Rotary Club Hosts Sportswriter Doug Ireland

“I AM a sports fanatic,” confirmed Doug Ireland, former assistant athletic director/sports information director at Northwestern State University, after his introduction as such to the Winnfield Rotary Club by Rotarian of the Day, Thomas Little. Ireland also served as the first sports information director at ULL (Southwestern Louisiana University at the time) and was an award-winning sportswriter for the Alexandria Town Talk.  He has been chairman of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame since 1991.

Mr. Ireland grew up as a sports fanatic in Jonesboro, and he spoke fondly of his memories of his high school football career and the longstanding fierce rivalry between the Winnfield and Jonesboro football teams. He recalled Jonesboro playing the first overtime game in Louisiana high school football history against Winnfield in his senior year in 1976, in which official time ended with a 0-0 tie, and Jonesboro went on to score and win the game in the first overtime period.

In discussing what makes Winnfield special to him, Ireland also mentioned that, when Jonesboro made the playoffs that same year and Winnfield did not, the Winnfield coach scouted for Jonesboro through the playoffs. Winnfield is also special to him because of Jane Purser, whom he met at a camp he attended at Louisiana Tech. Ireland said Mrs. Purser was working at the camp, and had a significant influence on what he became. Another person who makes Winnfield special to him is Thomas Little, whom he met while he was NSU’s sports information director and Thomas was playing football for Northwestern, as well as playing guitar with a band.

Ireland has been steering the LSHF for over 30 years now. “I was asked to take over the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame when I was 29 years old,” says Ireland. “The goal since the very beginning has been to get a museum building in which to house the Hall of Fame.” In the early years of the Hall of Fame, the collection of LSHF paraphernalia, which grew with each year of new inductions, was housed on the NSU campus. Finally, in 2013, that goal was realized when the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Museum of Northwest Louisiana was completed and the collection moved to that location.

At the time of its erection, the museum was named the Number 1 new architectural project in the world. “People from all over the world come to see our museum,” which houses the LSHF collection as well as collections related to the history and culture of Northwest Louisiana. In talking about the Hall of Fame, Ireland rattles off familiar names one after the other, Billy Cannon, John David Crowe, Sheila Thompson Johnson, Joe Bill Adcock, Archie Manning and others. He mentions others who are not household names, but were outstanding in their areas of expertise, such as T. Berry Porter, a PRCA cowboy from Leesville, Louisiana, who won the 1948 PRCA championship in New York City among other rodeo competitions over a number of years. He is the cowboy swinging a lariat we see on the pocket of Wrangler jeans. 

The LSHF has an induction celebration each summer when athletes are formally inducted. The reception is free of charge, and admission to the museum, which is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., is only $6. Among those being inducted next summer the weekend of July 27-29, 2023, are Eli Manning, Alana Beard of the WNBA, Ron Washington of professional baseball fame, LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri, and Walter Imahara, a featherweight weightlifter who attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now ULL) and was NCAA champion in 1957, 1959, and 1960, and National Masters champion from 1980 to 2005 when he retired from competition.

“The great thing about the induction ceremony and reception on Thursday night is that fans get to sit and visit with the inductees during the reception,” says Ireland. Every athlete mentioned by Ireland was said to be gracious and friendly to fans, and down to earth. An opportunity to meet them in person should not be missed.

We should all mark our calendars to visit the museum one day soon, and to attend the induction ceremony and reception next July 27-29. The meeting was adjourned with the customary Rotary motto, “Service above self!”