Are HS sports halls of fame practical?

By Ron Brocato, Clarion Herald Sports

Louisiana is beginning its season of spring and summer festivals.

That also means the 2018-19 high school sports calender is running out of dates.

This is also the time of the year that various sports halls of fame are either taking shape or about to hold their inductions.

I have been fortunate to be affiliated with five as a member of the selection committees or as an inductee in four.

And, as I have watched the cavalcade of great coaches and athletes pass by and then fade into the future, I’ve become an advocate of high school halls of fame with hopes that every school might some day recognize its talented alumni’s contributions to the schools’ sports programs.

But I also wonder if that is a practical idea.

Natchitoches is the home of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, in which one of the city’s favorite sons – Peyton Manning – will take his turn in the Walk of Legends in June.

The Allstate Sugar Bowl’s Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2019 will soon be selected by a staff of veteran sports media.

Five high schools of which I am aware honor their past athletes and teams: Warren Easton, Archbishop Rummel, De La Salle, Dominican and, most recently, Holy Cross.

Warren Easton’s hall of fame is not strictly a hall for athletes. Alongside of sports greats like Steve Van Buren, Eddie Price, Johnny Altobello, Johnny Brechtel and many other sports figures are legendary New Orleanians Pete Fountain, Louis Prima, Judge John Shea, Mayor Victor Schiro, Justice Elizabeth Weaver, Msgr. Charles Kenney, Arthur Hardy, Sheriff Charles Foti, Bob Roesler, “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and pioneer theater owner René Brunet. The list dates back to grads of the Class of 1911.

Those halls of fame are practical and, so far, apolitical. Understandably, some schools whose pool of candidates seem endless face a dilemma. The administrations do not want to offend alumni – or their heirs – by splitting hairs on who should be in or out. I know that’s a slippery slope.

Jesuit honors its distinguished past on two floors in the main building. Photos of those who are graduates are in the Hall of Honors, and the school’s state champions are in the Hall of Champions.

Neither Brother Martin nor St. Augustine has a sports hall of fame. And I get that.

Do you begin with St. Augustine’s 19 years as a member of the Louisiana Interscholastic Athletic and Literary Organization (LIALO), which folded in 1970, or just include its 52 years in the LHSAA?

And would the aspiring founders of a hall at Brother Martin turn the pages back to St. Aloysius’ beginnings, when it fielded baseball and basketball teams before its first football game in 1921?

And what about the other school that became the Adam’s rib of Martin – Cor Jesu?

Its sports history is sparse – too sparse to consider any Kingsman who didn’t graduate as a Crusader after 1970.

And although the average age from the last class of St. Aloysius graduates is about 68, there are still some who haven’t gotten over losing the Aloysius name.

But the administration has always kept these men in the family through artifacts collected over the decades, and through Sacred Heart Brother Neal Golden’s meticulous chronicles of St. Aloysius sports history.

Halls you’ll never see
We who are born and raised in New Orleans love our high school sports history. I’ve heard the tales (both true and fabled) for decades. These memories need to be preserved as a legacy, as the management at Ye Olde College Inn has done with its prep sports hall of fame.

There is so much history being lost as time moves on:

The landscape of Orleans Parish public schools has changed drastically. Gone are the historic names and pasts of Fortier, Nicholls, John McDonogh, S.J. Peters, Alfred Lawless, Reed. Just Warren Easton and McDonogh 35 remain.

Time was fleeting for Abramson and John F. Kennedy after 2005 until they had a fresh start on the campuses of Sci Academy and Lake Area. And Booker T. Washington is now a KIPP school. 

While St. Bernard Parish  has perpetuated the legacy of its schools, their great athletes and coaches through a hall of fame, Jefferson Parish has nothing significant to keep its past from fading into history.

How many locals remember the original Jefferson Parish public schools or where they were localed? Metairie, Jefferson and Kenner were on the East Bank; Gretna, Marrero and Westwego were on the other side of the river. They gave birth to today’s East Jefferson and West Jefferson.

Many of their legendary  athletes became fixtures in parish politics but have not stepped forward to accomplish what St. Bernard’s fathers had the pride to do.

Preservation of our great past should be at the forefront in such a historic city.

Ron Brocato can be reached at rbrocato@clarionherald.org.

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