by Doug Ireland

It’s here.

Here, as in finally here, the month of June, June 20-22 to be exact. The 2024 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration is here. It’s been planned for months and months, and now, it’s here.

Literally, here in Central Louisiana.

Here in Alexandria, at Four Seasons Bowling Center at lunchtime Friday, June 21 for the Celebrity Bowling Bash presented by BOM.

Here in Natchitoches, for a free Welcome Reception presented by LA Capitol Federal Credit Union at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum on Thursday, June 20, from 5-7p.m.

And for a free Friday night Rockin’ Riverfest concert presented by Rapides Regional Medical Center on the Cane River stage downtown.

For the Friday night VIP Taste of Tailgating upstairs Friday night presented by Hancock-Whitney at Mama’s Oyster House and Blues Room.

For the Saints and Pelicans Junior Training Camp, free but already filled to capacity, to start the festivities on Saturday, June 22.

For the TAF Round Table Luncheon Saturday at Riverside Reserve.

And for the main events: Saturday’s Taste of Louisiana Reception at the museum from 5-6:30, then the 2024 Induction Ceremony presented by State Farm Insurance Agents of Louisiana kicking off at 7 o’clock at the Natchitoches Events Center.

You can sign up for all the events that carry admission charges at LaSportsHall.com or by calling 318-238-4255. Reservations are necessary.

Here’s what you get.

Lifelong memories, up close and personal. Chances to say hi, thanks for those memories, and congratulations on joining the most exclusive sports team in Louisiana.

Many of the people who are inducted each year in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame have done things you’ve seen on TV. Others have done things you’ve read and heard about. Some accomplished things you may not have heard about before.

But all have done things that place them among the elite, the best of the best, the greatest sports figures in our state’s history.

Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints’ NFL record-setting passer and Super Bowl XLIV MVP, brings incredible credentials to this remarkable group chosen last fall by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.

He’s not alone at the top of his game: joining him in the Class of 2024 are the homegrown women’s basketball superstar, Seimone Augustus, and Daniel Cormier, the Lafayette born-and-raised Olympic wrestler who became and remains one of the top figures in mixed martial arts.

The Class of 2024 also includes 1992 Olympic wrestling gold medalist Kevin Jackson, a former LSU All-American, along with Perry Clark, who guided Tulane basketball to unprecedented success in the 1990s, and McNeese football great Kerry Joseph, who had a 19-year pro career.

Also set for induction are high school football and baseball coach Frank Monica, who won state titles at three different south Louisiana schools, and Ray Sibille, a Breeders’ Cup-winning thoroughbred jockey from Sunset who ranks among the nation’s most respected riders.

The class also includes Grambling’s Ellis, who becomes the second-ever recipient of the Louisiana Sports Ambassador Award. During his 43-year baseball coaching career and since, Ellis has made local, statewide and national impact not only in his sports field but also in other endeavors. He is the elder statesman of Grambling – not just the university, but the community – except that in his late 80s, he hasn’t really slowed down.

Also in the class: renowned sportswriters Bobby Ardoin of Opelousas and born-and-raised LSU sports expert Ron Higgins, and college sports administrator Tom Burnett – a Louisiana Tech grad whose biggest role was running the 2022 NCAA Final Four.

Appropriately, the Class of 2024 will be enshrined in an Olympic year. Augustus helped Team USA win three Olympic gold medals, coupled with Jackson becoming the first Black American to capture gold in wrestling. Jackson was Cormier’s coach when the future MMA star made the USA wrestling team for the 2004 and 2008 Games.

You’ll hear their stories. Not just about that big play or that championship victory, but about how they got there. Who helped them. What makes them thankful. What they laugh about. What it all means to them. Who means the most to them.

It’s a three-day-long celebration of excellence in Louisiana. There aren’t many states where sports are so ingrained in the culture, in the heartbeat of the population, like sports are here.

It’s not limited to the current-year inductees. Each summer, about three dozen previously inducted Hall of Fame members come back to welcome the new class and renew friendships and rekindle memories.

Like Terry Bradshaw says in the welcome video for the museum, “it’s special. Enjoy it.”


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