MULE': Will new hall come to pass?

This, given the events of 12 months ago, might rank with some of the great sports rallies in Louisiana history. Considering the circumstances it might be equated with Matt Gordy's personal-best pole vault in the last event to win the 1933 NCAA track meet for LSU;

The Skip Bertman's Tigers coming back to beat Stanford for the 2000 baseball national championship; Bert Jones' masterful drive in the last three minutes to beat Ole Miss in 1972 without – literally without – a second to spare.


Within two years – coinciding with the golden anniversary of the founding of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame – there just may be a physical showcase for fans to relive memorable moments in the state's rich athletic annals: the Louisiana Sports Museum.


As it is, in the idyllic garden spot of Louisiana, Natchitoches, rests the repository of Pelican State athletics, where some bigger-than-life athletes – and some who simply overcame deficiencies to excel, but mightily – are enshrined, where the stories of their feats are preserved.


As envisioned, the museum will move from a quaint storehouse of notable athletic achievement to a 21st Century entertainment and research powerhouse.


You would think in a state like Louisiana it would almost be mandatory to house such an exhibition hall, seeing as how sports is one area the state really does excel, towering on a per-capita basis over such more populated provinces as Ohio, Florida, Illinois. To many inducted through the years, induction in the Louisiana Hall is the highest honor accorded any state athlete outside of Cooperstown or Canton.


Almost everyone agrees the museum is a worthwhile project – or at least they did before a couple of windy ole gals by the names of Katrina and Rita. A year ago the Legislature approved $7.6 million for the building of a combination Sports Hall of Fame Museum and the North Louisiana Museum, fittingly in Natchitoches who adopted the Sports Hall when no one else could or would in 1972, and which is also the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase territory.


That was, of course, put on hold after the devastation of the storms, when all non-essential capital outlay projects were placed on the backburner. But, in June, the Legislature approved the funding, then the bonding commission approved and earmarked its approval of $600,000 for planning and architect fees.


Now, the Hall of Fame awaits approval, expected within the next two months, by the commission for what is called "a line of credit'' for a portion of the remaining $6.5 million for construction to commence.


A month ago, Doug Ireland, executive director of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, categorized the chances of success after years of trying to move the project forward as "first-and-goal inside the 5.''


"Now,'' he said, "it's second-and-goal inside the 2.''  


When it's complete, the Hall of Fame and the museum will be a showcase of not only  Louisiana's athletic heritage and excellence, but also that of LSU's. The Hall is not an arm of LSU, but that is exactly what gives credibility to Tiger athletes and achievements. Tigers almost dominate the Hall. Some of that, of course, has to do with longevity as a major power, but some also has to do with serious accomplishment. Of the 244 people inducted since 1959, 53, almost a third, are associated with LSU. The next closest program is Tulane with 18.


Fittingly, one of LSU's all-time football heroes, Gaynell "Gus'' Tinsley, was part of the first class when the Sports Hall of Fame was created in 1958. The other inductees in that inaugural class were Tony Canzoneri, a world boxing champion in three divisions, and Mel Ott, who also made it to another Hall of Fame, baseball's in Cooperstown.


It would be nice if two years from now we celebrate the golden anniversary of their inductions in a structure worthy of their achievements.



Marty Mule' can be reached at

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