By T. Scott Boatright
Be it mystery solved or misunderstanding rectified, the 1990 Ruston High School’s Class 4A Louisiana state championship football trophy has been found.
All because it was hiding in plain sight.
And it was during a visit to the Louisiana Sports Museum in Natchitoches last Friday that Assistant Superintendent of Lincoln Parish Schools John Young hit paydirt by finding the hardware in a display recognizing some of the state’s top high school programs.
Young was surprised to see the trophy, as no one at Ruston High seemed to know where it had been for years.
Members of the 1990 Bearcats football team, including Young’s cousin Rodney Young, had been told the trophy had been stolen, Young said, adding that they had lost hope for its return.
“I had always wanted to go to the museum,” Young said. “I played high school ball with Kyle Williams, who was just inducted to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, so I went to Natchitoches to check it out.
“After going through nearly the whole museum, I was in the upstairs part and got the last display and bam, there it was. I was dumbfounded. (Current RHS football coach Jerrod Baugh) and I had just talked a few days before about needing to find that trophy. And suddenly there it was.
So on Tuesday, Young reached out via email to Jennae Biddiscombe, Branch Director of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (LSHOF) and Northwest Louisiana History Museum on behalf of the administration at Ruston High School and Lincoln Parish Schools Superintendent Ricky Durrett requesting that the trophy be returned to RHS.
“We are not sure how or when it came to be a part of your collection,” Young wrote in that email. “I assume it’s been there since Coach Childress’ induction but that is just a guess.”
Jimmy “Chick” Childress led Ruston to four state titles, including a victory over Catholic High in the 1990 Class 4A title game. He was inducted to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.
Biddiscombe emailed Young back and told him that at the time the trophy was put on display it was a loan from LSHOF to the museum.
“When the museum was built, the collection the LSHOF acquired over the years was donated to the Louisiana State Museum,” Biddiscombe wrote. “This trophy was not part of the donation but came in with other items on loan from the LSHOF for display. Other trophies and items on display with different lenders on the labels would have come into the museum possession by that lender.
Biddiscombe expressed her apologies for any confusion there was on the loan of the trophy to the museum and then reached out to LSHOF Chairman Doug Ireland to try and clear things up further.
Ireland then did so via an email to Young.
“The state championship trophy was provided by Coach Childress,” Ireland wrote in that email. “I do not recall any limitations or conditions, but of course, Jeannae will assure it gets returned.”
In that email Ireland also explained to Young why Biddiscombe didn’t know how the trophy was obtained by the museum.
“Jennae was named branch manager in the spring of 2013, a couple of months before we opened the museum, so she doesn’t know the story,” Ireland said in his explanation to Young. “To my recollection, sometime in summer 2012 the Louisiana State Museum staff planning the displays realized we didn’t have adequate high school football items for that exhibit.
“I’m not sure if I shared that with Buddy Davis, or Coach Childress, but I do distinctly remember rolling up to Ruston and meeting Coach and his wife outside the fieldhouse (I think he showed me around and it was just a few months old; that may have been another time) or on the west side of the stadium and picking up the trophy.
“I will admit that at that stage of the museum project, standard acquisition procedures were loosened and as long as the LSHOF Foundation obtained items, then provided them to the museum for display, we satisfied (Louisiana State Museum’s) staff at that time.”
Young graduated from Ruston in 1998 and said he remembered seeing the trophy in the trophy case right outside the main office during his days as a RHS student.
“I had ELA classes in that main hall and saw it four or five times a day,” Young said. “It’s a big trophy. It catches your eye.”
Young said he believes Williams’ recent LSHOF induction may have helped “unearth” the trophy.
“I think the museum has so much inventory that they rotate stuff around, and that when Kyle got inducted, it got rotated back to where it could be seen,” Williams said.
The display the trophy was in includes one of Childress’ old RHS coaching shirts, a Childress jersey and a game ball he was awarded as well as one of his coaching whistles as well as a coaching whistle used by Childress’ coach at RHS, L.J. “Hoss” Garrett and a commemorative football denoting the 2A state championships Childress helped lead Neville to while serving as defensive coordinator under Tigers coach Charlie Brown.
Ireland said the 1990 RHS 4A state title trophy will soon be returned to Ruston High.
“We’ll take care of it as soon as we can, maybe even as early as next week,” Ireland said. “I might even play courier and bring it myself.”
Young said he was simply pleased the unexpected finding resolved the mystery of the lost trophy.
“Coach Baugh will proudly display it in the trophy case at the “Chick” Childress Field House, and the 1990 players who come back will finally get to see it again,” Young said. “They especially missed it during their 30-year reunion a couple of years ago.
“And eventually it could return to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame for a while as a loan with the proper notation. But we want to keep it at RHS for a while right now. It’s been gone too long, and we’re thrilled to finally be getting it back.”
Contact Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org