NATCHITOCHES – Paul Hoolahan, whose shrewd leadership over 19 years has helped keep the Allstate Sugar Bowl among college football’s elite postseason contests, has been named the 2015 recipient of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award presented by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Hoolahan became the Sugar Bowl’s executive director in 1996 and has added the role of Chief Executive Officer of the organization, which not only hosts at least one of college football’s premiere games annually, but also stages a continuing series of events promoting high school and college sports around the state.
The Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award is presented annually by the LSWA’s 35-member Hall of Fame selection committee to an individual who has played a decisive role as a sports leader or administrator benefiting Louisiana and/or bringing credit to Louisiana on the national and international level.
Dixon Award winners are enshrined as Hall of Fame members and are featured in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum in Natchitoches.
The award is named in honor of Hall of Famer Dave Dixon, the driving force behind bringing the NFL to Louisiana with the creation of the New Orleans Saints franchise. Dixon, who passed away in 2010, is also considered the “father” of the Mercedes-Benz Louisiana Superdome, developing the concept for the innovative domed structure and pushing state officials for its construction in the late 1960s.
Hoolahan will be among the 11-man 2015 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Class to be spotlighted in the annual Induction Dinner and Ceremonies on Saturday evening, June 27, at the Natchitoches Events Center. The Induction Dinner and Ceremonies are the culmination of the 2015 Induction Celebration beginning Thursday afternoon, June 25, with a press conference and the La Capitol Kickoff Reception.
LSU’s all-time leading rusher, three-time Super Bowl champion Kevin Faulk, joins UL-Lafayette great and Super Bowl quarterback Jake Delhomme, former NBA champion point guard and Coach of the Year Avery Johnson, along with coaching legends Pat Collins, Yvette Girouard and Otis Washington, among eight greats chosen for the 2015 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Class. College Football Hall of Fame member Leonard Smith and championship Thoroughbred racing trainer Frank Brothers are also in the Class of 2015 announced by the Hall of Fame and LSWA last October.
Also honored with enshrinement will be south Louisiana newspapermen Glenn Quebedeaux and the late Bobby Dower, chosen the 2015 recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism.
The 2015 Induction Class will be showcased in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum, operated by the Louisiana State Museum system in a partnership with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. The striking $23 million, two-story, 27,500-square foot structure faces Cane River Lake in the National Historic Landmark District of Natchitoches and has garnered worldwide architectural acclaim and rave reviews for its contents since its grand opening during the 2013 Hall of Fame induction weekend.
Hoolahan’s Dixon Award honor was jointly announced Wednesday by Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland and LSWA president Brent St. Germain.
Hoolahan has directed the bowl’s operations for 21 bowls, including five national championship games during his tenure in New Orleans.
While successfully hosting multiple bowls and national championships, Hoolahan has maintained the bowl’s status as one of the premier bowl games in the nation. Most recently, he brokered an arrangement with the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 Conference to host the top available teams from each conference in the Sugar Bowl through 2025 - except for when hosting four College Football Playoff national semifinal games, as it did in 2015.
In Hoolahan’s nearly two decades with the Sugar Bowl, the organization has generated well over $2 billion for the local economy.
During his tenure, the bowl has more than doubled its number of ancillary community events. In 2014, the Sugar Bowl took on title sponsorship of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s slate of state championship events. Hoolahan also spearheaded the Sugar Bowl’s involvement with New Orleans’ successful bid to host the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four, as well as the 2013 NCAA Women’s Final Four.
In addition to its many events, the Bowl is also heavily involved with several other local organizations. The Allstate Sugar Bowl sponsors the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame, The Manning Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding quarterback, and the local chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. It took over title sponsorship of the Crescent City Classic in 2012.
Formerly the AD at Vanderbilt, Hoolahan served as chairman of the Football Bowl Association and was a member of the NCAA Football Board of Directors.
Fourteen men have previously been presented the Dixon Award since its inception in 2005. Last year there were two recipients: Tynes Hildebrand, a coach and later athletics director at Northwestern State who served a decade as one of the NCAA’s top basketball officiating administrators, and Wright Waters, the longtime Sun Belt Conference commissioner.
The first winner was Randy Gregson, a New Orleans native/resident and former president of the United States Tennis Association. In 2006 the winner was Emmanuel “Boozy” Bourgeois, president of Louisiana Special Olympics since 1972.
The 2007 recipients were Don Landry, a longtime collegiate administrator and basketball coach, and Doug Thornton, the executive director of the Superdome.
In 2008, the Dixon Award went to world renowned orthopedic Dr. James Andrews, a Homer native, LSU graduate and SEC champion pole vaulter.
The 2009 recipients were George Dement, a Bossier City boxing and youth sports activist; and “Mr. Softball” Benny Turcan, a New Orleans native and long-time state ASA softball commissioner.
In 2010 the Dixon Award winner was Gerald Boudreaux, the longtime City of Lafayette recreation director best known as one of the country’s top college basketball referees in the last three decades.
A year later, the committee honored Elmo Adolph, an Olympic and professional boxing official, and Billy Montgomery, who as a highly-regarded state legislator championed sports causes including construction of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame museum.
In 2012, the Dixon Award went to Marksville physician Dr. L.J. Mayeux, the former national president and chairman of the board for Ducks Unlimited renowned for his efforts to restore duck habitat across the nation.
The 2013 recipient was New Orleans businessman and sports benefactor Milt Retif, whose influence has been especially significant for American Legion baseball and Tulane baseball in his hometown.
The 2015 Induction Celebration will kick off Thursday, June 25 with the press conference and reception. It includes three receptions, a youth sports clinic, and a Friday, June 26 celebrity pro-am golf scramble at Oak Wing Golf Course in Alexandria. Tickets for the Induction Dinner and Ceremonies, and golf entries, are on sale through the LaSportsHall.com website.
Adding to the 310 sports competitors currently enshrined, 14 previous winners of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership award and 54 prior recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism, there are 378 members of the Hall of Fame prior to this summer’s ceremonies.
The 2015 Induction Celebration weekend will be hosted by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, the support organization for the Hall of Fame. The LSHOF Foundation was established as a 501 c 3 non-profit entity in 1975 and is governed by a statewide board of directors. For information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Foundation President/CEO Lisa Babin at 318-458-0166 or lisababin@LaSportsHall.com. Standard and customized sponsorships are available.