If there's one thing I've learned from spending virtually my entire adult life here, it's that it doesn't take much for McNeese State fans to get a real mad-on for Louisiana-Lafayette.

The other major fan base in the area, LSU's, will generally walk arm-in-arm with the Cowboys on the subject, especially concerning the name of the school.

But there was always one USL/ULL name that broke the mold, one name that was always hard for anybody from anywhere to even mildly dislike, let alone hate with a rivalry's irrational passion.

It probably frustrated the McNeese fans at times. Quite the dilemma.

Why did Tony Robichaux, the most visible face as head baseball coach of that "program over there," have to be such a great guy?

"Great" probably isn't exactly the word I'm looking for here, although it certainly would fit.

Robichaux, who died Wednesday in New Orleans at the age of 57 from complications following two open-heart surgeries, certainly was all of that.

By now you've read about how, for all his on-field success, but he's more remembered for the lasting influence he had on countless players (and non-players) off the field.

All true, for sure.

But, more than that, Robichaux was just an inherently decent person, in a down-to-earth sort of way.

If there was a quote that summed up Coach Robe, it was the greatest single thing ever said about baseball, youth baseball and recruiting in general.

That was when he observed that "We want guys who drink from the water hose, not the guy whose mommy brings him Powerade after the third inning."

How can you ever get mad at somebody like that?

The proof is in the rivalries.

McNeese fans certainly had every excuse to hate Robichaux — or at least deeply resent him.

He started his playing career with the Cowboys — before transferring to USL for his final season.

Can't trust those guys from Crowley, right?

McNeese forgave him, welcoming him back and giving him a job on the baseball staff while he finished his degree.

He parlayed it into the Cowboys' head coaching job, and he became McNeese's all-time winningest coach in his eight seasons.

The thanks?

He switched sides again — bolting to take over the hated Ragin' Cajuns' program, where he became that "school down I-10's" all-time winningest coach, too.

Fast-forward to 2015 when Robichaux was closing in on 1,000 career wins, 263 of them at McNeese.

There was one problem.

Jim Gazzola, then an American Press columnist, was on the case.

Officially, McNeese was crediting Robichaux with 244 wins while the ULL bio on him listed the 263.

In question was 1987 when Triny Rivera was fired before the season began.

The Cowboys won 19 games that year, but everyone agreed that Robichaux acted as interim coach for all 19 of them. McNeese had always credited them to the late Nolan Viator, who was an assistant football coach. All involved, including Viator's son Matt, who went on to become head football coach, agreed that Nolan did little coaching other than to check in with Robichaux on occasion.

"There's no question Tony deserves those victories," Matt Viator told Gazzola at the time.

So what? The bitter rivalry thing to do would have been to turn a clerical oversight into something really petty and juicy nasty.

But it was Tony Robichaux. So when the Cajuns next visited the Cowboys, what McNeese did was to "present" Robichaux with the 19 missing victories in a brief pregame ceremony at home plate.

Case closed. A bit of good-natured class in the midst of Cowboy-Cajun bickering.

I remember Robichaux's 2000 College World Series appearance, his crowning on-field achievement.

LSU was there too, of course, and in its infinite wisdom, the NCAA assigned the Tigers and Cajuns to the same hotel (without incident, I might add, even though many fans of both were also in residence).

I know you don't care how the media sausage is made, but it wasn't an easy assignment. Most of us in the Louisiana press corps were doing double duty covering both teams.

The complication was that LSU and ULL were in different brackets, meaning that they played different days. The one not playing on a given day was practicing a good 15 miles away.

You had to be at both, obviously to cover the game, but also at a remote practice field somewhere to preview the other's upcoming game. The practice might even be going on at the same time the other was playing.

There was a lot of media whining (more than usual even). But, as I remember it, it was Robichaux who came up with a workable solution.

Much of the Louisiana media was in the same hotel, so Robichaux suggested that the coach not playing that day could have breakfast with us in the hotel restaurant. Plenty of time to get that work done before heading to the other's real game.

LSU's Skip Bertman thought it was a fine idea, too.

A little thing, sure. But it was the kind of thoughtfulness that made Robichaux such a decent person.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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