Photograph: Johnny Suydam
LAKE CHARLES – Longtime McNeese Cowboy coach and radio broadcaster, Johnny Suydam, passed away on Sunday night in a local care facility. He was 80-years-old.
Born on October 26, 1942 in Birmingham, Alabama, Suydam grew up in Lake Charles and was known for his caring nature, generosity, and boundless compassion. His quick wit, intelligence, and magnetic personality endeared him to all who knew him.
A 1966 graduate of McNeese, Suydam played baseball for the Cowboys, and from 1970-1973, served as a graduate assistant and then as head coach from 1977-1979, earning the Southland Conference Coach of the Year honors as well as guiding the Cowboys to a then-school record 34 wins that same season.
He spent the 1977-79 seasons in a dual role as baseball head coach and football assistant coach, relinquishing his baseball duties to concentrate on football. He later went on to oversee the operation of the Burton Coliseum, which at the time was administered by McNeese State University.
He joined the Cowboys’ football broadcast booth in 1996 until his retirement in 2019, spending 20 of those seasons with Tom Hoefer, who currently is in his 24th season as the Voice of the Cowboys.
“Johnny was a true Cowboy who bled blue and gold,” said Hoefer. “He loved our athletes and our fans and he dedicated his life to our university. I will miss his unique sense of humor, his adapt analysis on our broadcasts and mostly, his friendship.”
One of the players he coached on the Cowboy football team is current McNeese President Dr. Daryl Burckel, who was an All-American linebacker for the Cowboys from 1977-80.
“Johnny was one of a kind,” said Burckel. “He bled blue and gold and had a distinguished career as a McNeese coach, broadcaster and administrator. He was beloved and a great friend. McNeese lost a great ambassador this week.”
Louis Bonnette, who had a 46-year career as McNeese’s Sports Information Director, watched Suydam advance from his playing days up until his retirement.
“Johnny was McNeese through and through, from when he first joined the university as a baseball player and student and then through his years as the baseball team coach, assistant coach with the football team and an exceptional recruiter, on to his time as the director of Burton Coliseum and the many years he spent as the color announcer on radio during football games,” said Bonnette. “He was instrumental in many endeavors at the university, being a member of the initial committee that was formed when the school’s athletic Hall of Fame was founded.
“If it was for McNeese, he was always a very willing worker.”
Suydam prepped at LaGrange High School where he was an all-around athlete, lettering in football, baseball and basketball. At McNeese he lettered three years in baseball as a catcher.
After graduating from McNeese, Suydam entered the coaching ranks and handled assistant positions at Sulphur and Bolton High (Alexandria) and was also head coach at Oak Park Junior High in Lake Charles.
Johnny’s funeral will be held on Friday, October 5, 2023, at 1:30 PM in the Johnson Funeral Home Chapel, located at 4321 Lake Street in Lake Charles. Doug Ezel will serve as Officiant, and burial will follow in Highland Memory Gardens Cemetery in Lake Charles under the direction of Johnson Funeral Home.
Summer months during his prep coaching career he spent as an American Legion baseball coach, leading his squads into the regional and state playoffs.
Suydam was also a talented artist and designed numerous decals for the university, one of which (Cowboy hat on the M) was used as the official logo for the athletic teams up until the late 1980s.
Visitation will begin at the funeral home on Thursday evening, October 4, 2023, from 4:00 p.m. and continue until 8:00 p.m. Visitation will resume on Friday at 11:30 a.m and continue until the start of the service at 1:30 p.m.
He is survived by his niece, Lees Young; his nephew, Glen Haggart; his great nephews, Ben Howard (Dylan LaPointe) and Dillan Reed (Brittany); his great niece, Hollie Howard (Kris); his great, great nieces, Kenlie Howard, Quinn Howard, and Claire Miller; and his great, great nephews, Kaden Howard, Jax Howard, Elliott Reed, Lane Reed, and Theo Hyatt.
Johnny was preceded in death by his parents and his sister, Judith Reynolds.
The family extends special thanks to Heart of Hospice, Christy Jeffels, RN, and Lake Charles Care Center for their exceptional care and love for Johnny. They truly cherished their coach.