Former McNeese State Sports Information Director Louis Bonnette retired this month following a 46-year career at the school. He will be honored with a dinner and roast this Tuesday evening at L’Auberge du Lac to close out the Southland Conference’s football media day. (Karen Wink / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, July 23, 2012 11:20 AM
Former McNeese State Sports Information Director Louis Bonnette retired this month following a 46-year career at the school. He will be honored with a dinner and roast this Tuesday evening at L’Auberge du Lac to close out the Southland Conference’s football media day. Proceeds raised from the event will fund a scholarship in his name — a name that already graces the football field at Cowboy Stadium.
Bonnette recently sat down with the American Press to reflect on his career.
American Press: How is retired life treating you?
Bonnette: Well, it’s boring. (Laughs). Especially when it’s raining. You can’t get outside and do anything. I’d been hoping to play golf but it’s rained a week straight.
I’ve just kind of settled in to a retired life of doing nothing, I guess. My wife keeps telling me “You sure look bored.” I guess I am.
I haven’t missed coming to the office. What I miss is doing something. Hopefully it’ll pick up.
Thinking way back, what do you think you would have done had you not taken this job at McNeese?
I started at Louisiana Tech in civil engineering. Then after a couple of years the dean of engineering requested that I — seek some other form of study. (Laughs). So I went into journalism.
I did work for the U.S. Forest Service every summer I was at Tech out at Kisatchie National Forest, and that was great. We surveyed roads and bridges throughout the forest. I loved being in the outdoors. But I got into journalism because I always loved sports.
I liked writing stories. We put out the Tech Talk newspaper once a week and had a lot of fun doing it.
I wanted to be a writer for a newspaper. I knew there wasn’t a lot of money in that.
Some things don’t change...
No, you’re right. I was thinking about it, if I had put as much time into something else as I did into what I went into, I would probably be a multi-millionaire. If I had put it into selling real estate or some kind of financing, I’d be living on an island somewhere. But I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. I have no regrets.
I always thought about maybe being Roy Rogers or Gene Autry in the movies. I loved to watch Roy Rogers. I also liked Rock Hudson. He was one of my favorite actors. I always had the looks, but I don’t know if I was good enough to be an actor.
It’s not necessarily measured in your bank account, but what are the biggest rewards this position has given you over the years?
Knowing I was a part of something for 46 years at McNeese State University. The entire school, certainly athletics, everyone who works here feels that way. A lot of people may not think I was that big. A lot of people say “You do your stats, you do your little story, that’s a heck of a job. I wish I had that.” Well yeah, why don’t you come walk with me for 24 hours and find out? (Laughs).
What I really like is you meet these guys who were football players, track guys, golfers, or baseball or basketball, from back in the ‘60s and ‘70s and they remember you from working with them. That’s been really rewarding too. I’ve had a great life here at McNeese State.
What was the toughest part of the job?
We can break that down.
Football nights. Getting everything out. You’ve got writers who want stats right away and want to get down to the field and interview players because everyone’s on deadline. That’s a real key element to doing your job right, positioning the writers and TV so they can be where they can get their job done.
And we’ve got to get it out to the other papers in the state and the Associated Press.
Mondays, back in the older times — Sundays you’d come in and get all your stats, and then Monday morning you’d run stuff off and get it into the mailbox right away. Now you just e-mail it and it’s gone. But Mondays used to be very hectic.
And Tuesdays, getting ready for the press conferences. We’ve always had them on Tuesday since I’ve been here. We started them in the ’60s with Jim Clark as the coach at the cafeteria on campus. The students always hated this because we would break in the food line. They’d start ranting and raving and we’d say “We’ve got a press conference.” But then we got wise after a year of breaking in line and we got the food taken into the President’s Room. But Tuesday is big because you’re getting everything ready for noon.
How much did technology make your job easier, especially those Mondays?
It made that a whole lot easier, but it’s also added more. Because you’re always putting stuff up on the Web. All the sports we have, they work 12 months a year. There’s always something going on, so every day you’re putting stories out. But your contact with people is a lot easier.
If your 1966 self was transplanted to today in a time machine, what would be the biggest shock?
I’d probably be lost with everything we’ve got going now.
From 1966-2012, you wouldn’t believe what we have here now in terms of facilities, equipment. Back then we would take pictures one day and maybe we’d get the pictures at the end of the week. Now you take a picture, plug it into a machine and you can send it out right away.
We didn’t have cell phones. You could get on campus and nobody would know where you were.
Transporting somebody 46 years into the future, I know one thing you’d still have is people who love to talk about sports. You’d have people who’d come in after reading the paper in the morning and want to talk. That’s still just like it is now. More people enjoy sports than a lot of people admit to.
The travel is different. Just about every place we went to was on a bus. You didn’t play teams from way up north, you didn’t fly anywhere.
And all the schools in the state were in the Gulf States Conference. Tech, Northeast, USL, Southeastern, Northwestern — that would be a hell of a conference right now. If you could put all those teams into one conference right now and add Grambling and Southern, gosh. You’d pack the stadiums and here’s all that money staying in the state of Louisiana. You wouldn’t have to fly all over the world to get your money. I know (I’d be shocked) seeing that Tech isn’t playing Northeast or McNeese isn’t playing USL (in football).
What were some of the most memorable road trips you’ve been on in your career?
There’s been quite a few. We’ve had some great airplane experiences. (Laughs).
Not a couple years ago, when the pilot hit that runway light taking off (on the way to Missouri). He never did let us know what happened, just said we had a mechanical malfunction. Then we landed in Mississippi and saw that big ol’ blown-out tire.
One trip when Tommy Tate was the head coach, we were playing Arkansas State. It’s a tough place to land, they’ve got a short runway and the pilot has to hit that runway just right. It was raining and the pilot said he was going to go through the clouds and see where the runway is and make another go at it. He sees all these fire trucks and emergency vehicles lined along the runway. People on the ground were saying “Don’t try to land!”
So we go to Oklahoma City. He takes off, and we’re going straight up, and then we start going straight down and everybody in back is going crazy. What happened is there was another plane up there and the tower told him to level off immediately. But it felt like we were going in.
One time we had a charter out of Hattiesburg with pilots, they had overalls on. They looked like they just walked off the farm.
One time we were in Arlington and were getting ready to come back and they can’t get the plane started. This one guy walks out and opens up the cowling — it’s kind of like the hood of a car over the engine — and he slams it down real hard and it starts the motor. I said “No way, man. Wake me up when we get down.”
We’ve had some bus trips, basketball in particular.
Coach (Ralph) Ward was coaching. We played Spring Hill in Alabama. That’s a long bus ride.
Anyway, it’s running down to the final seconds. He calls timeout and says we’re going to work this play to Clyde Briley, he’s going to take the final shot. Well, the seconds are clicking off and Nookie Moore gets the ball and puts it up and right in to win the ballgame. He comes by and says “Coach, it was all in the wrist.”
Coach Ward says, “Nookie, you get in that john back there. I don’t want to see you the rest of the way home.” So he stayed in the bathroom from Mobile, Alabama all the way to Lake Charles.
What are some of the most memorable games and athletes from any sport that you can recall?
One is Michael Cutright scoring 51 points against Stephen F. Austin to give us the regular-season championship in 1989. Just watching him shoot that ball. And also going on and playing Illinois at Indianapolis in the regional. Illinois went up 25 and then Cutright and Tab Harris start throwing in those 3-pointers and we got within 7.
Just watching Joe Dumars every game was something.
Football, one game I really remember is against Arkansas State. They had these huge linemen. We played them up there and Stephen Starring ran for over 200 yards, a quarterback against those guys.
Buford Jordan, almost any game he played.
Theron McClendon, we had him at 5-9 but he was probably 5-7. He’d get behind those linemen and hide and just glide through the line.
Baseball, Ben Broussard hitting home runs. Anything he did was tremendous.
Track and field, Bryan Cooper running. He had a strange way of running. But, boy, he could go.
We had some good golfers, Tim Graham went on to play a year on the PGA Tour.
The games Derrick Fourroux played quarterback, starting for four years. Toddrick Pendland, what he did.
Then the ones who are coming back this year. Darius Carey, he can line up at tailback and take the direct snap. Shoot, he was the third-leading rusher and leading pass receiver and leading punt returner. And you’ve got Malcolm Bronson. And there was his uncle, Zack Bronson.
There’s so many games that were outstanding and players that were outstanding. We’ve had so many great athletes and coaches. I’ve had a great time watching all of them.
There’s an urban legend that during a baseball game you once got on the PA because an umpire messed up a call. Is that true?
We were playing New Orleans here. They had men on first and third. We had a fly ball to center and it wasn’t deep at all. The center fielder caught it, the runners didn’t go. The guy who hit the ball ended up on second base, so they’ve got the bases loaded now. The umpires didn’t see it.
So I got on the PA and said “The guy on second base just flew out to center field. He shouldn’t be on second base.”
Then (UNO coach) Ron Maestri comes out and climbs up the fence and goes “You’re the PA announcer! You shouldn’t be telling these umpires anything!”
He’s climbing up that fence, he wants to (come after me) I guess.
But that’s a true story.
How rewarding is it to see your sons want to follow in your footsteps?
Matthew and Michael were at everything. They were big buddies with Joe Dumars and Buford Jordan when they were growing up. They were in the press box, even when they were little, helping and running stuff out.
I was looking at Matthew’s media guide earlier, it’s so much better than me. He knows how to handle that layout. I’m real proud of him and what Michael has done at LSU over there.
Scooter (Hobbs) said I’m the Archie Manning of SIDs. I told him “That’s the first good thing you’ve ever said about me.” (Laughs).
And, my daughter Anne grew up the same way helping out. She could have easily done the same thing, but became a nurse.
You’re about to get roasted. Do you have anything prepared in your defense?
Those guys are all friends of mine. How could they possibly have anything bad to say about me? All they can do is make stuff up. There’s nothing at all.
I know I went to (former McNeese president) Dr. Hebert’s roast two years ago and he did great. I don’t know who his speechwriter was, but I’ll have to find him. He was super. He did a good job delivering it. I’ll come up with something.
Posted By: Mike Angelo On: 7/24/2012
Title: Congrats to Mr Bonnette
I've had the honor of knowing Mr.Bonnette for 25 yrs.I played ball with his sons, I played Baseball at McNeese.I continue to remain friends with Michael ,haven't seen Matthew, except to keep up with him on Facebook. Mr.Bonnette is a one of a kind writer, friend and journeymen.Thanks for what you have contributed to McNeese Sports. You will be missed.
Posted By: Charles L. Armentor On: 7/22/2012
Worked with Louis at the American Press part time from late 1968 thru 1971. Jim Beam was also employed. Louis used to do the golf columns and other sports covereage as required. I always had the utmost respect for Louis. A true gentleman and a great person to work with and learn from. His memory of me is probably vague but I want him to know that his tact and mannerism made a bold impression on me. Best to him in his retirement.