Alabama head coach Nick Saban is one of eight 2020 competitive ballot inductees chosen for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, it was announced Tuesday.
Saban joins Phil Robertson, Ronnie Coleman, Sweet Lou Dunbar, Joe Horn, Charles “Peanut” Tillman, Kerry Kittles and Angela Turner as members of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020.
Nick Saban admits to being a little surprised learning he’d been elected to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
After all, in some quarters of the Bayou State, Saban is considered Public Enemy No. 1 for the way his Alabama football teams have dominated LSU of late.
But 20 years after taking over a struggling LSU program and not just turning it into a national champion but establishing the foundation for the Tigers’ continuing success two decades later, Saban is headed for Natchitoches, the home of the hall, and induction next June.
“I’m thrilled and honored,” Saban said. “It is a privilege to be joining so many great people in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, especially because of the great relationships we built there.
“I’m very, very flattered by this.”
Seven others will be joining Saban in the hall whose 2020 induction class was announced Tuesday – football players Joe Horn and Charles “Peanut” Tillman, men’s basketball’s Kerry Kittles and Lou Dunbar, women’s basketball’s Angela Turner, bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman and outdoor entrepreneur Phil Robertson.
They were selected by a 35-person panel of Louisiana Sports Writers Association members and bring to 433 the number elected since the hall was established 60 years ago in 1959. Early in 2020 the two Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism recipients and the Dave Dixon Leadership Award winner, considered Hall of Famers as well, will be announced.
Obviously Saban is the 2020 headliner.Coming to LSU from Michigan State in 2000 after the Tigers had suffered through seven losing seasons in the 1990s, Saban forged an instant turnaround – an 8-4 record and Peach Bowl victory in his first season, the school’s first SEC championship since 1988 and first Sugar Bowl victory since 1968 the following season and, in 2003, the Tigers’ first national championship since 1958, accomplished by a 21-14 victory against Oklahoma in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the BCS title game.
After the 2004 season Saban departed LSU with a 48-16 record to become the coach of the Miami Dolphins. But after only two seasons there, he returned to the SEC, this time at Alabama, igniting a rivalry with the Tigers that has burned white hot ever since.
And while LSU may not have held up its end of late – Alabama has won eight straight times dating back to the 2012 BCS title game – the Tigers have enjoyed unprecedented success otherwise – going 144-33 in all other games since 2005 with another national title under 2018 Hall of Fame inductee Les Miles in 2007. That record includes this year’s 3-0 start and No. 4 national ranking – two spots behind the Saban’s Crimson Tide.
In large part, that record of accomplishment is due to the institutional changes Saban demanded – and got – when he was hired – an academic center, a football operations building and increased funding for assistants and recruiting among other items.
Tiger Stadium’s seating capacity had been increased to 91,000 in the year Saban arrived. It is officially now at 102,321 and was filled to the max in Alabama’s last three trips to Baton Rouge.
“I feel a strong sense of pride about all of that,” Saban said. “A lot of the ideas of how we could do it and how we could follow through with it came from (chancellor) Mark Emmett and (athletic director) Skip Bertman realizing that we had to have a revenue stream for facility improvements that included things like personal seat licenses.
“Because of that we were able to make improvements to the facilities and do a lot of things that enhanced the chances of LSU being competitive in the future. It was the right thing to do for LSU and everyone involved in the program.”
Saban’s determination – and his legacy helped make him the first active coach not still doing so in Louisiana to be elected to the hall.
“Nick Saban transformed the entire sports culture in Louisiana and especially at LSU,” Doug Ireland, the Hall of Fame’s chairman said. “What took place in his five seasons at LSU was fundamental change that started the greatest, by far, sustained run of success for a traditional-steeped football program.
“His influence has proven immense.”
Saban said he is looking forward to being in Natchitoches for the induction weekend.
“I’ll be there,” he said. “Our time in Louisiana was very special, and again, I am tremendously honored.”
As it turns out, Horn arrived in Louisiana the same year as Saban and just in time for another major turnaround – that of the Saints.
A virtual unknown free agent from the Kansas City Chiefs where he’d been mainly a special teams contributor, Horn instantly became the top wide receiver on a Saints team that went from the disaster of the Mike Ditka years to winning the NFC West title and the first playoff victory in franchise history in 2000.
Quickly becoming a fan favorite for his style, wit and, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the public face of the team in supporting the recovery effort, Horn was a four-time Pro Bowler. Horn departed after the 2006 season with the franchise record for touchdown receptions (50) and was second in receptions (523) and receiving yardage (7,622).
“My time with the Saints obviously were the best of my career and will always be very special to me,” Horn said. “I am tremendously appreciative and humbled to be remembered and to be mentioned with all of the great athletes of Louisiana.
“I’ve always believed that some things were meant to be, and my coming to the Saints was definitely that.”
Horn becomes the third Saints player from the 21st century in the hall, joining running back Deuce McAllister and offensive lineman Willie Roaf.
Tillman was a four-year starter at cornerback at UL (1999-2002), but he achieved his greatest fame during a 14-year NFL career, the first 13 of which were spent with the Chicago Bears.
A two-time Pro Bowler, Tillman was the Bears’ career leader in interceptions with 36, nine of which he returned for touchdowns. He also forced 44 fumbles with his trademark ability to punch balls loose.
Since retiring due to injuries at age 34 in 2016 when he played for the Carolina Panthers Super Bowl team, Tillman, a criminal justice major at UL, has became an FBI agent.
Kittles, a New Orleans native who prepped at St. Augustine, was a consensus All-America guard at Villanova in 1996 and the Big East Player of the Year in 1995. The No. 8 pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets, Kittles played eight years in the league, posting career averages of 14.9 points 2.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Dunbar, a Minden native, never played in the NBA despite averaging 22.3 points and 7.7 rebounds during his career at the University of Houston.
Instead, he spent 27 years as a player coach and director of player personnel for the Harlem Globetrotters where he was considered one of the team’s top entertainers.
Turner, who played at Class C Shady Grove High in Bienville Parish, was a four-year starter at Louisiana Tech where she was the MVP of the Lady Techsters’ 1981 AIAW national championship team and a Kodak All-America in 1982 when the Techsters won the first NCAA women’s basketball title. Turner is the ninth coach or player from the Louisiana Tech program elected to the hall.
Coleman, a Bastrop native who played linebacker for Eddie Robinson at Grambling, is the first bodybuilder elected to the hall. He was an eight-time Mr. Olympia (1998-2005) and holds the record for the most overall International Federation of Bodybuilders professional titles with 26.
Robertson, a Vivian native, became known globally as the Duck Commander, developing the industry standard for duck calls and gaining fame for starring along with his family on TV in “Duck Dynasty.”
The selection of Robertson, Coleman and Dunbar makes this perhaps the most diverse class in the hall’s history.
“It’s certainly a fascinating one,” said Ireland, who has been the executive director for 30 years. “We’ve got colorful personalities, maybe the greatest coach in the history of college football and hometown legends who have taken their talents around the world.
“It’s going to be a fun induction weekend.”
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