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Coach Raymond Blanco’s Tribute

Biography of Raymond Blanco, Sr.

Written by the Raymond Blanco, Sr. Family and Submitted by Michael Neustrom, Football 1965-68 and UL Faculty & Staff Member 1970-74 & 1977-2000 and Edward Pratt, Football 1964-67 and UL Staff Member 1969-2011, on January 2, 2021.

In the fall of 1959 newly appointed Head Coach Raymond Blanco arrived at Catholic High School in New Iberia, Louisiana with a special energy and zeal for molding young men, both in the classroom and on the football field. Three years later, in 1962, this Birmingham, Alabama native coached his football team to win the first high school state championship in the Acadiana region since the advent of eleven-man football.

His talent for success was recognized and appreciated and in 1963 he left Catholic High when Coach Russ Faulkinberry recruited him to the coaching staff at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (then University of Southwestern Louisiana). As Assistant Head Coach, he worked to develop community pride in UL’s football program and was a fiercely competitive recruiter. As head defensive coach he helped to lead the Ragin’ Cajuns to two Conference Championships during his six seasons at UL. He spent hours into the nights counseling his players and encouraging academic excellence.

He is proud that every four-year player on his team earned their bachelor’s degrees, and many earned advanced degrees. Although most players graduated on time, a few had to take early leave for jobs and raising families before finishing their degree requirements. He made it his mission to find these young men and convince each and every one of them to return to UL to complete their studies and graduate.

As his unique talents gained wider recognition, he was recruited by the University of Louisiana for the job that defined the next 41 years of his life. In 1968 he became the Dean of Men and was later promoted to Dean of Students. Through the years as he was asked to assume greater responsibilities, Blanco was named Vice President of Student Affairs. He respected both students and faculty and was, in turn, respected by the UL family.

His compassionate heart, coupled with acute listening skill, cast him as the leading mentor to many thousands of students, athletes, administrators, faculty and staff on campus and sometimes to their families off campus as well. He counseled them through illnesses, accidents, work issues, personal troubles or just plain mischief. During the critical and sometimes dangerous years of desegregation, he boldly and proudly established a welcoming environment at UL for African American students and was responsible for hiring the first African American staff members in several high-level positions. He maintained calm on the UL campus during the unrest of the Vietnam War and Civil Rights periods.

In the 1980’s Louisiana’s Governor and Attorney General called upon Raymond to play key roles in two critical investigations. The first was an investigation of the shooting deaths of two students on Southern University’s campus. The second called for Dean Blanco to establish ground rules for safely re-opening Destrehan High School after a racial disturbance resulted in the shooting death of a student on campus.

The Blanco era at UL spanned the administrations of four university presidents and tens of thousands of students, but Raymond Blanco’s life as Coach, Dean, and Vice-President, came to include one especially unique title: First Gentleman of the State of Louisiana.

While he gave one-hundred percent of his early life to the university, in later years his love of politics led him, along with his wife, Kathleen, to establish a family polling company which satisfied his innate curiosity for in-depth information, gave him unique insights and enabled him to accurately guide many candidates for public office who sought his counsel.

No one better exemplified his capacity to coach winning campaigns than his favorite candidate, Kathleen, his wife and mother of their six children. He coached her through campaigns for the Louisiana House of Representatives, Public Service Commission and Lieutenant Governor and then to the Grand Championship of Louisiana politics, the Governorship. Indeed, she has never lost an election, and she says it’s because of her great Coach! And “Coach” is the name the First Gentleman was known by, the title he has always loved the most.

As the first and only First Gentleman of Louisiana, Raymond Blanco supported the Governor through Louisiana’s most challenging period following the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

In Birmingham, Alabama, Raymond played football for John Carroll High School. He played football and graduated from St. Benedict’s College in Atchison KS (now Benedictine College). He is a first-generation college graduate who is very proud of his immigrant roots. His father came from Spain as a young man and found a home in the United States. His maternal grandfather immigrated to the United States from Italy and also made his home in this country.

He came to Louisiana in 1962 and found his own home. Now in retirement from both the University and his job as First Gentleman, Coach has time for swimming and water exercises, following his 14 grandchildren in their special endeavors, and doing a little fishing and hunting. He is still in high demand for mentoring or counseling young people and coaching candidates for public office.

Coach and Kathleen are the proud parents of 6 children: Karmen Blanco Hartfield [Jerry Hartfield], Monique Blanco Boulet [David Boulet], Nicole Blanco George [John George], Ray Blanco, Jr. [Aprill Springfield Blanco], Pilar Blanco Eble [Michael Eble] and Benedict Blanco. They are the proud grandparents of 14. Ben Blanco died in an industrial accident at 19 years old in 1997 and Kathleen Babineaux Blanco died at age 75 in 2019. Both are greatly missed.

Coach, Dean, Vice-President and First Gentleman Raymond Blanco has led a blessed life. In addition to his family, his greatest pleasure is to see those he guided become successful, productive individuals. He is much beloved for the care and compassion he demonstrated to the thousands of friends who came into his life over the past 85 years!

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Click here for the 1963 Football Photo Gallery with a photo of the football coaches.

Click here for the 1965 Football Photo Gallery with a photo of the football coaches.

Click here for the 1966 Football Photo Gallery with a photo of the coveted Cypress Mug victory over Southeastern Louisiana University. 

Click here for the 1968 Football Photo Gallery with color team picture. 

Click here for the Dedication of the 1984 L’Acadien to Raymond Blanco.

Click here for the August 13, 2005 Coach Russ Faulkinberry Reunion. 

Click here for the September 25, 2010 40th Reunion and Recognition of the 1970 Championship Team. 

Click here for the Sept. 28, 2012 Bill “Blackjack” Landry Statue Dedication.

Click here for the August 31, 2018 Dedication of the Ragin’ Cajuns Tower to Coach Russ Faulkinberry. 

Click here for the January 10, 2019 article about the Louisiana Political Hall of Fame Inductions scheduled for next month. 

Click here for the May 24, 2019 Dedication of the Raymond S. Blanco Dean of Student Suite in the UL Student Union. 

Posted by Dr. Ed Dugas athleticnetwork@louisiana.edu