Places & Faces
First Person with Louis Bonnette
6/29/2012 4:26:45 PM

Walking into the Richard V. Doland Athletic Field House at McNeese State University, it's easy to feel an overwhelming sense of pride for all things blue and gold. Looking at the trophies that line the cases and peeking into the Hall-of-Fame room, you get an amazing snapshot of the history and tradition of McNeese athletics. A huge fixture in this tradition is Sports Information Director Louis Bonnette. At the end of this month, this Pineville native and Louisiana Tech graduate will step down after 46 years on the job. Thrive recently sat down with Mr. Bonnette to discuss his career and his thoughts on his pending retirement.

1. You've worked under every university president in McNeese State University history except for one. That's a lot of time for things to change. What was it like then compared to now?

When I started in 1966 we had maybe 3,000 students, a football stadium and the field house, but they looked nothing like they look now. We played basketball in the McNeese Arena, which was located on campus and just like today, the rodeos took place in the same arena. Our office was in that arena and it took a while to get that smell out of there. My office was located inside the vault of a little bitty room and I had a secretary up front. Really the biggest change has been the personnel, since we have a lot more people now and more sports. Originally we had the women's basketball program, football and baseball. With the NCAA and Title IX, we added softball, tennis, soccer and volleyball for women. We also added indoor and outdoor track and cross country.

The technology has changed too. We used to call in our stories over the phone when I first started. Today, everyone is tweeting and using other social media outlets to spread the word. We used to be able to call the media and say we were sending a story for the morning edition and you could not worry about it breaking until the next day. Now when we send out a story, we have to make sure it is up on our website first and then send it out because everyone is posting it to their website and Facebook page as soon as they get it.

2. What is an average day in the office like?

It really depends on the season. We have maybe part of June and part of July where it's pretty quiet. The rest of the time there's always something going on. At the end of July we start press conferences for football, camp in August and then the games start in September. Basketball starts practicing in the fall and really it never stops because all of the sports have some type of workout year-round. You stay busy seven days a week. If you don't have a game on Sunday, then you're at your office working out something for the week. There is always something to do.

3. What is something about your job that most people would be surprised to know you do?

There's a lot more to it than just writing stories. A lot of people think I just go to the games and have a good time and write some stories, but I keep up with stats and all kinds of other information too. We've got 46 years of information stored between this office and my other office in the old dorms.

We take most of our own pictures and then we've got a lot of other guys who help us out and take pictures just because they want to do it.

4. Given the nature of your work, this obviously has never been a 9-to-5 profession. How have you and your family coped with the long days and nights that come with college sports?

I have three kids and when they were growing up, I used to just take them with me. That was the only thing you could do. You have to take them with you if you want to see them. Both my sons are SIDs (sports information directors) now too. I have a daughter who is a nurse and my wife is a school teacher. My daughter definitely could have been as SID too because she worked with me when she was growing up. All of them are very familiar with a press box and know what's going on.

5. You mentioned that your sons have followed in your footsteps, with Michael being the sports information director at LSU and Matthew serving as the assistant sports information director at Northwestern State University. Do you talk shop at family gatherings?

We don't get together very often and that's a problem. They work the same hours I do. We all work nights and weekends and it's just tough. I threw myself a birthday party this past year and all of them were there. Michael's got three boys and Matthew's got two girls. I told them everything's on me and they all showed up. We went to the restaurant and then I took all the kids ice skating. It was great; we're going to do it again this summer for my wife's birthday.

6. What are some of the highlights of your career?

There are so many. We've played in three Independence Bowls in football, NCAA tournaments in basketball, baseball and golf. We've had some national track titles. Then, I remember athletes like Buford Jordan, Stephen Starring and Kerry Joseph playing football, Joe Dumars playing basketball and we've had some outstanding baseball players too. Terry Burrows, who is our coach now, and Ray Fontenot were outstanding players and had the opportunity to go on and play in the pros. We've had some very good track performers like Brian Cooper and great golfers like Tim Graham who went on to play in the PGA tour. I've enjoyed all of it. Joe (Dumars) has continued to be a good friend. I remember when he was playing ball; we played at the Civic Center back then. Freddie LeBlanc ran the Civic Center and after the games we would file our stories and we had a group of guys from the TV and radio stations who liked to play basketball. Freddie would leave the lights on for us and when we'd get all our work done, we'd go down and play basketball and Joe would stick around and shoot with us. He was great with the kids and my sons loved playing with him.

I've just enjoyed everything over the years, the coaches, the different administrations, all of it. I've been able to go all over North America on different trips for football and baseball. I've seen a lot thanks to my career here.

7. What does your wife think about your upcoming retirement? Do you have big plans?

I like to play golf, I like to go fishing. That's what I plan on doing a lot of once I retire. My wife will probably teach another year but we plan on traveling and just enjoying life. I'm looking forward to doing a whole lot of things and having the freedom to do what I want, when I want.

8. You've got some pretty big shoes to fill. Do you have any advice for your successor?

Just come to work every day and do everything you can seven days a week.

9. Finally, we are sitting in the recently renovated field house and will soon walk out onto Louis Bonnette Field inside Cowboy Stadium for some pictures. Louis Bonnette Field—that is quite a legacy. What does that mean to you?

It was a shock to me when they did that. Robert Nolan, who is a good friend, was behind that. He put up the money for the field and I don't know how it came about, but he wanted it to be named for me. It's a great honor, great feeling. I never thought anything like that would happen. I never even pictured my name on anything more than a byline.

Editor's Note: After the completion of this interview McNeese State University named Matthew Bonnette, Louis's youngest son, Assistant Athletic Director-Communications. Matthew assumed his new post on July 1. The legacy continues.

Posted by: Katie Harrington | Submit comment | Tell a friend

Categories: Interviews  |  McNeese  |  Sports

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