU, as a four-time first-team All-SEC pick, under another Hall of Famer, Yvette Girouard.

Asked about her biggest thrill, she didn’t hesitate. “Making it to the World Series. We got beat in the regionals the year before by Southern Mississippi (led by last year’s Hall of Fame inductee Courtney Blades Rogers). It was a goal we accomplished as a team.”

Accompanied by her mom and her 7-year-old son Brooks, she was grateful for the attention and quality of college softball, and optimistic that a successful pro league could thrive soon.

“I’m really happy about where the sport of softball is going. It’s growing every day,” she added. She also spoke about being a mother and coach. “Both are great, and I’ve been fortunate to do both, and Coach Moore makes it a priority for all of us at Baylor.”

She credits Girouard for laying the foundation for LSU’s program. “It was great playing for a legend,” she said.

Duhon was a unique story. Despite an impressive true freshman season as an LSU linebacker, and the thrill of playing in an energetic Tiger Stadium, he gave up football after one year to concentrate on the avenue that earned him Hall of Fame accolades.

He doesn’t look back at that decision. “I learned (rodeo) techniques from my dad, but with my size (he can match up physically with football inductees Kyle Williams and Jahri Evans), I had an advantage other cowboys typically didn’t.

“The biggest thing I learned in life through rodeo and athletics is ‘never give up.’ ”

His fondest LSU memory was a game against Alabama. “The team came out of the tunnel, and I saw all those people. I just stood in awe and then finally realized I was supposed to follow my teammates on the field.

“This is the icing on the cake,” Duhon said about his induction. “I started out young in the rodeo business and loved traveling around the country competing.

“My dad was very instrumental in my career and helped me get a start in bulldogging at an early age,” Duhon said. “It was not an overnight success. It was following a pathway since I was a boy and being very dedicated and having a great family supporting me.”

Williams, a native of Ruston who is coaching at his high school, said it was an honor “to be representing Ruston, LSU and the state of Louisiana in the Hall of Fame.”

He related a pair of NFL feats rare for a defensive lineman.

“In one game a ball popped up in the air, I caught it on my fingertips and fell into the end zone — touchdown,” he said. “Also,  I had a chance to run with the ball, from the 1, and score in a game that sent us to the playoffs for the first time in forever. All I had to do was fall forward, but it sure was fun.”

Photo by CHRIS REICH, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame






Allen, Cicero have Super Bowls in mind as the Hall calls

CRACKING UP:   Teddy Allen has made a career of writing with a wry sense of humor, and it was on display Thursday at the 2022 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame press conference.

By JASON PUGH, Written for the LSWA

NATCHITOCHES – Teddy Allen said he writes every story like it’s the Super Bowl, because it is for the people he’s writing about.

Jay Cicero talked about bringing Super Bowls, and other major sporting events, to Louisiana – specifically, the Crescent City in his role as CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation.

Allen, the acclaimed Shreveport-Bossier Journal writer who is a Shreveport resident, and Cicero, a Shreveport native and Loyola High School graduate, are among the 12-member Class of 2022 of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. They spoke Thursday afternoon at the LSHOF introductory press conference.

Both Louisiana Tech alumni are entering the Hall after their first appearance on their respective ballots. Allen goes in as a winner of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism from the Hall’s parent organization, the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. Cicero is the 2022 winner of the Hall’s Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award.

Cicero began his career working with the Shreveport Captains after meeting team owner Taylor Moore.

He left Shreveport to work at the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and after a brief stint with the New Orleans Zephyrs – “I was the only guy in New Orleans with Minor League Baseball experience,” he joked – Cicero returned to the foundation and has been its CEO for over 20 years.

In his role, Cicero has been responsible for the success of the New Orleans Bowl, which is in its third decade of existence, as well as helping land, plan and get ready for the Super Bowl in 2025. That game marks the 11th Super Bowl the city will have hosted, and his fingerprints are on several of those, along with Final Fours.

“It was a shock when I got the call to let me know I had been selected for the Dave Dixon Award,” Cicero said. “What an honor to receive something in the name of Dave Dixon. He was an amazing man, incredible energy. So creative. He came up with the name of the Saints. He dreamed up the Superdome. He was a man who was a force to be reckoned with but a friend to everyone. To be honored with an award in his name is very humbling.”

Allen, a wordsmith with a knack for a homespun phrase and an everyman persona, kept it mostly light in his 10 minutes at the podium, cracking up his fellow inductees and the sometimes stoic media. But he had spurts of heartfelt sincerity, including discussing what led him to the profession.

A love for sports – and a trip to a South Carolina-Clemson football game at age 10 – led one of the two Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism winners to his chosen craft.

“I come from a town of 750 people in South Carolina,” Allen said. “We got The State (newspaper) from Columbia on Sunday. There’d be a picture of Wake Forest or Clemson or The Citadel, and it would be in color. I couldn’t believe this stuff was happening.

“I was 10 years old and these guys in town took me to the Clemson-South Carolina game in 1970. South Carolina clocks the Tigers, and we’re standing on the hill in the stadium, which is enclosed now. These guys are 24, 25, 26 years old. Why they took a 10-year-old kid? I don’t know. I’d never seen so many colors. I didn’t know there were that many people in the world. It immediately captivated me.”

Whether it has been his award-winning game stories or his columns that involve a dose of daily life in the South to interviewing the headless woman at the state fair – “That was a tough quote,” Allen quipped – Allen has brought that sense of wonder and joie de vivre to readers across the state and the country.

“I’m just blessed to have people take the time to read what I write, and to have so many beautiful humans whose stories I get to tell,” he said. “Life ought to be fun. Life needs to be fun, especially these days. So I hope when I write, readers go away happy and entertained. And if not, I’ll try harder next time.”

Photos by CHRIS REICH, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame






Class of 2022 inductees feel shock and awe taking their places in LSHOF

QUITE A CLASS:  Members of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022, and family members of two deceased inductees, gathered Thursday after their introductory press conference at the LSHOF museum.

By JASON PUGH, Written for the LSWA

NATCHITOCHES – Thursday afternoon’s opening news conference for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction weekend was full of shock and awe.

The shock came, nearly word for word, from several inductees who recounted their surprise at being selected for inclusion in the state’s sporting shrine. The awe came from their varied and accomplished careers that – as a group – span nearly a century and brought together standouts from nearly every corner of the Bayou State.

“It’s very hard to put into words, but it means the world to me,” said longtime Episcopal High School cross country coach Claney Duplechin. “I remember when I got the call, I was in shock. It was like, ‘Wake me up from this dream.’”

The architect of a state championship juggernaut boys cross country program that won 25 consecutive state titles, Duplechin was one of 11 inductees or family members who took the podium inside the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum.

Once the initial shock wore off for each of the members of the Class of 2022, the gratitude flowed.

“This is pretty much the icing on the cake,” said Pro Rodeo and Cowboy Hall of Fame member Steve Duhon of Opelousas. “When Mr. T. Berry (Porter) got in three years ago, I didn’t know they had a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. I thought it would be good to get in there one day. I’ve been in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame and the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, all I can do now is watch the grandkids grow up and hope they do the same.”

Duhon, a three-time world champion steer wrestler and eight-time National Finals Rodeo competitor, became renowned for his rodeo performances in a 14-plus year career.

A broken leg suffered while playing basketball kept Evans off a football field for two seasons, including his true freshman season at Division II Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania. That trauma did not stop Evans from becoming a bedrock of the most successful era of New Orleans Saints football, an 11-year career that began in 2006 when the fourth-round draft pick started for the Saints, who reached the NFC Championship Game that season.

“I’m very fortunate and blessed to be here,” Evans said. “There have been a lot of accolades I’ve received, but this one is awesome. The state of Louisiana has a lot of great athletes and a very rich history in sports. Look at this place alone. I’m very honored to be in it.”

Evans shook back from that broken leg with a little help from a piece of paper.

“After I broke my leg, I had a note that said I would play this year, I would play in college and I would play in the NFL,” Evans said. “I’ll take two of those three. I got back on the field my redshirt freshman year and never looked back.”

Baseball coach Tony Robichaux, who died suddenly three years ago, built championship-level programs at his alma mater McNeese and later the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The owner of Louisiana’s college baseball wins record made his mark professionally leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to the 2000 College World Series and the 2014 edition of the Cajuns to the unanimous national No. 1 ranking. He died of complications arising from a heart attack at age 57.

“He did a lot of interviews, and he opened most of the time by saying it’s an honor and a privilege,” his oldest son, Justin Robichaux, said. “To have this in the state of Louisiana, it meant something to him. He took it on the chin a lot. To watch him build a program at McNeese and to see what he developed at the University of Louisiana and to be a man that set a flagship of integrity, moral compass and character, that’s what 36 means to us. It is an honor and a privilege.”

The Class of 2022 inductees officially will take their place alongside their fellow state legends Saturday night at the induction ceremony at the Natchitoches Events Center. The ceremony begins at 7 p.m. and will air live on YurView TV and via web stream at www.lasportshall.com and on YouTube.

Photo by CHRIS REICH, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame






Wendell Davis remembers the late Eric Andolsek

HONORING ERIC: Andy Andolsek gestures as he talks about his late brother, Eric, at Thursday’s Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame press conference. Thursday was the 30-year anniversary of Eric Andolsek’s tragic death.

By JERRY BYRD JR., Journal Sports

Many LSU fans who followed the career of former Tiger offensive lineman Eric Andolsek know that he became great friends with Detroit linebacker Chris Spielman. What they may not know is how the relationship got off to a rocky start at midfield in Tiger Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 26 in 1987.

Andolsek will be one of 12 inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches on Saturday night — 30 years, to the day, after his burial.

At LSU, he helped guide the Tigers to an SEC Championship in 1986, and a 10-1-1 record and No. 5 ranking in 1987. The tie was a 13-13 game in Tiger Stadium against Spielman’s Ohio State Buckeyes.

Chicago’s Wendell Davis, who starred at Shreveport’s Fair Park High School before going on to play wide receiver LSU and then the Chicago Bears, remembers the first time Andolsek and Spielman met. He was there on that day, at the midfield coin toss. It wasn’t pretty.

“I’ll never forget it,” Davis said. “They got into it. It started with some jaw-jacking by both. They started moving toward each other and they had to be separated. Who would’ve known then that they would go on to become great friends?”

Not Davis, and certainly not Davis’ parents, who were in Tiger Stadium that day, who continued to talk about the pre-game flare up years later.

“When we would sit around and talk about my college days at LSU, they would just say ‘remember when Eric started fighting before the game began?’” Davis laughed.

Detroit drafted Andolsek in the fifth round of the 1988 draft. After some nervous moments with friends and family at his house in Thibodaux, he finally heard his name called on the 111th overall pick. Spielman had been selected in the second round with the 29th overall pick.

The events at midfield at Tiger Stadium in 1987 spilled over onto Detroit’s team bus, which carried both Andolsek, Spielman, and their teammates to the Lion’s min-camp in 1988. A stare down on the bus made for an awkward trip for the NFL rookies.

Later, it was a real-life Remember the Titans moment as both Andolsek and Spielman bonded and became great friends during pre-season football camp.

Sadly, friendship crawfish dinners on visits to Thibodaux are not all that the Andolsek and Spielman families have shared together. They have also experienced the tragedy of a loved one taken before their time.

Andolsek died on June 23, 1992, when a flatbed truck veered off Hwy 1, killing him as he was cutting grass at his house. He was 25.

Spielman’s wife, Stefanie, passed away on Nov. 19, 2009, at the age of 42 after a battle with breast cancer.

Not all of what Davis remembers about Andolsek at LSU took place on the field.

Davis’ parents were also there for their son’s first day on the LSU campus when Davis saw Eric Andolsek for the first time as he was moving into Broussard Hall, the athletic dorm.

“I was coming in the door, and Eric and Nacho Albergamo were coming out,” Davis said. “I looked at them and said, ‘Oh my God.’ I had never seen someone that big. That chiseled. It’s crazy, but I thought of the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots. I thought to myself, those guys cannot be freshmen, but they were.”

While Davis recalls those brief moments with his LSU teammate, it’s not what he remembers the most now.

“Most of all, the guy had a big heart,” Davis said. “For our team, we had guys from different backgrounds. We had different characters. Being a captain with him, I saw how he listened to his teammates. He didn’t judge them. He pulled everyone in the same direction. He wasn’t vocal about it. He did it in the way he carried himself.”

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com

Photo by CHRIS REICH, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame






Cumbie enjoys interacting with La. Tech fan base at ‘Bulldog Blitz’

NEW DOG: Head football coach Sonny Cumbie addressed supporters at the Louisiana Tech ‘Bulldog Blitz’ held Thursday night at Seventh Tap Brewery in Shreveport.

By JERRY BYRD JR., Journal Sports

As one of the brightest young offensive minds in college football, Louisiana Tech’s new head football coach Sonny Cumbie is well aware of how to take advantage of a blitzing defense. Cumbie took advantage of Tech athletics’ “Bulldog Blitz” Thursday at Seventh Tap Brewery in Shreveport, meeting with alumni and friends of the university.

He didn’t even have to call a screen pass in order to do it.

“It’s great,” Cumbie said about the opportunity to interact with the fan base. “Anytime we as coaches get out on the road and meet with our fan base, meet with our alumni, and lettermen, we want to take that opportunity. This is the time of the year where most of us, as coaches, have a little bit of down time and are going to be able to do that.”

It’s not the first time Cumbie, who was hired in December, has come to Shreveport/Bossier. The athletic department made a trip in the spring, as well. 

“We had a great turnout that day,” Cumbie said. “We are looking forward to seeing all of these fans from the Shreveport area come over to The Joe this fall and support our players.”

Tech Athletic Director Dr. Eric Wood has been impressed by the job Cumbie has done in his first seven months as the 35th head football coach at Louisiana Tech. 

“You can make calls around and spend a couple of hours together, but until you live with each other, you never know,” Wood said of making hires. “Unprompted visiting with folks on campus. Made an appointment in financial aid. And, also unprompted, showing up at baseball games, tennis matches. All while recruiting and hiring staff because of his desire to be a part of the community and support the other coaches.”

Wood said you can ask ‘that question’ in an interview, but you don’t get a true sense of what you have until the new hire gets on campus. Those little things Cumbie has done are what has impressed Wood the most. 

Cumbie could tell in the interview that it was a good fit.

“For one thing, when you are around Dr. Wood you quickly realize how much he loves student athletes,” Cumbie said. “He has a great personality, great energy, and is a really good communicator of the vision in terms of what he saw for the program. We really hit it off well from an energy standpoint, and a passion standpoint.  We are really aligned in terms of helping our kids.”

With spring football in his rearview mirror, Cumbie and his staff have turned their attention to getting the most out of summer. 

“Summer is going a little faster than we would like,” Cumbie said. “You want to just kind of push pause a little bit and have a chance to catch your breath, but it’s the middle of June. It’s really the end of our first month of our guys working out. Once we wrapped up spring practice in April, our coaches went out and recruited. We had to try to plan for fall camp, and so it’s really been one thing after another in terms of recruiting. Our coaching staff has done a really nice job.” 

One priority on Cumbie’s summer to-do list is depth on the defensive side of the football.

“We were right around 30 scholarship players of our 41 that we like to have allocated to that side of the ball, so we’ve done that some,” Cumbie said. “During the spring and summer, we are also addressing the needs in the secondary. And then also, the defensive line. You can never have too many defensive linemen and offensive linemen because that is really where the game is won.” 

There is no rest for the weary as Cumbie and his staff will host 300 campers today. There will be a session in the morning for the younger campers and the session in the afternoon for the older campers. 

Before leaving home on Thursday, the head coach was coached up by his youngest son.

“He asked if I was going to speak,” Cumbie said. “I said ‘yes,’ and he said, ‘don’t be boring,’ so hopefully I won’t bore anyone out here tonight.” 

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com

Photo by JERRY BYRD JR.






Louisiana Downs adjusts post time in effort to beat the heat

By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Sports

We could all use a break from the heat.

Even racehorses.

Louisiana Downs is moving back this weekend’s races two-and-half hours — to 4:15pm. Track management hopes Saturday and Sunday’s later post times will help horses deal with temperatures forecast by The Weather Channel to reach at least 100 degrees — with even higher “feels like” temperatures.

“First is the safety and integrity of our horses,” said Mitch Dennison, General Manager of Racing at the Downs. “The later post time — the sun starts to go down; it starts to cool off a little bit. By the second race, it seems like the apron is pretty shady. We just want to watch out for the extreme heat and make sure everyone is safe — including the horses.”

The Downs has already made other adjustments to help horses tolerate the sweltering heat.

“We have hoses out for cooling pads, before and after races,” Dennison said. “We also have water availability — we ice down water for the horses. Whenever they’re walking up to the paddock, there are a couple of hoses from the backside of their barns to the front side — in the paddock area.

“There are a couple of hoses along the way for horsemen to hose off their horses and cool them off before the race, as well as after the race. The state (veterinarian) has a truck that has a water tank on the back, with ice water. After the races, the horses are hosed down by the state vet.”

If this weekend’s later start proves helpful to the horses, more adjusted post times could be coming.

“If it’s successful, and (it’s cooler in the late afternoon), and things work the way we want them to work, we are absolutely considering making the change for the summer to get away from the heat a little bit,” added Dennison.

Contact Tony at SBJTonyT@gmail.com

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Downs






Shreveport two wins from another national championship after series sweep

By LEE HILLER, Journal Sports

Two more wins.

That is all the Shreveport Mavericks need to give coach Steve Tucker his fifth National Pro Basketball Championship after defeating the So Cal Moguls 111-94 and claim The Basketball League West Regional series in two games Thursday night at the Gold Dome.

The Mavericks will now have to wait and see who they will face in the TBL finals. Kokomo defeated Albany in the first game of its East Region Final series 123-110 and will not play again until Sunday.

Thursday’s top gun on the night was guard Tyrone Jordan, who scored 31 points and grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds. The Mavericks’ other two top scorers were their season “bell cows” Paul Parks and Paul Harrison as both tallied 21 points.

The Mavericks went with a bigger starting lineup with 6-foot-9 Bilal Richardson joining 6-9 Harrison up front. Richardson gabbed six of his nine rebounds in the opening 12 minutes as the hosts ran out to a 32-20 lead.

The size made a difference overall on the boards as Shreveport outrebounded So Cal 67-47. Every Maverick played, with everyone scoring and grabbing at least one point and rebound in the game.

“We figured them out,” said an elated Tucker after the game. “We got to their legs in the second quarter and wore them down.”

Shreveport never trailed in the game and led by as many as 29 points (88-59) early in the fourth quarter. The Mavericks’ bench played a bigger role as only Jordan (36 minutes) and Parks (33 minutes) played more than 29 minutes in the game.

The Moguls’ leading scorer was point guard Julian Winton with 21 points, but he didn’t have a second consecutive triple-double with just five rebounds and three assists. Kevin McNeal tossed in 19 points, Isaiah Gentry had 14, Jeremy Ireland added 13 and Josue Salaam finished with 10.

Contact Lee at lee.hiller51@gmail.com

Photo by LEE HILLER






Southwood DBs Mitchell, Nicholson back strong after missing junior seasons

By LEE BRECHEEN, Louisiana Football Magazine

I think a good way to help kids is to identify really good football players I’ve seen play who don’t get the exposure or haven’t been mentioned before the season.

Today’s article is a great example of two kids from the same high school (Southwood High in Shreveport). Both are defensive backs who are just starting to come into their own as players. These are guys that will get recruited based on their senior film.

Highlighted today are cornerback/strong safety/nickelback (cornerback for college) senior Harold Mitchell (5-11, 180) and free safety/strong safety senior Qorinthian Nicholson (6-2, 175). Both are great athletes with really good football speed (both under a 4.6 in the forty) and both have the talent to play college football — either at a high level or a great I-AA or Division II school.

Both missed most of their junior seasons because of injuries, so they were not able to show everything in 2021 and look to do that in 2022.

I think they’re way under the radar and this article will get their names out before the year. Southwood head coach Jesse Esters gave me their names a year ago and really thinks the world of these kids as leaders on his team.

“He prepares as though he has nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Esters said of Mitchell. “After a broken wrist last season, he returns with a vengeance.”

On Nicholson, Esters said: “He spent the entire off season getting bigger, stronger, and faster. He powerlifted and ran track in preparation for a massive senior season.”

For Mitchell, football is the only sport for him.

“What I love most about football is the physical part of it,” he said. “I love hitting people. This is the only sport I have ever played, and I’ve had so much fun playing.”

Mitchell looks forward to playing Captain Shreve every season, “because it’s always a rivalry between us. We are going to play until the clock hits zero.”

Mitchell credits both his coach and his father for pushing him to be his best.

“Coach Esters pushes us to our mental and physical limits,” said Mitchell. “He gets to know every individual player – he learns how they think. I love how he is about the team and not about him. He is there for us, and he wants us to be better in life. I love how my dad pushes me to do better, too. If it wasn’t for him, I would not be here today.”

For Nicholson, football means more than just what happens on the field.

“Playing sports allows me to learn how to be a better young man,” he said. “It also helps to keep me out of trouble. I also like giving back to the homeless. I’ve been doing this since I was a little kid, so I just want to continue doing that.

“This past season I missed seven games due to a groin injury, but I plan on making up for it this season. I had a good spring and now I’m going to continue working hard in the weight room and on the field.”

Like Mitchell, Nicholson has his favorite opponents.

“I like playing against Captain Shreve and Woodlawn the most,” he said. “I like playing against Shreve because I have a lot of brothers that play for them who I’ve known for a long time. I like playing against Woodlawn because it’s always a big game. We let the game slip away this past season, so I feel like we owe them.”

Nicholson also has high praise for his head coach.

“He’s there whenever we need him,” he said of Esters, “and he talks about how there is more to life than football. He was dealt a lot when he came in and he’s handling it right and moving us in the right way. He plans on turning us into a new Southwood.”

Contact Lee at LBrecheen@aol.com






Centenary to host inaugural football clinic, camp

JOURNAL SPORTS

Centenary College’s football program will host its inaugural Coaches Clinic and youth football camp on campus this weekend, according to head coach Byron Dawson.

The Coaches Clinic, held today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Gold Dome, will be headlined by NFL star Jerry Tillery, who will serve as the keynote speaker. The youth clinic will take place at Mayo Field, current home of the Centenary lacrosse and soccer programs and future home of the football team, on Saturday from 9 a.m. to Noon.

The cost for the clinic is $40 per coach or $100 per staff. Cost for the camp is $40 per camper ages 7-18 and includes meals and a t-shirt.

“We are very excited about our football camp and clinic featuring local product Jerry Tillery,” said Dawson. “This weekend is a great opportunity to showcase our growing program and connect with local youths in the Shreveport-Bossier community on our great campus.

“We are so honored to have great coaches from the Centenary staff along with NFL and college stars. We are Shreveport-Bossier’s college football team, and the camp staff will be made up of local notable names. It will be a great weekend.”

Tillery will be joined by additional guest speakers at the clinic including Dawson, Dennis Dunn, Clint Endsley, and Jason Todd. Current college and NFL players serving as guest instructors at the clinic include Jarrick Bernard-Converse (LSU), Blake Shapen (Baylor), and Ar’Darius Washington (Baltimore Ravens).

Tillery, a standout at Evangel Christian Academy and Notre Dame, was a 2019 first-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Chargers and was coached in high school by Dawson. Dunn, current head football coach at North DeSoto High School, is a former Evangel head coach and has won nine state championships and the 1999 national high school title.

Endsley is the offensive coordinator at Carthage (Texas) High School and is a five-time 4A Texas State champion. Todd is the head football coach at South Oak Cliff High School and the 2021 Division II 5A Texas state champion.

Bernard-Converse played at Evangel and four years at Oklahoma State before transferring to LSU this summer. Shapen played for Dawson at Evangel and is currently the starting quarterback for the defending Sugar Bowl champion Baylor Bears. Washington prepped at Evangel and played college ball at TCU.






An unnoticed run, an unlikely courier for Billy Cannon’s 1959 Heisman

GRACE UNDER PRESSURE: Shreveport native Kent Lowe was enshrined in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020, but that didn’t stress him nearly as much as what he experienced Wednesday.

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

The 1959 Heisman Trophy made a different kind of run Wednesday.

You’ll remember LSU’s Billy Cannon made his famous Halloween night run in 1959, going 89 yards. plowing past defenders on a punt return on a soggy field late in the game to lift the undefeated Tigers over arch-rival Ole Miss 7-3 in Tiger Stadium. That play went a long way toward Cannon winning the Heisman in its 25th anniversary year, which was commemorated in a very special way.

The 1959 Heisman is made of silver. It’s one of a kind.

And it’s sitting in Natchitoches this morning, at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame museum, as the 2022 Induction Celebration unfolds over the next three days. You can see it this evening for free at the LSHOF Welcome Reception from 5-7.

It made the 186-mile journey north not with a police escort, but secure in the possession of Shreveport native Kent Lowe, the senior associate director of athletic communications at LSU since August of 1988, and a LSHOF inductee in the Class of 2020.

The 1975 Mr. Loyola Flyer made the most pressure-packed trip of his life Wednesday. He started at TJ Ribs restaurant on Acadian Thruway, a couple of football fields away from I-10. It’s where Cannon’s Heisman has been in a glass case for all but a few weeks since the late 1980s, so hordes of fans could enjoy it and a great meal. Dr. Cannon (he was a dentist) wanted to share it with Tiger fans.

Conversations over the past few months between LSHOF Foundation CEO Ronnie Rantz and Bunnie Cannon, the LSU-proud daughter of Dr. Cannon, ultimately led to Wednesday’s under-the-radar mission.

How do the folks at TJ Ribs wrap their to-go orders?

Cannon’s Heisman got treated like the best cut leaving the house.

Wrapped snugly in butcher’s paper.

They don’t have blankets or bubble-filled crates at TJ’s. And there was no case provided in 1959, or to recent winners for that matter, by the Heisman folks to haul the trophy back home from New York City. In fact, there’s a prized photo of Cannon cradling the trophy with his wife Dot after landing at the Baton Rouge airport in December 1959.

Just before lunch Wednesday, after a bit of confusion – “I think the management at TJ’s looked at me and said, ‘WHAT? This guy?’,” said Lowe – the bolts were loosened on the glass display case, and Cannon’s Heisman was on the move.

It was carefully carried through the doors, for what is thought to be the first time this millennium, into the parking lot and belted into the back right seat of Lowe’s 2021 Mazda CX-5.

It immediately became the most priceless passenger he’s ever had.

Unless you count driving a rental car with Dale Brown in the back seat on the way to an NCAA Tournament media session.

That was not stressful. This was.

“Every time I made a turn, I’d hear something sliding around and I had to look back and check on it,” said Lowe. “It was sitting there, in the seat belt, and hadn’t moved an inch. I finally realized I had boxes in my trunk and they were making the noise.”

When he pulled up a little more than three hours later at 800 Front Street in Natchitoches, Lowe was proud, and relieved.

“I kept imagining the headlines: ‘Cannon’s Heisman takes a wrong turn on I-49’ or ‘Lowe point for Billy Cannon’s Heisman,’ “ he chuckled.

Museum director Jennae Biddiscombe and staff ended his suspense, rolling a cart out to his car, carefully extracting the trophy, then taking the elevator to a case waiting on the second floor right next to the LSU Sports exhibit. In a nice bit of symmetry, it will rest just a couple of yards away from where Cannon sat for eight hours on a winter afternoon, warmly inscribing copies of his 2015 autobiography, “A Long, Long Run” for hundreds who formed a line snaking through the 27,500-square feet of the museum and for a while, out the door. Eight hours. Was scheduled for three. But he was determined everybody would get what they came for.

Why has the Heisman made a move now? It’s a happy coincidence that five of the LSHOF Class of 2022 are former LSU athletes, which Dr. Cannon would love, and his family certainly appreciates.

But it’s actually a sneak preview, at the peak time of the year for the Hall of Fame. Later this summer, sometime before football kicks off, the LSHOF museum will debut a new Heisman Trophy exhibit, with memorabilia from Cannon, Springhill native John David Crow (1957, Texas A&M), instant LSU icon Joe Burrow (2019), and Amite native DeVonta Smith (2020, Alabama).

Cannon’s Heisman will periodically be on display at the museum, courtesy of the Cannon Trust, which is administered by the family.

It’s heading back to its familiar spot at TJ Ribs Sunday, but will return for the opening of the new exhibit, and will be in Natchitoches for every Induction Celebration from now on.

Who do you trust to carry it back home? How about the man who carried the mail for the 2003 Tigers, starring in their SEC Championship Game victory and the National Championship game triumph over Oklahoma?

Justin Vincent is coming in to cheer on his former Tiger teammate, Class of ’22 inductee Kyle Williams, this weekend. The former star LSU running back won’t tuck the Heisman under his arm, but he’ll cruise back to BR and visit TJ Ribs with a very special package.

Contact Doug at DougIreland@LaSportsHall.com

Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State






Hall of Fame festivities start this evening in Natchitoches

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

What’s a celebration in our state without plenty of tasty food, a festive serving of homegrown musical talent, fun for kids of all ages, and laughter and inspiration for all?

Louisiana’s biggest summertime sports showcase unfolds in Natchitoches this weekend, and it’s all that and more. Two local men, Shreveport native Jay Cicero and Shreveport resident Teddy Allen, are among this year’s inductees.

Kickoff is this evening, celebrating the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022, a dozen men and women whose accomplishments have indelibly altered the state’s sports landscape – and in the case of the nine athletes and coaches being inducted, they have made waves on the national and even in some cases, world sports circles.

WORLD?  Dr. Eddie Flynn, from Loyola University in New Orleans, won an Olympic gold medal in boxing. Opelousas native Steve Duhon stopped playing football, quite well, at LSU to start a career that landed him in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.

On the national stage, the Class of 2022 has a pair of NFL stars who both played in six Pro Bowls — New Orleans Saints guard Jahri Evans, a key in the Black and Gold’s Super Bowl triumph, and Ruston native and resident Kyle Williams, who was part of LSU’s 2003 national championship team, later an All-American for the Tigers, and one of the most impactful players in Buffalo Bills history. Another former Tiger great, the late Eric Andolsek, was emerging as one of the NFL’s top offensive linemen before his untimely loss.

In the 50th anniversary year of Title IX, the LSHOF celebrates two of LSU’s best female student-athletes:  three-time NCAA gymnastics champion and SEC women’s Athlete of the Year Susan Jackson, and two-time All-America softball pitcher Britni Sneed Williams.

There’s fabulous coaches, too. Only one coach in the history of high school sports in America has won more state championships than Claney Duplechin’s 65 titles in cross country and track at Episcopal High in Baton Rouge. The late Tony Robichaux is the only college baseball coach in the country to be the all-time winningest coach at two different programs (McNeese, UL Lafayette) in the same state.

Sports journalists Allen (a Journal columnist and writer) and Garland Forman are still producing spellbinding stories, and as the CEO of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation, Cicero continues to stage world-class sports events in the Crescent City. The Loyola High School grad and former Shreveport Captains staffer started with the GNOSF helping stage the 1992 USA Olympic Trials and has been a guiding force since  behind the scenes in Super Bowls, Final Fours and national championship games.

It’s a dynamic dozen comprising the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022, and their Induction Celebration is open to everyone.

The Class of 2022 will enter the Hall officially Saturday at a ceremony in the Natchitoches Events Center to culminate the weekend.  It will mark the 50th anniversary of the first LSHOF induction in Natchitoches, when Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle was enshrined in a ceremony at halftime of a Northwestern State basketball game, after a celebratory dinner at the home of NSU President Dr. Arnold Kilpatrick.

There’s a lot more to the festivities now, and there’s no cost to attend several of the events, beginning this evening with the free to all  La Capitol Welcome Reception from 5-7 at the $23 million, nine-year-old LSHOF Museum in downtown Natchitoches.

The three-day festivities include two receptions, a free youth clinic, a bowling party, and a free Friday night riverbank concert in Natchitoches with fireworks and hot music.

Opening the show at 6 Friday downtown will be rising country and rock musician M.J. DarDar of Lafayette, followed by headliner Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters, who lit up the Rue Beauport stage at the 2019 River Fest and have played the White House, Wheel of Fortune and with musicians as diverse as James Brown, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Tina Turner and Britney Spears.

The full schedule of events and purchases for ticketed events culminating with the Induction Ceremony are available through the LaSportsHall.com website or by calling 318-332-8539.

Contact Doug at DougIreland@LaSportsHall.com






SPOTLIGHT: Ego-free Garland Forman has made broad impact statewide

By RAYMOND PARTSCH III, Written for the LSWA

Garland Forman always listened.

As a teenage bat boy for the Alexandria Aces, Forman listened to the legendary baseball players that came through on barnstorming tours.

As an athletic trainer at Louisiana College, Forman listened to the life lessons bestowed upon him by coaches Billy Allgood and Gene Rushing.

As a young journalist, Forman listened to the stories being swapped by some of the state’s sports journalism titans at Louisiana Sports Writers Association conventions.

“I would always love to go to our conventions,” Forman said. “I would teach myself to sit down and listen. For them, they were just sharing stories, but for me that room was filled with some phenomenal sports writers. If you really listened, they would tell you what you needed to do to make yourself a better reporter and what stories to be looking out for.”

That ability to listen intently helped Forman become one of Louisiana’s most respected and award-winning journalists. Fittingly, he will be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame as a 2022 recipient of the LSWA’s Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism.

Forman is one of 12 members of the Class of 2022 going into the Hall today, tomorrow and Saturday  in Natchitoches. For participation opportunities and information, visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-332-8539.

“He is the backbone of small newspaper journalism in the state,” said friend and 2019 DSA winner Philip Timothy. “Whether it is sports, news or politics, he has been there for over three decades.”

Growing up in Pineville, Forman had a paper route at the age of eight and a passion for journalism, but he also loved baseball, and for four years served as bat boy for the Alexandria Aces. During that time, he met Hall of Famers Satchel Paige, Duke Snider, Bob Feller and Ted Williams.  

“I would be sitting in the dugout with them,” Forman recalled. “I remember Satch talking to me in the bullpen. It was just a great experience. People always ask me if I got autographs. I was told never to ask because I was working.”

It was during this time that an unexpected opportunity presented itself. Legendary Town Talk sports editor Bill Carter, a 1988 DSA winner, approached him after a game and told him to go meet Louisiana College men’s basketball coach Billy Allgood, a 1999 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame honoree.

“He asked me ‘What do you want to major in?’ I said, ‘Journalism,’ and he said, ‘Well, we don’t have that here.’ I finally had to tell Coach that ‘I don’t know why I am here.’ He said, ‘I have been watching you at Bringhurst Field for a few years now, and I want to offer you a full scholarship to LC to be the manager-athletic trainer.’ I said ‘SOLD!'”

Forman spent the next four years getting a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of a collegiate program. He was in charge of all the equipment, including the basketballs and tennis shoes, washing and drying practice gear, towels, and game uniforms, and for calling in box scores to the newspaper. Forman did many of those duties on his own time, either before or after class.

He finished his studies in 1980 but put his dreams of being a full-time sports journalist on hold. Forman had to support his growing family (wife Debbie, and eventually four children), so he did everything from selling insurance to working as a plumber and eventually relocated to Eunice to work for a plumbing wholesaler. In addition, he worked as a sports freelancer for the Eunice News and did radio play-by-play.

In 1983, Forman lost his wholesale job due to the oil crash and moved to Bayou Chicot. To make ends meet, he delivered papers for The Town Talk in Evangeline Parish, did freelance work for The Ville Platte Gazette and managed the night shift at a convenience store in Bunkie.

“Garland has a willingness to do anything for anybody,” Timothy said of Forman’s work ethic. “He gives so much of himself he doesn’t know he is overdoing it. He continues to go out of his way to help others. That is what endeared him to people.”

A few years later in 1987 Forman got an opportunity, and never looked back. He was hired as sports editor at the Bunkie Record, and less than a year later became editor – where he remained for 30 years.

Forman did it all, serving as the Record’s lead reporter, editor, page designer and photographer. But his work wasn’t confined to the newsroom … he became a community icon.

“Garland gave himself to the community,” Timothy said. “He endeared himself to the community. When the trust was finally built, the mayor or police jury, they would call him instead of the bigger newspaper. They trusted him that he would get it right. He would tell the story the way it should be told.”

“When he left Bunkie, it was a big loss for the town and the school,” former Bunkie football coach Gregg Hudson said. “There wasn’t a bigger advocate for the town and the school.”

For Forman, becoming part of the community was the only way he knew how to operate as a local journalist.

“I felt like I had to prove to the community that I belonged there,” said Forman, who took over as general manager of the Ville Platte Gazette in 2017. “I wanted to be part of the community. People that move from outside the community, it’s a hard transition. I didn’t want that to happen. I made sure to get out in the community.” 

That approach helped Forman win hundreds of awards from the Louisiana Press Association and the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. Yet, the awards that matter the most to Forman are not the individual accolades, but having The Bunkie Record win LPA Newspaper of the Year three times (2005, 2006 and 2008). 

Forman became a pillar of the LPA, serving as president and championing public bodies obeying the state’s sunshine laws. 

Forman also became a vital part of the LSWA, not just for his infectious laughter during bourre’ games at the convention or pranking friends with a crate of shucked corn as a door prize from the Bunkie Corn Festival. Instead, it was Forman’s tireless behind-the-scenes work putting on all-state meetings, raising funds for the LSWA and hosting conventions, and proudly serving as the organization’s president and a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame voter. He is the only person ever to serve as president of both the LPA and the LSWA.

To people in both organizations, along with those whose lives he’s impacted during his career, Garland Forman is truly one of a kind. That doesn’t win at bourre’, but it sure does play well in life.

Artwork by CHRIS BROWN, Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame






Tech mourns loss of former great Jaylon Ferguson

A HUGE LOSS: Former Louisiana Tech star Jaylon Ferguson, the NCAA’s all-time sacks leader, has passed away at the age of 26.

JOURNAL SPORTS

RUSTON – On Wednesday morning, the news broke that former Louisiana Tech star Jaylon Ferguson had passed away at the age of 26.

“It’s a somber day around our athletic department and community,” current Tech VP and Director of Athletics Eric Wood said about the loss of Ferguson, the former Bulldog and the NCAA’s all-time career sacks leader. “Those who were privileged enough to truly know Jaylon have nothing but wonderful things to say about the young man.”

The news came from the Baltimore Ravens camp, where Ferguson was set to begin his fourth year with the organization. He was selected in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Ravens. No additional details on Ferguson’s death have been released.

“We are profoundly saddened by the tragic passing of Jaylon Ferguson,” the team said in a statement. “He was a kind, respectful young man with a big smile and infectious personality. We express our heartfelt condolences to Jaylon’s family and friends as we mourn a life lost much too soon.”

The St. Francisville native and former prep star at West Feliciana High School spent five years in a Louisiana Tech uniform and became one of the all-time greats in Bulldog history.

Ferguson, a four-time all-Conference USA selection, was named the 2018 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year after totaling a program record 17.5 sacks during the season. He ended his Bulldog career as the NCAA’s all-time leader in sacks with 45.0 earning the nickname “Sack Daddy.” He totaled 187 career tackles, including 65 career tackles for loss. 

“His records and honors prove he was one of the best to ever wear a Bulldog uniform,” said Wood. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family as well as the Baltimore Ravens organization.”

Ferguson earned multiple All-American honors during his career in Ruston, including Football Writers Association of American (FWAA) Freshman All-American honors in 2016 and AP, FWAA, Walter Camp and Sporting News All-American honors in 2018. He was a finalist for the 2018 Ted Hendricks Award and a semifinalist for the 2018 Chuck Bednarik Award.

“The Louisiana Tech Football Family is saddened to hear the news of Jaylon Ferguson’s passing,” said new Bulldog coach Sonny Cumbie. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this time.”

Ferguson’s younger brother Jazz, who originally signed with LSU, was a record-breaking wide receiver at Northwestern State University in 2018. He is now playing in the CFL.

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Tech






Haughton cornerback DJ Riser working hard to reach his goals

By LEE BRECHEEN, Louisiana Football Magazine

One of the top cornerbacks in the Shreveport/Bossier area is Haughton High School’s DJ Riser, who plays man defense, is tough, can cover and is always working to get better.

I really like this kid’s upside for the next level and think that in the right defense he can become a starter in Division I or I-AA as a nickel cornerback, cornerback, or even play some strong safety.

Considering most teams run away from his side of the field, the 5-11, 170-pound cornerback had 35 solo tackles, two interceptions, one fumble recovery, and one forced fumble in 2021.

“Coach (Jason) Brotherton is a good head coach,” says Riser. “He pushes us to the max because he knows how hard it would be in a game and how much effort we need in a game. I love to play for coach Brotherton. He’s cool and shows love to everyone.”

Riser has also learned from defensive backs coach John Stafford.

“Coach Stafford is really cool and knows where to put our defensive backs to win games,” says Riser. “He helps us get better and he wants us to succeed — not just in football, but in life.”

Riser cites former LSU great and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Devin White as his role model.

“I look up to him and he’s my role model,” Riser says of the Super Bowl champion, “because I see how he made it out and I see how hard work pays off. He’s my favorite player in the NFL right now.”

Riser says he is working to improve his technique, cornerback IQ, and off-ball man coverage. And he has been putting in lots of time to accomplish his goals.

“I attended (camp at) Grambling State June 11-12,” says Riser. “I also attended camp at ULL and ULM. I’ll be going to Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State, and Mississippi State University. I’m looking forward to going to more camps this summer. I have a lot of coaches contacting and emailing me from different schools, but no offers yet.”

NOTES ON DJ RISER: Hobbies are working out, spending time with family, and football drills. He says he loves to work out “that helps me be more physical and stronger and I believe that working out is important for all athletes, especially football players.” His favorite team to play against is Parkway High School.

Contact Lee at LBrecheen@aol.com






TENNIS NOTEBOOK: USTA sets guidelines to deal with growth of pickleball

A MATTER FOR THE COURTS: Pierremont Oaks has converted two of its existing tennis courts into six permanent pickleball courts to handle the increasing popularity of the sport.

By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports

While the number of tennis players taking up the sport has risen drastically over the past few years, the rise of another sport has put many facilities in, well, a pickle.

Pickleball, the fastest growing sport over the past two years, has seen a 650% increase in the number of players since 2013. The sport, a combination of tennis, badminton, and ping pong, now includes over 4.8 million players nationwide.

Many tennis facilities have turned existing courts into pickleball courts, but there are still some places where the two sports have had to share the same space.

To deal with the situation, the recent USTA National Statement of Guidance for parks and recreation facilities on tennis and pickleball explains the current policy in place for events in the USTA Southern Section:

“Tennis courts eligible for USTA Southern sanctioned competition, including junior and adult tournaments and league, must contain only lines prescribed by the ITF Rules of Tennis, as set out in the USTA Handbook of Tennis Rules and Regulations.”

In other words: courts that include both tennis and pickleball lines are not eligible to host sanctioned events/play in the Southern Section.

In its statement on the issue, the USTA went on to say, “We will continue to explore options to collaborate with facilities and providers who wish to offer pickleball and help advocate for the construction of separate pickleball facilities.”

Just like in other areas of the country, Shreveport has seen an incredible increase in the number of pickleball players. And some facilities have already taken the initiative to construct and/or convert existing tennis courts into pickleball courts.

Last August, Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club converted two of its existing hard courts into six permanent pickleball courts.

“Pickleball has become very popular,” says Grady Wilson, general manager/director of tennis at POTC. “It’s 100 degrees out here and we’ve got 65-plus aged ladies out there on the pickleball courts.”

Wilson travelled to Nashville, Tenn., for a two-day teaching session on pickleball, so he would be able to teach the sport.

East Ridge Country Club has converted one of its tennis courts into three pickleball courts and tennis pro Tom Chicoine offers “101 Pickleball,” which includes week-long packages of pickleball instruction.

Southern Hills Tennis Center, which has recently undergone major improvements, is also looking into installing pickleball courts. You can also find pickleball courts at Querbes Tennis Center.

If the rise of pickleball continues, look for more courts to pop up across the area.

Contact Harriet at sbjharriet@gmail.com

Photo by HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD






New standards established for Louisiana Downs, other state tracks

By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Sports

No matter if you spend a day at Louisiana Downs, or one of the state’s other three horse racetracks, you don’t want to see a grandstand in disrepair.

You don’t want to see worn and trampled landscaping.

You don’t want to have limited food options.

Now, it’s a sure bet those things will be less likely to happen.

Tuesday, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed House Bill 1055. The new law requires Louisiana Downs, Fair Grounds (New Orleans), Evangeline Downs (St. Landry Parish), and Delta Downs (Vinton) to spend money necessary to meet minimum standard requirements in several areas. Those requirements will be established and enforced by the Louisiana State Racing Commission (LSRC).

A track’s failure to comply could mean a fine, and suspension of the track’s license.

“Evidently the legislature thought it was necessary to set these minimum standards,” said Charles Gardiner III, Executive Director of the LSRC. “I think it will give the racing commission a lot of authority. If at any time the commission feels that a track is not performing or taking care of its facility to the commission’s satisfaction, (the LSRC) can rely on those minimum standards and rules by which a track, as a condition of their license, will have to adhere to.”

In anticipation of HB 1055 becoming law, the LSRC recently began efforts to establish those “minimum standards.”

“That’s a work in progress,” Gardiner said. “This is all fairly new to us. I think it’s a novel approach. There are going to be discussions held, I’m sure, among certain committees on the racing commission, and the (racetracks). Hopefully those discussions will result in a baseline.”

Under HB 1055, the state’s tracks are required to submit to the LSRC a plan of operation for each fiscal year. That plan must include expenditure details related to — among other things — customer service, marketing and promotions, capital improvements, and facility maintenance. “Facility Maintenance” includes the track’s racing surface, barns, grandstands, and paddocks.

“We’re already doing the things they are requesting,” said Mitch Dennison, General Manager of Racing at Louisiana Downs. “Our job is to update the commission with our progress reports. We don’t see a problem with it. I think what the bill does is create a better line of communication with the racing commission and that’s better for Louisiana racing as a whole.”

The bill’s author, Representative Jason Hughes (D-Orleans Parish), did not return several requests for comment.

Two main improvements at Louisiana Downs — which will fall under the new law — have been in areas fans will never see.

The “test barn” is where a horse is taken after a race for blood and urine tests, “to make sure the horses are racing legally, with no illegal medication,” Dennison explained.

After years of neglect, Dennison said the track is in the process of installing surveillance cameras.

“We want to make racing as transparent as possible, and make our facility safer and better,” Dennison said.

Jockeys spend long days at the track, from early morning workouts to late afternoon races. Yet, since 2013, Dennison said there hasn’t been a jockey kitchen at Louisiana Downs, where riders can buy and eat meals.

Work is being done to solve that issue.

“They will be able to purchase a burger, a sandwich,” Dennison said. “There will be hot meals. There will be candy and concession foods there as well.”

Now that HB 1055 is law, tracks must submit their reports on a quarterly basis, starting on or before Oct. 20.

Contact Tony at SBJTonyT@gmail.com

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Downs