Centennial Video Script (Highlights of First Century)
Four different names . . . .
Different mascots . . . .
Uniforms . . . .
Equipment . . . .
Athletes and coaches . . . .
An athletic program undergoes many changes in a century, especially in its first 100 years, but some things don't change. One that hasn't -- a continuing tradition of excellence and a commitment to continued excellence at the University of Louisiana's Lafayette campus.
Some of those athletes have been swifter . . . .
Some have been stronger . . . .
Some have gone higher . . . .
But the thousands who have worn the red and white have shared a bond . . . built a family . . . and made up an exclusive club that has brought honor, distinction and untold glory to their university.
Each and every one of the university's sports programs knows the thrill of success, and there have been many … some dating all the way to the earliest days of the century when Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute fielded its first intercollegiate football team.
That squad set a standard for all teams since. It still holds the distinction as the university's only undefeated, untied sports team.
Such perfection is the goal of all athletes and coaches, and many who have worn the uniforms of S-L-I-I, S-L-I, U-S-L and U-L have accomplished great things in that quest , while at the same time providing fans and followers with many memorable moments … a century of memories.
The university's athletic century began with football, that most American of intercollegiate sports.
The 1908 football team is generally recognized as the first athletic team to represent the school, and that team went through its first season undefeated while shutting out four of its six opponents.
For many, though, football came of age the day that Christian Keener Cagle hit the campus. He was known as “Red", but it didn't take long before he picked up many more nicknames.
The “Louisiana Jackrabbit" was one of college football's first true game-breakers, and he ran over, around and through opposing defenses in leading his Bulldog teams to 20 wins and only seven losses in his final three years.
Cagle went from S-L-I to West Point, where he became a standout for Army and was named the Helms Foundation's national Player of the Year. A few years later, that award would get a new name – the Heisman Trophy.
Others became legends in their times. “The Seven Oaks of Southwestern" brought acclaim to the program, and the 1938 squad had the nation's best record for most of that season.
The school went bowling in 1943 during the height of World War Two, when a military influx brought many new faces, and some great athletes, to the campus. That year's team, featuring budding legend Alvin Dark, is regarded as one of the South's best-ever football squads, winning the Oil Bowl in Houston.
A bowl invitation came again in 1970, when the U-S-L team played in the Grantland Rice Bowl, and a decade later the university moved into the N-C-A-A's highest classification . . . setting the stage for many great moments near the end of the century.
Football was not the only measure of greatness for the university's athletes and its athletic program in its early years. Far from it, in fact.
Many laced up the gloves and earned honor in the ring in a highly-successful boxing program that was recognized as one of the nation's elite. National heavyweight champion Louie Campbell was one of several titlists.
Later, other sports emerged. National champions in weight-lifting, including such notables as Walter Imhara, and trampoline, where Leigh Hennessey reigned supreme, wore the red and white.
Bulldog golfers won back-to-back national team titles in 1966 and 1967, and Cajun tennis teams compiled a string of conference titles, national rankings and All-American players – not to mention at least one eventual U.S. Senator.
If the century line makes a complete circle, then it is a basketball that fills that circle. The tradition of Bulldog and Ragin' Cajun basketball runs deep, and includes some of the greatest moments in the university's history.
Those moments include a 1929 Southern Intercollegiate championship, when the Bulldog team – whose only gym was a dining hall with goals mounted on each wall – rolled past many of the South's biggest and most heralded schools to claim its first recognized title.
Long-time coach “Dutch" Reinhardt, a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, coached for most of three decades and guided the program into a period of greatness over the last half-century.
Beryl Shipley came to Acadiana to coach in 1957, and after a decade of college-division success, basketball became the talk of the town.
With great players like Dean Church, Jerry Flake and Marvin Winkler, it was hoops that put the school on the country's athletic map.
That, and a man named “Bo."
Dwight “Bo" Lamar arrived at Blackham Coliseum without fanfare, and proceeded to capture the imagination of basketball fans everywhere with his long-range shooting and his wide-open style. All he did was lead the country in scoring twice, becoming the only player in N-C-A-A history to pace both the college and university divisions in his career.
Lamar led the Cajuns to a top 10 ranking in his junior and senior seasons, ranking as high as fourth in the country while winning 49 games in those two years. Sports Illustrated magazine picked the Cajuns as a potential Final Four team during Lamar's senior season.
The biggest impact on the professional level by a former Cajun came from Andrew Toney, who helped put the program back into the national limelight in the late 70's. That tradition continues, with the Cajuns making five N-C-A-A and three N-I-T appearances in the last two decades.
Many of the school's greatest athletes have found their success on the track oval, and most showed their abilities at the Southwestern Relays, which ranked for decades among the nation's most prestigious track and field carnivals.
Early track stars such as hurdler Johnny Morriss and triple jumper Dudley Wilkins, the school's first Olympian, paved the way for the later success of Hall of Famer Harold Porter, one of the nation's top sprinters.
At the end of the decade, though, it was the aerial exploits of Hollis Conway that grabbed headlines. The high-jumping Conway leaped into the national spotlight, winning Olympic medals in both 1988 and 1992.
Since then, Cajun teams have won 18 conference track championships, a tradition that continues proudly into a new century.
Dreams of such success are not limited to the male half of the university family. Women took part in athletic competition during the early years of S-L-I's existence, but, just like across the rest of the nation, nobody paid much attention.
That all changed on the campus in the last quarter-century … from zero to eight sanctioned women's sports, and the female half of the program started making a name for itself.
Athletes like tennis star Meg Scopes, the first female athletic scholarship recipient at the school, and Kim Perrot, women's basketball's national scoring leader in 1990 and later a standout professional, brought much-needed recognition to the program.
However, it was not until the final decade of the century that the Cajuns made a national splash in women's athletics, and it was a high-powered Lady Cajun softball program that made those waves. The Cajuns were the nation's third-winningest program of the 90's and made three trips to the College World Series.
Diamond success is nothing new in the Cajun program. Baseball was a part of campus life before World War I but disappeared during depression times. When the program returned, it included players like Glynn Abel, one of the greatest athletes to ever wear red and white.
A slightly-built Cajun kid from Carencro came along later, but it was mostly after his college career that “Louisiana Lightning" became famous to the nation's baseball fans. Ron Guidry became the most heralded pitcher of his day, guiding the New York Yankees to world championships.
With that kind of kick-start, the Cajuns reached the NCAA Tournament eight times in the century's last 12 years, and provided a national audience with something to remember in a memorable run in their first-ever College World Series …
It was a fitting end to a century of excellence, providing yet another memory and another example of the triumph of the human spirit, a spirit that has lived and grown throughout the university's history.
It was also a promise that memories don't end . . . just like traditions, they keep growing. New generations of athletes and coaches will discover their own greatness and lead university teams to new heights of glory . . . building on a foundation that has been set in this century of excellence.
Written by Dan McDonald, former Sports Information Director and submitted to Channel One for the UL Lafayette Centennial Video
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