Local News Sports People & Places

Ardoin, Higgins Selected For Distinguished Service Award

Bobby Ardoin, Editor | Consulting Writer

For immediate release from LaSportsHall.com

NATCHITOCHES – Two versatile and acclaimed sports writers, Opelousas’ Bobby Ardoin and Ron Higgins of Baton Rouge, have been selected for the 2024 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.

The duo will be inducted in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame June 22, LSWA president Raymond Partsch III and Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland announced Wednesday.

This year’s recipient of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award, to be announced Thursday, will complete the Class of 2024.

Ardoin and Higgins began their decorated sports writing careers in the 1970s and are still producing compelling content today, having made the shift from newspaper to online publications. Ardoin, an Opelousas resident, is the backbone of St. Landry Now. Baton Rouge native and resident Higgins covers LSU for the Journal Services network, including the Shreveport-Bossier Journal and Rapides Parish Journal.

Both have written for a variety of state publications and dabbled in broadcast journalism while covering professional, college, amateur and high school sports since their teenage years, and have amassed a wide array of honors.

Ardoin’s broad-based and impactful career is rooted in Cajun country, while Higgins has worked around the state and beyond, earning enshrinement in the Tennessee Sportswriters Hall of Fame and serving a term as president of the Football Writers Association of America – the only Louisiana native to do so.

The DSA honor, to be made official this summer in Natchitoches, means Ardoin and Higgins will be among an elite 12-person Class of 2024 being inducted in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. They were selected from a 28-person pool of outstanding nominees for the state’s top sports journalism honor.

The Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism recipients are chosen by the 40-member Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame selection committee based on nominees’ professional accomplishments in local, state, regional and even national circles, with leadership in the LSWA as a beneficial factor and three decades of work in the profession as a requirement.

Distinguished Service Award winners are enshrined in the Hall of Fame along with the 479 current athletes, sports journalists, coaches and administrators chosen since 1959. Just 73 leading figures in the state’s sports media have been honored with the Distinguished Service Award since its inception 41 years ago in 1982.

Ardoin and Higgins will be among the 2024 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Class to be spotlighted in the annual Induction Ceremony on Saturday evening, June 22, at the Natchitoches Events Center. The Induction Ceremony culminates the 2024 Induction Celebration beginning Thursday afternoon, June 20, with a press conference followed by a public kickoff reception in the Hall of Fame museum at 800 Front Street in Natchitoches.

The Class of 2024 is headlined by a star-studded group of nine inductees from the LSHOF “competitors ballot,” led by national sports celebrities Drew Brees, Seimone Augustus and Daniel Cormier.

Brees, the New Orleans Saints’ NFL record-setting passer and Super Bowl XLIV MVP, brings incredible credentials. He’s not alone at the top of his game: joining him in the Class of 2024 are two homegrown greats — Augustus, a Baton Rouge native who is one of women’s basketball’s all-time best, and Cormier, the Lafayette born-and-raised Olympic wrestler who became and remains one of the top figures in MMA.

The Class of 2024 also includes 1992 Olympic wrestling gold medalist Kevin Jackson, a former LSU All-American, along with Perry Clark, who guided Tulane basketball to unprecedented success in the 1990s, and McNeese football great Kerry Joseph, who had a 19-year pro career.

Also elected for induction in June are high school football coach Frank Monica, who won state titles at three different south Louisiana schools, and Ray Sibille, a Breeders’ Cup-winning thoroughbred jockey from Sunset who ranks among the nation’s elite riders.

This year’s class also includes Grambling’s Wilbert Ellis, who becomes the second-ever recipient of the Louisiana Sports Ambassador Award. During his 43-year baseball coaching career and since, Ellis has made local, statewide and national impact not only in his sports field but also in other endeavors.

The new inductees will be showcased in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum, operated by the Louisiana State Museum system in a partnership with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. The striking $23 million, two-story, 27,500-square foot structure faces Cane River Lake in the National Historic Landmark District of Natchitoches and has garnered worldwide architectural acclaim and rave reviews for its contents since its grand opening during the 2013 Hall of Fame induction weekend.“

“Respected and revered are the two words that immediately spring to mind when thinking about our latest DSA winners Bobby Ardoin and Ron Higgins,” said Partsch, the LSWA president. “These are two individuals who have been covering sports in this great state for five decades and counting. From high school sports to national championships and Super Bowls, these two have seen it all and have covered it all better than most.

“But it is more than the personal accolades and awards that both have piled up with ease over the decades, it is about what they have done behind the scenes. From Bobby balancing his time as a full-time reporter while also serving as an educator for decades, to Ron mentoring dozens of young sports journalists, these two have served this state in more ways than one.

“We are extremely blessed to have Bobby and Ron help tell our state’s legendary sports history.

There is no better way to honor these two worthy individuals, and their tireless work over the

decades, than having them inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.”

Ardoin has been tirelessly working the sidelines of high school and collegiate sports for more

than five decades, and his byline has appeared routinely in some of the state’s biggest and most

respected newspapers. His impact has been far-reaching around Acadiana, and particularly in

Opelousas and nearby communities.

The Eunice native began his career as sports editor for the Northwestern State student newspaper, The Current Sauce, and finished college close to home at UL Lafayette.

In 1972, Ardoin’s professional career took off as he served as sports writer for the Opelousas Daily World, covering high school sports in both St. Landry and Evangeline parishes, as well as the New Orleans Saints, LSU basketball, UL Lafayette (then USL) football, multiple Sugar Bowls and horse racing at nearby Evangeline Downs.

From 1984 to 1987, Ardoin worked for St. Landry Today, then a bi-weekly newspaper in Opelousas where he first served as associate editor of the paper and then as sports editor, in which he covered high schools, New Orleans Saints, LSU and racing at Evangeline Downs.

After that iteration of St. Landry Today closed its doors, Ardoin made the transition to cable television as he worked from 1988-1990 as a sports and news writer, producer, videographer and daily news anchor for OWL Television in Opelousas.

Bobby Ardoin

During this period, Ardoin also served as a sports correspondent for the Baton Rouge States Times, where he wrote stories on area high school sports and USL.

Ardoin also began serving as a sports correspondent for The Daily Iberian from 1989 to 1998 covering high school sports, LSU football and basketball and the New Orleans Saints.

From 1990 to 2016, Ardoin also served as a sports and news correspondent for The Advocate covering high schools, UL Lafayette athletics, LSU-Eunice and Evangeline Downs. For the news department, Ardoin covered parish and municipal governments as well as writing general features. Ardoin even served as interim bureau chief for The Acadiana Advocate in 2007.

Ardoin reconnected to his roots in 2013 as he returned to The Daily World as the sports editor covering high schools in St. Landry Parish, as well as LSU-Eunice and Ragin’ Cajun athletics. He’s now back with a reborn StLandryNow.com, which has evolved into a vibrant online publication, and is almost a one-man band, covering news as well.

In addition to his 50-plus years as a journalist, Ardoin also worked as a full-time teacher beginning at Amy Bradford Ware High in Opelousas (1971-74) to the ensuing 39 years spent at Opelousas High School where he taught English, social studies, journalism and served as the school newspaper advisor. As an educator, he was a major influence to author and national award-winning sports journalist John Ed Bradley.

Ardoin has received numerous honors for his work, including 27 first or second place writing awards presented by the LSWA, Louisiana Press Association, UPI and AP. He was named the LSWA’s Prep Writer of The Year in 1982. Ardoin also won three separate State Education Writer of the Year Awards presented by the Louisiana Association of Educators, and was named Teacher of the Year at Opelousas High three times.

Higgins has carried on the sports journalism of his late father — former LSU sports information director Carl “Ace” Higgins.

A native of Baton Rouge and a 1979 LSU graduate, Higgins has written for seven newspapers, three online websites and a magazine in four states during a sports writing career that now spans six decades.

The man nicknamed “Mad Dog” has won more than 190 state, regional and national writing awards including more than 85 first places won while working for the Shreveport TimesShreveport JournalBaton Rouge AdvocateNew Orleans Times-PicayuneMemphis Commercial AppealMobile Press-Register, Jackson Clarion-LedgerTigerDetails.com and Tiger Rag Magazine/TigerRag.com.

Though his first official full-time writing job was with Tiger Rag Magazine, Higgins began writing short reports on American Legion summer baseball and BREC summer softball for the Baton Rouge Advocate when he was eight years old. He got his first bylines covering high school games for the Baton Rouge Advocate when he was 14 years old.

Higgins won his first LSWA first place award in 1980 as a 24-year old correspondent for the Baton Rouge Advocate with a deadline news story as the only person to talk with Greg Williams just hours after the LSU assistant coach had put head coach Bo Rein on a plane in Shreveport which flew off course and crashed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Higgins was honored by the National Sports Media Association as Writer of the Year in Tennessee in 2001 and Writer of the Year in Louisiana in 2015. In 2008 while working for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, he served as president of the Football Writers Association of America.

Higgins co-founded the Tennessee Sports Writers Association with Natchitoches native Jimmy Hyams in the late 1980s and eventually was 10-time Tennessee Sportswriter of the Year. He was inducted into the Tennessee Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 2011.

Higgins has covered three Super Bowls, 18 men’s Final Fours, three women’s Final Fours, three Summer Olympics, 70 bowl games including seven national championship games, one NBA Finals, 12 NBA playoff series, three NBA All-Star Games, 20 PGA Tour events, a heavyweight championship fight (Tyson-Lewis) as well as several seasons of Class AA minor league baseball, the Arena Football League, the AFL2 and four minor league pro basketball franchises.

A longtime Heisman Trophy voter, Higgins is a frequent guest on sports radio talk shows and occasional TV shows from Hawaii to New York and is the author of six books. He has become a background actor in numerous movies and TV shows shot in south Louisiana and has mentored and helped many young writers find jobs.

The 2024 Induction Celebration will kick off Thursday, June 20, with a press conference and reception. The three-day festivities include two receptions, a youth sports clinic, a bowling party, and a Friday night riverbank concert in Natchitoches. Tickets for the Saturday night, June 22 Induction Ceremony, along with congratulatory advertising and sponsorship opportunities, are available through the LaSportsHall.com website.

Anyone can receive quarterly e-mails about the 2024 Induction Celebration and other Hall of Fame news by signing up on the LaSportsHall.com website.

The Induction Celebration weekend will be hosted by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, the support organization for the Hall of Fame. The LSHOF Foundation was established as a 501 c 3 non-profit entity in 1975 and is governed by a statewide board of directors. For information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Foundation President/CEO Ronnie Rantz at 225-802-6040 or RonnieRantz@LaSportsHall.com. Standard and customized sponsorships are available.