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Class of '24 Profile: Distinguished Service Award winner Bobby Ardoin






Ardoin’s genetics provided gift for writing, and his versatility made him legendary

 

 By GLENN QUEBEDEAUX

Written for the LSWA

 

It really is no surprise that Bobby Ardoin was destined from birth to be a journalist — and an award-winning one at that!

 

After all, as Ardoin recently discovered, it was in his DNA all along.

 

“I was adopted as a baby and I didn’t discover my biological mother and family until fairly recently; and when I did, my elderly biological mother told me that my step-sister was an editor at a trade magazine, two of my uncles had co-authored three books and my niece is teaching creative writing on the university level,” Ardoin said of his long, award-winning writing career — one that has led to him being honored by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association with the 2024 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism.

 

Ardoin and fellow scribe Ron Higgins will be enshrined during the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Natchitoches on June 22. For participation information on the June 20-22 Induction Celebration, visit LaSportsHall.com.

 

The honor, voted upon by a 40-person board from around the state, is the highest distinction that can be bestowed upon a Louisiana sportswriter. The two will have their names etched into the LSHOF, joining only 73 other leading figures in Louisiana sports journalism history.

 

“When I found out from my mother about my family’s history, it all came together, me having a talent for writing,” said Ardoin.

 

And what a talent it has been — and not just for writing sports.

 

Ardoin has become an Acadiana and St. Landry Parish icon for his coverage of a smorgasbord of events from Pee Wee football and baseball to a number of college and professional sports, including Sugar Bowls and Super Bowls and the New Orleans Saints, along with hard news dealing with school boards, city and parish councils to political corruption cases and murder trials.

 

Oh, and years of covering the Louisiana Ice Gators hockey team.

 

“That was some of the most fun times in my career,” he said about covering the Ice Gators and their rabid fans.

 

His career has spanned 50 years and counting.

 

And he's done it for the most part while being a full-time English teacher at Opelousas High School, surviving a major heart attack and battling Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and the total loss of sight in his left eye.

 

“Bobby’s a throwback, doing things in a comprehensive way and always trying to get the job done the right way,” said Acadiana Advocate sportswriter and friend Kevin Foote.

 

“With the (physical) issues he’s had, most writers wouldn’t have continued on like he has, doing it as well as he has, and I’ve always appreciated that in Bobby.”

 

Foote's sentiments are shared by many of his colleagues, including former University of Southwestern Louisiana sports information director Dan McDonald, who has had a front-row seat to Ardoin's career over the last 40-plus years.

 

"With Bobby, it didn't matter what the subject was or how important a game was, you could count on him to produce really good copy, whether it was a high school junior varsity game or a college conference championship game," said McDonald.

 

Ardoin was finally able to devote 100% of his time to his writing skills, after years as a correspondent mostly for publications like The Opelousas Daily World, Baton Rouge State-Times, Baton Rouge Advocate, New Iberia Daily Iberian, St. Martinville Teche News, Lafayette Advertiser and a host of other outlets.

 

His talents haven't been limited to just writing, either.

 

Ardoin has also worked as a writer/producer, videographer and daily news anchor for OWL television in Opelousas (1988-90) and, most recently, was co-host of a popular, award-winning sports talk show in Lafayette called Five Guys (Stories and Lies).

 

Today, Ardoin, is a co-owner and lead writer for the website St. Landry Now and continues to do freelance work for other newspapers.

 

“It’s been a great ride,” said Ardoin, who recently turned 76 and still works diligently each day to keep St. Landry Parish residents up to date on every aspect of life (news and sports) in and around Opelousas.

 

So when did it all start?

 

After high school, Ardoin began his career as sports editor for the Northwestern State student newspaper, the Current Sauce, in 1966 before moving back home and finishing college at USL in Lafayette (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette).

 

His professional career began in 1972, when he joined the staff of another DSA winner, Roger Brandt, at the Opelousas Daily World, where he worked as a correspondent, covering high school sports in St. Landry and Evangeline Parishes, the USL Ragin’ Cajuns, occasional LSU sports and horse racing at Evangeline Downs among others.

 

"Roger (Brandt) was the key to my success and my career," said Ardoin of his former boss, who went on to become a powerful force in the LSWA. "His innovation in makeup, headlines, using agate, and taking on controversial issues all influenced me over the course of my career."

 

Ardoin recalls a special moment when he overheard a heated conversation between Brandt and fiery USL basketball coach Beryl Shipley, now a member of the LSHOF, over Brandt's coverage of the investigation of Shipley’s troubled and extremely talented basketball teams in the early 1970s.

 

It was a volatile time in USL athletic history and it led to the Cajuns basketball team receiving the NCAA’s death penalty for three years.

 

"I was in the office when Roger got the call from coach Shipley after Roger had written a column on the NCAA's impending decision," said Ardoin, recalling that Brandt had opened the column with a brutally hard-hitting lead: ' "Yes, Virginia, it's time for the hanging!'

 

"Beryl was so upset; he threatened to run Roger out of Blackham Coliseum if he (Brandt) ever attempted to cover a game."

 

Of course, that didn't happen. The NCAA levied its harsh penalty and the basketball team was disbanded.

 

When the Cajuns' basketball program was resurrected in 1975 with new coach Jim Hatfield, Ardoin was assigned to be the paper's USL beat writer, a position he's held with numerous publications even to this day.

 

"That (incident in office) was like my baptism to journalism," said Ardoin, who over the course of his career has famously told colleagues after such incidents as the Brandt-Shipley confrontation: "That's going in the book."

 

Of course, journalists in Acadiana are still waiting for "the book."

 

"I always remind him that he's said that hundreds of times, and we haven't seen a page yet," said Glenn Quebedeaux, a friend of Ardoin's since they began their sports writing careers.

 

"If he ever did write that book, it would be a best seller. I mean, I know a lot of the things he's talking about and it's a lot of stuff that we, as writers, haven't written for one reason or another. But the stories, like some he told on Five Guys (Stories and Lies), were things the average reader has no idea of. Now, he can talk about them … the statute of limitations are over.'

 

Ardoin credits not only Brandt as a powerful influence, but also a number of other journalists, coaches and sports information directors for the success he's enjoyed. A few, like long-time friend and photographer Fred Herpin and the late J.C. Hatcher stand out, as do two coaches that he's covered — the late-USL football coach Nelson Stokley and former LSU basketball coach Dale Brown — and the Christian Brothers (his teachers) at the all-boys school at The Academy of the Immaculate Conception, now Opelousas Catholic.

 

"Fred (Herpin) has been a lifetime friend and been my photographer at three different stops," he said. "And J.C. (Hatcher). was like a second father to me when he was The Advocate Lafayette Bureau chief; he taught me a lot and I get emotional every time I think of him."

 

As for Stokley and Brown:

 

"Nelson was the most accessible coach I ever covered and just a great person," he said. "I remember after home games, I'd be one of the last to leave the press box and when I got down in the parking lot, Nelson would be down there with some friends, having just finished his press conference and meeting with his team. He and his friends would be having a couple of beers and just having fun and they'd ask me to join them. That’s where I got all my quotes and information for my Monday follow-ups.

 

"Today, that doesn't happen. Plus, he was always helpful and accessible."

 

"And Dale (Brown), I covered LSU basketball, too, and he, too, was so helpful. I remember he came to Opelousas High to give a speech one day and afterward, he came to console me because he had heard that my father had died two days earlier. I never forgot that.”

 

The Christian Brothers, Ardoin said, were instrumental in the fact that they discovered his talent while in high school after reading some of Ardoin's short stories in the school's literary magazine and his critiques of classic literature for his English class.

 

"They were the first to see the potential in me and encouraged me to pursue writing," he said.

 

Ardoin's career wasn't just filled with Xs and Os and Jims and Joes, as coaches love to say. Or covering politics, police beats, whatever.

 

He's also a hero.

 

And it happened as only it could with him. It was the night he "saved a man's life."

 

He can't recall the year, but it happened on a cold, cold night at Cajun Field after Ardoin had socialized with Stokley and friends following a USL game.

 

The place was virtually deserted.

 

As was Ardoin's postgame routine, he would check around the stadium, collecting aluminum cans to sell to benefit his students at Opelousas High.

 

That's just Bobby.

 

"I remember that as I approached a big tailgating tent, I saw a guy laid out on the ground," he said. "No one else was around and it was cold. I went up to him and reached down to see if he had a pulse. He did.

 

"I hurried to a group of RVs that were still in the parking lot and I got some help. They got him to University Medical Center across the street, still unconscious. I heard later that the guy survived and that he had raided the liquor stash of earlier partygoers and basically drank himself into a coma with the purloined booze."

 

Yes, it's been a long, eventful career, for sure.

 

As Ardoin put as a headline for his biography to use with this article: "From typewriters, telecopiers, Port-A-Bubbles and Natchitoches to Twitter and the Internet."

 

He should have added "and back to Natchitoches!"

 

And that should go "in the book!"

 

Glenn Quebedeaux is a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee as the 2015 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism. The retired Crowley resident still does some freelance writing in south Louisiana.

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