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A Celebration of Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics – View From the Bench

by Scott Brazda




   “Our theme this year is: If Not Now, When?  I mean, if you want to truly support Ragin’ Cajuns athletics, what are you waiting for?”
    Ken Meyers is pumped up, and for good reason:  The event he and co-coordinator Blaine Barrilleaux came up three years is working… and is doing exactly what they wanted it to do.
   “So, I’m watching Mark Hudspeth do his tour, and make the rounds right after he came in, and I’m thinking, ‘We need more guys like this.  Plus, we’ve already got some good ones.  So, how do we get more Hudspeths, and also keep the Robichauxs, and Marlins from leaving?’” asked Meyers.
   Meyers and Barrilleaux, along with a few others, examined why coaches leaves their universities.  And while money isn’t the only reason, it was a big one, and that didn’t pertain just to the head coaches themselves.  What about the talented assistants who do so much in the dugouts, on the sidelines and right near half-court?  If those guys leave for greener pastures, imagine the voids created in just the day-to-day operation of an individual sport alone.
   That was the motivation, the impetus if you will, behind the creation of the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Celebration three years ago.  “We wanted to create a fund in conjunction with the RCAF (Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Foundation), a fund whose sole purpose is to retain and attract good coaches,” said Meyers. 
   All of the money—every single dollar—goes toward coaches’ salaries, supplementing existing ones and paying new ones.  It allows Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics Director Scott Farmer a bit of leeway; he doesn’t have to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ in order to give a particular coach a pay raise and potentially get him to stick around UL just a bit longer.
   The ‘If Not Now, When?’ question reflects an amazing period in the life of Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics.  UL is good, or getting there, in practically every sport; and to keep that going, and keep the good recruits coming in, the University has begun a ‘master plan’ to upgrade facilities.  The south end of Cajun Field, the track and soccer complex, Tigue Moore Field….all of those physical entities (and more) will be renovated very, very soon.
   And those upgrades make the success of the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Celebration even more important, said Meyers.  “The RCAF is being pushed for the build out of our facilities, and our ‘Celebration’ helps take the load off a bit.  Our proceeds are about salaries and compensation, and that’s it.  It definitely makes it a bit easier for Scott Farmer to keep our really good coaches around.”  And there’s accountability, too, as Farmer issues quarterly reports to the committee on just how the money was spent.
   Ragin’ Cajuns fans have grasped the intent of the event, and run with it.  In 2012, the Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Celebration brought in $150,000; last year, proceeds were just over $200,000; and this Saturday’s event, the 2014 edition, is already on track to raise even more. 
   Speaking of THIS Saturday, August 23, 2014….. tickets are still available for the 2014 Athletic Celebration.  Start time/kick-off/first pitch/tip-off for things is 7 p.m., and the venue is the ever-popular CajunDome Convention Center.  For the Cajuns fan, it’ll be four hours of relishing in the stuff you love—food, drink, auction items—in addition to the most important thing…. UL Sports. 
   As in the past, there will be some fantastic Ragin’ Cajuns-type silent auction items and raffle-type prizes.  Remember last year’s cool golf cart?  There’s another one this year, all done in red and gray camo; a $20 ticket will give you a chance to win a 7-day Carnival Cruise to ANYWHERE you want to go (providing Carnival goes there, of course).  Plus, there will be an opportunity to win a “Night With Jake at Evangeline Downs” in which a certain Ragin’ Cajun and Super Bowl quarterback will entertain a few people over at Vangy—I hear it’s an awesome and thoroughly enjoyable venture.
   Tickets are $150 per couple, an amount that many folks spend on a typical Friday or Saturday night.  “It’s a ‘big time’ atmosphere that doesn’t exclude ‘Joe Regular’,” said Meyers.  “You like black tie events?  This is for you.  You like casual?  This is for you.  You love the Cajuns?  This is definitely for you.”  Call the UL Athletic Department for more info, and reach out to Facebook or Ticketmaster to reserve your spot, and show your love for all play, coach and support.. the sports of vermilion and white.
   Just think of the opportunities:
   1-Grab a beverage, and slip Hudspeth a play (perhaps an update to the ol’ swinging gate) on a cocktail napkin at the same time; 2-Put five meat pies on a plate and use them to show Marlin how you would isolate Shawn Long on the wing; 3-Or bump, set & spike your way through the crowd to show Heather Mazeitis-Fontenot you’ve still got game, and perhaps even some eligibility.

   The Ragin’ Cajuns Athletic Celebration is all about possibilities.  Possibilities that you are helping to turn into… realities for UL. 

Scott’s weekly column appears in the Acadiana Gazette.