NATCHITOCHES – Event reservations are steadily rising for the long-overdue Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2020 Induction Celebration June 24-26, although one inductee, Nick Saban, has been forced to defer his enshrinement until next year.
Saban led LSU to the 2003 national championship and two Southeastern Conference titles in his five seasons (2000-04) in charge of the Fighting Tigers. He has won six more national championships, including the 2020 crown, since taking over at Alabama in 2007, following a two-season foray into pro football as head coach of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
The recent reset of the NCAA’s recruiting calendar created an unresolvable conflict for Saban. After more than a year’s pause in on-campus recruiting activity, the NCAA decided pandemic conditions have abated enough to safely resume. The four June weekends are in the designated timeframe for summer on-campus visits by prospects, most of whom will make their college commitments in June and July.
“Of course, we’re excited to finally be able to host recruits on-campus in June so the young men can visit Tuscaloosa and see our facilities and meet our people. That also requires me to be here to host them, so unfortunately I can’t make it to Natchitoches to join the other 2020 inductees on the last weekend in June this summer,” Saban said.
“I am extremely honored to be chosen for induction in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Our time in Baton Rouge at LSU was a great experience, and we have some great friends there and around the state. I look forward to an opportunity to come back for the 2022 induction events and reunite with some of those friends, former players and colleagues to commemorate the achievements our program realized during those five years at LSU,” he said.
Just as there was no consideration given in 2020 to conducting a virtual induction, Hall of Fame officials want to provide every inductee with an in-person enshrinement experience.
“With every induction celebration, we treasure the excitement and emotion that is generated for all of our inductees, their families and friends, and Louisiana’s sports fans. We understand Coach Saban’s situation and responsibilities, and are willing to wait until next year to give him a fulfilling induction experience to celebrate his great impact in five transformational seasons as the LSU football coach,” said Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland.
Saban brought LSU football from relative mediocrity to a national championship in five years (2000-04) as head coach before departing for the NFL. He carved his prominent place in state sports history with the 2003 national title win by his LSU squad over Oklahoma in the Superdome.
His Tigers won the Southeastern Conference championship in 2001 and 2003, and took three straight SEC West Division crowns in 2001-03, as he compiled a 48-16 (28-12 SEC) record in Baton Rouge, part of his 256-65-1 mark as a college head coach. He was national coach of the year for the first time and won his first SEC coach of the year award in 2003 at LSU.
The Class of 2020’s enshrinement was originally set for last summer, then December, and postponed both times due to COVID-19 protocols.
The 2020 LSHOF Induction Celebration festivities take place in Natchitoches, the home of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum. For information and to make reservations for ticketed events, visit the LaSportsHall.com website or call 318-238-4255.
Headed for induction next month: eight-time world bodybuilding champion Ronnie Coleman, a Bastrop native and Grambling graduate, outdoorsman Phil Robertson, recognized internationally as the Duck Commander, along with Minden native Sweet Lou Dunbar of the Harlem Globetrotters and Pro Bowl football standout Chicago Bears cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman, a star at UL Lafayette.
The Class of 2020 also showcases two more extraordinary basketball players: New Orleans native Kerry Kittles, a two-time All-America guard at Villanova who averaged 14 points in an eight-year NBA career, and Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters basketball legend Angela Turner Johnson, a Bienville Parish native who helped the Techsters to four straight national championship game appearances including wins in 1981 and 1982.
Monroe-Richwood High School football coaching icon Mackie Freeze, unbeaten as a pitcher on Grambling’s baseball team, will become the oldest-ever inductee when he is enshrined at 93.
Inducted as winners of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism will be LSU sports publicist Kent Lowe and Baton Rouge Advocate prep sportswriter Robin Fambrough.
Opelousas native and LSU graduate Joan Cronan, one of college sports’ most influential administrators in her career as athletics director at the University of Tennessee, will be inducted as the 2020 Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award winner.
Enshrined as the first recipient of the Louisiana Sports Ambassador Award will be Shreveport-based broadcaster Tim Brando, whose pride in his home state has been evident throughout his four decades among the best in his business around the country.