Sports

Sunset Jockey Part of 2024 Sports HOF Inductees

Submitted Photograph of the 2023 LA Sorts Writers Hall of Fame Inductees.

NATCHITOCHES – NFL record-setting passer and Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints joins LSU women’s basketball great and eight-time WNBA All-Star Seimone Augustus along with mixed martial arts icon Daniel Cormier of Lafayette in a star-studded nine-member group of 2024 “competitors” ballot inductees chosen for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

The LSHOF 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.

Also elected for induction next year 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 as a rider.

The class also includes retired Grambling baseball coach Wilbert Ellis, the second-ever recipient of the Louisiana Sports Ambassador Award. During his coaching career and since, Ellis has made local, statewide and national impact not only in his sports field but also in other endeavors.

The LSHOF’s Class of 2024 will be enshrined at the Hall of Fame’s home in Natchitoches to culminate the 65th Induction Celebration. The dates for the three-day celebration will be announced soon.

A 40-member Louisiana Sports Writers Association committee selected the 2024 inductees. The panel considered 149 nominees from 28 different sport categories on a 35-page “competitors” ballot.

Also spotlighted next year will be three other Hall of Fame inductees, a winner of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award and two recipients of the 2024 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism presented by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, the parent organization of the Hall of Fame. Those inductees will be announced later this year.

The complete 12-person Class of 2024 will swell the overall membership in the Hall of Fame to 492 men and women – athletes, coaches, administrators and sports media members — honored since its founding in 1958.

The Ambassador Award was created by the Hall’s parent organization, the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, and was first presented to network broadcaster Tim Brando as part of the LSHOF Class of 2020. The award honors long-term exemplary contributions to the perception of Louisiana by an individual who has ties to the state’s sports landscape. The Ambassador Award carries membership in the Hall of Fame. The award is not presented annually, but occasionally, as the Selection Committee chooses, said Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland.


“Throughout his life, as a coach and in many ways since then, Wilbert Ellis has been a tremendous representative of our state and his beloved Grambling State University. Our selection committee believes he is the ideal person to be the second winner of the Ambassador Award as a man who has been nationally prominent in his field while constantly benefiting Louisiana through words and deeds,” said Ireland. “Coach Ellis has bolstered our state’s identity and its well-being.”

Brees overcame questions about his height and arm strength and a devastating shoulder injury to become the league’s all-time leader in several passing categories. A 13-time Pro Bowl pick in a 20-year career, Brees shattered nearly every passing mark for the Saints after joining forces with Sean Payton in March 2006 following five seasons in San Diego.

Together, they made the Saints’ offense one of the league’s most productive over a 15-year period until Brees’ retirement in March 2021. The Saints finished in the top five in points scored 10 times, leading the league in 2008 and 2009, and finished top five in total offense 11 times – taking the top spot six times (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014, 2016) – en route to seven NFC South titles and nine playoff appearances.

A two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, the 2006 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year, a Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year and an Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, Brees led the Saints to three NFC championship games (2006, 2009, 2018) after the franchise had none in its first 39 years of existence. They claimed their only Vince Lombardi trophy with a 31-17 win over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7, 2010, as he earned MVP honors.

Brees once held NFL passing records for yards (80,358), TDs (571), completions (7,142) and attempts (10,551) – all marks that have been surpassed by Tom Brady, who played in 48 more games than Brees. He was the most accurate single-season passer in league history, completing 67.7 percent of his attempts before being surpassed last season by Joe Burrow (68.2 percent). In 2012, Brees threw a touchdown pass in his 48th straight game, breaking the mark of 47 set 52 years earlier by the great Johnny Unitas. The streak reached 54 games before being snapped.

Arguably the greatest women’s basketball player in state history, Augustus played point guard/forward while starring at high school, college and professional levels. The Baton Rouge native was part of three gold medal-winning USA Olympic teams and four WNBA title teams.

Foreshadowing her incredible career, Augustus was on the cover of Sports Illustrated for Women as a high school freshman. LSU unveiled a statue in her honor in January 2023. Augustus led Baton Rouge’s Capitol High to a 138-7 record, with Class 4A titles in 2001 and 2002 and a finals appearance in 1999.  She scored 3,600 points, had 1,728 rebounds and 869 assists, becoming a four-time Class 4A MVP and the LSWA’s Miss Basketball in 2001 and 2002.  She played in the first McDonald’s Girls All-America game, finishing with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

At LSU, Augustus scored 2,702 career points, averaging 19.3 points. 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists over four seasons while leading the Tigers to a 114-17 record and three Final Fours. Augustus was the USBWA National Freshman of the Year in 2003 and swept National Player of the Year awards (Wade, Naismith, Wooden and Honda) in 2005 and 2006.

Augustus was the WNBA’s No. 1 draft pick in 2006 by the Minnesota Lynx and was its Rookie of the Year in 2006.  She won WNBA titles with the Lynx in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017. The 2011 finals MVP, she made the WNBA’s 20th anniversary and 25th anniversary teams. Augustus scored 6,005 career points (tied for 13th in WNBA history), averaging 15.9 points a game for the Lynx and 15.4 overall.

Overseas, Augustus was the Euro Cup MVP in 2009 and led her teams to Euro Cup titles in 2008 and 2009. A member of the U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning teams in 2008, 2012 and 2016, she was inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame (2019).

Cormier is revered as one of the most heralded wrestlers and mixed martial artists ever. He first made a name for himself as a wrestler at Lafayette’s Northside High where he was 101-9 overall, captured three consecutive LHSAA Division I state titles (1995-97) and twice was voted Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament. He won a bronze medal in the World Championships in Greco-Roman Wrestling Cadet (15-16 years old) division.

An all-state football player in high school, he concentrated on wrestling at Colby (Kansas) Community College and posted a 61-0 record, then earned All-America honors in 2001 at Oklahoma State where he went 53-10. He then competed in freestyle wrestling, winning six consecutive gold medals (2003-08) at the USA Wrestling championships.

He competed internationally, capturing the gold medal in 2002 and 2003 at the Pan American Championships, as well as the gold medal at the Pan Am Games in 2003. Cormier was also a member of the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games.

He transitioned to mixed martial arts and began his career in Strikeforce. He won his first 11 bouts, becoming the King of the Cage heavyweight champion and winning the 2012 Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix before joining UFC. He became just the second UFC fighter to hold two divisional titles (light heavyweight and heavyweight) simultaneously and was the first fighter to have title defenses in two divisions. Cormier ranks third all-time in light heavyweight wins and is tied for 10th in heavyweight, compiling a 22-3 record with one no-contest. Cormier is a member of the UFC Hall of Fame (2022) and currently is a combat sports analyst with ESPN and is a commentator for UFC events.

Cormier and Jackson are the first amateur wrestlers elected for LSHOF induction. Ironically, Jackson coached Cormier for Team USA in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games.

An LSU star from 1984-86, Jackson, wrestling in the 82kg (181-pound) freestyle class, became only the second Black wrestler globally to win an Olympic gold medal when he beat Elmadi Zhabrailov of the Unified Team in the 1992 Barcelona Games. Jackson also won swept the gold medals in the 82kg division at the 1991 and ’95 World Championships and Pan Am Games — giving him five major wins in a five-year period. He’s one of only six U.S. men’s freestyle wrestlers to claim at least three career world-level (Olympics/World Championships) titles.

A three-time All-American for LSU before the school dropped the sport, Jackson moved on to national powerhouse Iowa State to finish his career where, after being voted team captain, he won his fourth All-America honor with a runner-up finish in the 167-pound class — helping the Cyclones win the 1987 NCAA title.

He joined the USA Wrestling coaching staff in 2001 and was freestyle coach for the U.S. at the 2004 and 2008 Games when Cael Sanderson (2004) and Henry Cejudo (2008) won gold medals. Jackson also was the primary coach for Brandon Slay, who won Olympic gold in 2000.

Jackson is a member of the FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame, the United States National Wrestling Hall of Fame and was inducted in the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame in September 2019.

As Tulane’s basketball coach from 1989-2000, Clark led the program back from a self-imposed shutdown to three NCAA Tournament appearances in a four-year span — the only three NCAA trips in the program’s history. In 11 seasons at Tulane, Clark compiled a 185-145 (.561) record, had six 20-win seasons, seven postseason appearances (including four NIT berths) and his Green Wave won the 1992 Metro Conference championship (the only conference title in program history). 

Clark was named the 1992 National Coach of the Year (UPI and USBWA) and twice was named Metro Conference Coach of the Year (1991, 1992). He coached the top two scorers in program history (Jerald Honeycutt, Anthony Reed) and three consecutive Metro Freshmen of the Year (Reed, Kim Lewis, Pointer Williams). As an assistant coach at South Carolina, he reached the Final Four in 2017. Inducted in the Tulane Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009, Clark was head coach for four years each at Miami and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and has 304 career wins.

Joseph, a New Iberia native, is considered the top quarterback in McNeese State history, leading the Cowboys to a 43-10 record and a pair of Southland Conference titles. Joseph helped the Cowboys to their first-ever playoff win (1992) and first Division I-AA national semifinal appearance (1995). He threw for 7,874 yards with 67 TDs and had 9,674 yards of total offense.

He was named the SLC Player of the Year and Louisiana Player of the Year in 1995 after leading the Cowboys to a 13-1 overall record and No. 1 national ranking.

In a 19-year pro career, he played as a slotback for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins before winning a World Bowl championship with the NFL Europe’s Rhein Fire in 1998. He later played safety for the Seattle Seahawks before getting a chance to play quarterback as a pro with Ottawa of the Canadian Football League in 2003.

Joseph became just one of three CFL players to exceed 4,000 yards passing (4,466) and 1,000 yards rushing (1,006) in a single season in 2005. He went on to be named a CFL all-star and was the Most Outstanding Player when he helped the Saskatchewan Roughriders win the Grey Cup in 2007. Joseph was inducted into the McNeese Sports Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Roughriders Hall of Honour in 2019.

Monica spent a half-century coaching football and baseball in Louisiana before announcing his retirement in January 2021 following 30 seasons as a head high school football coach at Lutcher, Riverside Academy, Jesuit and St. Charles Catholic, where the field is named for him. Monica compiled a football record of 284-91 with state titles at Lutcher (1978), Riverside (1983) and St. Charles (2011)

Inducted into the Louisiana High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2019 after a 24-year stint at St. Charles, Monica guided the Comets to 12 state semifinals appearances and six state finals berths. He also spent 12 seasons over two stints as an assistant coach at Tulane. He was the baseball team captain and starting third baseman for the 1970 Nicholls State squad that reached the Division II College World Series championship game.

Sibille retired from racing in 2004 after a 35-year career that saw him record 4,264 wins, the first of which came at Evangeline Downs in July 1969 after honing his craft on the Louisiana bush tracks. He is one of an impressive 15 state jockeys – most from the Acadiana region — who rank among the sport’s 80 all-time who have at least 4,000 career wins.  His mounts won $68,880,807.

A year after his retirement, he was selected by his peers nationally as the winner of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, which is given annually for career achievements and personal character that reflect positively on the sport of thoroughbred racing. Sibille won the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 1988 aboard Great Communicator. He made his name at some of the nation’s top midwest tracks in the 1970s, winning riding titles at Arlington Park, Hawthorne and Sportsman’s Park. He had 105 wins at Sportsman’s Park in 1981, which was a record that stood until 1992.

Ellis, a 2006 American Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame inductee, is nationally regarded as one of the country’s finest representatives of college baseball, and beloved by Grambling alumni for his expansive yet now unofficial role at the university. Ellis spent 30 seasons as the Tigers’ head coach and a grand total of 43, including as assistant coach, for the Grambling baseball program.

He retired in 2003 after posting a 743-463-1 record with three Southwestern Athletic Conference titles, five SWAC Western Division crowns and three NCAA Tournament appearances. Ellis was Grambling’s second baseball coach after serving as an assistant to program founder Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones,

He has been a trusted advisor for generations of presidents, athletic directors and coaches at Grambling, and in community and governmental affairs. Ellis was instrumental in the establishment of the Eddie G. Robinson Museum in Grambling, and the school’s Grambling Legends sports hall of fame. He still conducts baseball clinics for kids in Lincoln Parish and serves as an NCAA Regional site supervisor.

The 2024 Induction Class will be showcased in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum. The facility is operated by the Louisiana State Museum system in a partnership with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.

The striking 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.

The nine new competitive ballot inductees will raise the total of Hall of Fame members to 386 athletes and coaches honored since the first induction class — baseball’s Mel Ott, world champion boxer Tony Canzoneri and LSU football great Gaynell Tinsley — was enshrined in 1959 after their election a year earlier.

The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame already includes 25 Pro Football Hall of Fame members, 18 Olympic medalists including 11 gold medal winners, 12 members of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, seven of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players, seven National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, 42 College Football Hall of Fame members, nine National High School Hall of Fame enshrinees, jockeys with a combined 16 Triple Crown victories, six world boxing champions, nine Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinees, seven College Baseball Hall of Fame inductees,  10 College Basketball Hall of Fame members, four NBA Finals MVPs, four winners of major professional golf championships, five National Museum of (Thoroughbred) Racing and Hall of Fame inductees and three Super Bowl MVPs.

Biographical information on all 480 current Hall of Fame members is available at the LaSportsHall.com website, and a steady stream of info is available at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Facebook page and the @LaSportsHall X (formerly Twitter) account.

The 2024 Induction Celebration will kick off with a press conference and reception. The three-day festivities include two receptions, a free youth sports clinic, a bowling party, and a riverbank concert in Natchitoches. Tickets for the Induction Ceremony, along with congratulatory advertising and sponsorship opportunities, will be available through the LaSportsHall.com website once the induction celebration dates are announced.

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 2024 Induction Celebration 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.  

For updates on the 2024 Induction Celebration, use this link:

lasportshall.com/InductionInfo 


RAY SIBILLE — He retired from racing in 2004 after a 35-year career that saw him record 4,264 wins, the first of which came at Evangeline Downs in July 1969 after honing his craft on the Louisiana bush tracks. His mounts won $68,880,807. A year after his retirement, he was selected as the winner of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, which is given annually by Santa Anita Park for career achievements and personal character that reflect positively on themselves as well as the sport of thoroughbred racing. Sibille, who had to retire from racing at the age of 52 because of hip and back problems, won the Breeders Cup Turf in 1988 aboard Great Communicator. He made his name at some of the nation’s top Midwest tracks in the 1970s, winning riding titles at Arlington Park, Hawthorne and Sportsman’s Park, He had 105 wins at Sportsman’s Park in 1981, which was a record that stood until 1992. Sibille, the brother-in-law of jockey Pat Day, won his 4,000th race in 2000 at that same track. A 31-year member of the Jockey’s Guild, he served on its board of directors as well as on the financial committee. … Born 9-13-1952 in Sunset.