From the Bird’s Nest: Time to change UL Hall of Fame Criteria
It's September, 2015.
Louisiana is expecting 45,000 for its home opener in the newly-refurbished Cajun Field.
And, fans are flocking to the new ground floor on the west side of the stadium which houses a spacious new retail shop along with the UL Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame had been hidden over the years. There really was no place to showcase those who excelled on the athletics field in various sports. And, there were some great names to showcase: Jake Delhomme, Brandon Stokley, Brian Mitchell, Orlando Thomas, "Bo" Lamar, Dean Church, Jerry Flake, Byron Starks, Andrew Toney, volleyballer Nia Kuggundu, track and field's Hollis Conway. Former major leaguer Xavier Hernandez. Softball greats Stefni Whitton Lotief, Kyla Hall Holas, Tiffany Whittall Harris, Cheryl Longeway Hogan, Brooke Mitchell Garrity, Allyson Habetz.
And, that's just a few. Finally, they have a real home.
But when fans enter this new showcase for the greatest of the great that wore the uniform of the Vermilion and White, there are names that are nowhere to be found.
Explain to your children, grandchildren or friends how the UL Hall of Fame can exist without Marvin Winkler. Or Ron Guidry. Or Kevin Brooks, the fourth leading scorer in UL basketball history. Or Kim Perrott, whose jersey is the only women's basketball jersey to be retired and whose career in the WNBA and her fight with cancer is nationally known. Where is Scott Dohmann's plaque for leading Louisiana to the College World Series? Or, Nathan Nelson? Where is the wing to honor Russ Faulkinberry, Beryl Shipley, Nelson Stokley, Yvette Girouard and, one day, Tony Robichaux?
It's very simple.
None of those people are eligible for the Hall of Fame.
And, that's a problem.
The criteria for the UL Hall of Fame is pretty steep. And, it should be. It's not the Hall of Good.
But, in order to get into the Hall, you must have an undergraduate degree.
And, therein lies a good part of the problem.
Now, if you know anything about me, you know I'm all about players getting their degrees. For me, there is no better tradition at UL than senior day at Tigue Moore Field when I get to see current and former players receive their degree at home plate. I was so incredibly proud last year when La'Ryan Gary, a non-qualifier out of high school, received his degree in December. As graduation rates among student-athletes increase, I get even happier.
But, for the fans of UL, the Hall of Fame should be about your performance on the athletic field, not (necessarily) what you did in the classroom.
I think, at one time, the criteria was probably just. But I don't feel that way anymore.
There will come a time in the future when the Hall is something that isn't tucked away where no one can find it, but showcased at Cajun Field, as it should be. It will be a place for fathers and mothers to take their sons and daughters to teach them of the tradition that is the Ragin' Cajuns.
And, to omit some of the greatest of the great because of outdated criteria is simply wrong.
The Hall needs to be expanded. There are many who have given much to this University for so many years. And, yet, without change, they will never have a place of honor as well.
Right now there is no place for great coaches. Sorry, the Hall is just for players.
There is no place for people like the recently-retired Director of Sports Medicine John Porche. Or CoSIDA Hall-of-Famer Dan McDonald. Or how about Lynn and Lyle Williams, the long-time equipment managers. (It should be noted that the late Bill "Blackjack" Landry was made an "honorary" member of the Hall before his death. But even that doesn't sit well. Blackjack is as much a Hall of Famer as there's ever been.) Sherry LeBas, who has served as a coach and administrator for over 30 years? No soup for you.
When the new Hall is opened, the omission of those who have contributed so much to the success and tradition of UL athletics have to be recognized. To omit them is to omit part of the history and, in some cases, some of the best history and best names.
Fans want to see these people honored.
But it won't happen until things change.