After three decades of serving as Chairman of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame coordinating and organizing the annual weekend of induction ceremonies is pretty much old hat to Jonesboro native Doug Ireland. This year the 1978 Jonesboro-Hodge graduate put on a new hat for the first time as one of the inductees of the Class of 2021.
Instead of being behind the scenes this year Ireland, who was honored as a Distinguished Service in Sports Journalism recipient, was on center stage along with fellow inductees: Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Courtney Blades-Rogers, Marques Colston, Glenn Dorsey, Bo Dowden, Pat Henry, Rickie Weeks, Ro Brown, Terry McAuley, and Sheldon Mickles.
The induction ceremony for the Class of 2021, which took place in Natchitoches this past Saturday, followed on the heels of the Class of 2020 being introduced just a few weeks before. For Ireland, there was a huge reversal in roles.
“It was strange for sure to go from being the one asking the questions a month ago to the one being interviewed this week,” laughed Ireland. “I will cherish this forever though, especially with having family, close friends and so many associates there.”
Ireland had a column in the Jackson Independent weekly newspaper and was in local radio beginning at age 14 when he was a two-sport athlete at Jonesboro-Hodge High School. While earning his journalism degree at NSU, he was a news reporter for the Shreveport Times for two years, running the Times Natchitoches Bureau in 1981-82. He spent the next three years as the first-ever assistant SID at UL-Lafayette, then was an award-winning sports editor of the Natchitoches Times before joining the Alexandria Town Talk sports staff in 1987.
In 18 months in Alexandria, Ireland captured 15 LSWA writing contest top three finishes, including records of nine overall awards including six first places in the 1987-88 competition while he covered state colleges, high schools and did general assignment reporting. He picked up six more awards, two firsts, in the 1988-89 contest despite leaving the LSU beat in mid-year to accept the SID post at his alma mater in January 1989.
Ireland added dozens of LSWA awards for writing and publications in 30-plus years as the Demons’ SID, including 33 since 2000. In 2016, he won the LSWA’s Story of the Year award while writing for the Natchitoches Metro Leader. His 1992 Demon football media guide won Best in the Nation for Division I-AA from the College Sports Information Directors of America, and a 1997 historical feature marking Demon great Joe Delaney’s induction in the College Football Hall of Fame was second in a national CoSIDA contest.
Just over a year after taking the Northwestern SID job, Ireland was asked to step in as the LSWA’s Hall of Fame chairman in April 1990. A decade later, he began a process which took root in 2003 when the Hall of Fame partnered with the Louisiana State Museum, ultimately leading to construction of the acclaimed $23 million Hall of Fame museum that opened in 2013 in Natchitoches.
Ireland managed all aspects of the annual Hall of Fame selections and inductions from 1990-2010, and has continued to coordinate elections since while collaborating with LSHOF Foundation leaders as Executive Director to stage the Induction Celebration each year.
In 2014, the Louisiana Association of Museums presented Ireland its Lois Wyatt Bannon “Heart and Soul: Service Award given to an individual who has contributed significant time and expertise in support of a Louisiana institution(s), enabling it to prosper. In 2016, he was the recipient of the Southland Conference’s Louis Bonnette Sports Media Award for impact in the NCAA Division I league.
Ireland was also named the Alexandria Town Talk’s Cenla Sportsman of the Year for 2012, an acknowledgement of his dual roles with the Hall of Fame and NSU athletics. In February 2008, he was awarded the “Distinguished American Award” by the S.M. McNaughton Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.
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