Back to Articles
Spotlight on Former Athlete: Charles Ray Lancon - Football 1957-59, Coaches 1989-2002
Hall of Fame inclusion cements Lancon Legend
By Bruce Brown
Charles Lancon was more than a coach.
Leader. Advisor. Teacher. Confidant. Friend. Moral compass. Father figure. The list is a long one.
Mostly, he was the kind of mentor his followers wanted to make proud, and his athletes did just that.
“He was one of the most genuine and sincere people I've ever met,” said Rocky Guidry, who flourished as a javelin thrower for Lancon's juggernaut Ragin' Cajun track and field teams of the 1990's.
“He was a man of principle and a man of character. He was confident in who he was. At the same time, he could be funny, with a lot of good stories to tell.”
Guidry had ample time to get to know Lancon from trips to meets with Lancon and distaff thrower JoJo Harris.
“We would talk about a lot of things, and they were always fun trips,” said Guidry. “He knew a lot about the javelin. I was not bashful. I would suggest things I could do to get better. He would iisten and if it looked good we would try it out.”
Lancon, who died of a heart attack in 2002, was among those named to the UL Ragin' Cajun Athletic Hall of Fame this fall. Tommy Badon, an assistant in Lancon's heyday who returned to assist current head coach and former Cajun Lon Badeaux, will accept the honor on his mentor's behalf.
Also entering the hall are Stephanie DeFeo and Kathy Morton (softball), Ike Taylor (football), Jose Alvarez (baseball), Jeff and daughter Leigh Hennessy (trampoline) and the All-American tennis doubles team of Ashley Rhoney and Bret Garnett.
Already in the hall from Lancon's dominant track and field program are Guidry, Harris, sprinters Grady Labbe, Keisha Rideau and Twilet Malcolm, hurdler Larry Moore, leaper Walter Landry and NCAA All-American triple jumper Ndabe Mdhlongwa,
The Cajun men and women won 17 conference championships indoors and outdoors from 1990-2002 under Lancon, who was named Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year 14 times and Louisiana Coach of the Year 7 times.
His 1993 squads scaled unprecedented heights with indoor and outdoor titles for both men and women – something that has yet to be duplicated.
“We were a true team back then,” Guidry said. “That led to success. Everybody wanted to please him. We expected to win. Losing was not an option. Coach didn't like to lose.”
“Those were some memorable moments,” said diminutive sprinter Rideau, now a Lafayette Parish parole officer. “Since you're in that moment, you don't realize it until later in life.
“We were doing something we loved doing. We didn't realize the part we played in the University and the community,”
“Coach Lancon changed a lot of things when he took over,” said Randy Baggett, whose final two years were under Lancon. “Mostly, he changed the mindset of the entire team. He tried to build the whole team. His vision went beyond one or two events. We got to know each other a little bit better.
“Once everybody bought in, we were set.”
Apples don't fall far from the trees. Baggett's Sulphur Golden Tornadoes won the District 3-5A track titles in 2004, 2015, 2016 and in 2019.
As a Cajun senior in the 1992 season, Baggett placed third in the javelin (Guidry won it) in the Sun Belt Outdoor Championships with a career-best 213-foot heave.
“I was kind of stuck around 195 until Coach Lancon came in,” Baggett said. “He was big on getting explosion for his sprinters and throwers. One of the things we worked on was plyometrics, jumping on and off of boxes.
“We would do the workouts and he'd try to give us the big picture.”
“What stands out the most for me is that we were family,” Rideau said. “I can still call coach Badon about anything. Every time we have a (track) reunion, it brings us all closer together.
“Coach Lancon had a big heart, and a big smile that will last forever for me.”
Lancon, a 1959 SLI graduate who played football for the then-Bulldogs, had a good working relationship with football coach Nelson Stokley that helped him enlist some Cajun players for key events come conference time.
“Getting players like Troy Tauriac, Tim Sensley and Anthony Clement gave us an edge. That helped put us over the top,” said Carencro High basketball coach Chris Kovach, another javelin thrower under Lancon. “We also got guys from basketball like Chris Manuel and Kelvin Price.
“That wouldn't happen at a lot of universities. It speaks volumes about the respect other coaches had for Coach Lancon.”
“The players liked it, because it gave them a chance to earn a ring,” Badon said.
Kovach revered Lancon beyond the scope of the arena.
“I'm trying to collect some of my fondest memories of a man I considered a second father figure to me,” said Kovacjh, whose 2018 CHS team won a state title. “He loved all of us like we were his own kids, and that had a lot to do with our success. We all felt a sense of loyalty to him. We didn't want to let him down.
“I learned so much more from him than just track and field.”
“When I started out (at USL) I was throwing in the low 200's,” said Guidry, who played football and competed in track. “I got bigger and stronger, and ended up right around 240 feet.
“I learned a lot from him and would go to the wall for him.”
“He was like my dad away from home,” Harris said. “He made sure his athletes went to practice, went to class, ate right. For most of us, college was our first time away from home.
“My high school program had me on the right path, but he taught how to compete and had us ready for indoor and outdoor seasons. He was our biggest cheeleader, and always made sure we got our education. A lot of us made Dean's List, got our degrees.
“He wanted to know how we were doing as people, not just athletes.”
The Lancon Era got an early lift when multiple state title champion Labbe of Teurlings chose a USL program in transition. That drew both athletes and fans, and Labbe became a fixture in sprints, relays and the 110 hurdles. His remarkable finishing meet in the 1994 Sun Belt meet at USL even surpassed his finishing high school performance at state.
Other athletes soon joined – Windell Dobson, Haitian legend Winstron Sinclair, Mudhlongwa, Badeaux, Landry, hurdler-jumper Moore, Ruel Paul, Gene Siner, Joel Chesimet, and women's stars Malcolm, Rideau, Harris, Beverley Langley, Vickey Mulvey, D'Nais Jones (Mack), Cecily Gulley and Sheronia Walker to name a few.
They all flourished under Lancon's calm leadership and the driving recruiting energy of Badon.
It was a special time for track and field, with domination unmatched by other sports at the school.
“One thing I learned from his was how he treated our coaches,” Badon said. “He hired good people, then let them do their jobs. He trusted us to do the job right. I used the same philosophy when I was putting together coaching staffs.
“I had already worked for him at Lafayette High, and he trusted me and I trusted him. He fought for the kids and the program, and was a great fund-raiser.
“He was a man of great conviction. We were all in it together, and he led the way. People were willing to work hard for him, compete for him.”
“He was so much more than just a track and field coach,” Kovach said.
SidebarLaMaison thinks often of Lancon's impact
By Bruce Brown
Kelly LaMaison remembers the hard work for each race as a key member of USL's track and field squads of the 1990's.
And she can recall the unmistakable feedback she got from Ragin' Cajun coach Charles Lancon.
“He was never afraid to call it like it is,” said LaMaison. “If you raced well, he let you know it, and if you stunk it up, he DEFINITELY let you know it.
“But you always knew his 'fussing' was because he knew you could give more. He insisted on your best.”
Lancon, who died of a heart attack in 2002, will be among those inducted into the UL Ragin; Cajun Athletic Hall of Fame during homecoming festivities.
It is an honor dear to the hearts of his athletes.
“Everyone in life has someone who inspires them, who pushes them to get better – a better athlete, better friend, a better human being,” LaMaison said. “Coach Lancon was that man for me, and for every one of his athletes.”
It is a testament to Lancon that many of his athletes, including current UL head coach Lon Badeaux, went into coaching.
“I wish he could be around today to see how many of his former athletes are coaching around Acadiana because of him and the love of teaching, and the love of our sport, that he engrained into our hearts,” said LaMaison, a mother of four and a track and cross country coach at Teurlings Catholic..
“I wish I could hear him say, 'Great job, The Kel' one more time,”
That feeling has endured the years.
“I think of him every single day that I step on the track, and I hope I make him proud,” LaMaison said.
The Lancon experience went beyond the track to how to live an honorable life.
“Coach was a second dad to me,” LaMaison said. “ I loved him and respected him so much. He was a genuine, faith-filled man who lived for his team, his family and for God.”
LaMaison was reminded of revered Cajun baseball coach Tony Robicheaux, who was claimed last spring by a heart attack.
“I used to sit with Coach Robe when I was coaching at UL,” she said. “and we'd talk about Coach Lancon and how great a man he was. I hope those two are having coffee every morning these days.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Shown below are Charles Lancon (#80) and his 1957 SLI Football teammates.
* * * * * * * * * *
Click here for the L'Acadien posting of Coach Lancon's passing.
Click here for the Athletic Network profile of Charles Lancon.
* * * * *
Click here for the chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.
* * * * * * * * * *
Send this Page to a Friend!