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Ro Brown, Doug Ireland, Sheldon Mickles are 2021 Distinguished Service Award inductees

NATCHITOCHES – Pioneering New Orleans sportscaster Ro Brown, former Northwestern State sports publicist and longtime Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland, and Baton Rouge sportswriter Sheldon Mickles have been selected for the 2021 Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.

The trio will be inducted in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame next June.

Brown was the first on-air African-American sports anchor-reporter in New Orleans, in 1978 at WDSU-TV, and became a staple of the Crescent City’s sports scene. An award-winning journalist who also became the first education reporter in the New Orleans market in his final three years (1999-2002) at WDSU, Brown has continued covering and promoting sports during the last two decades.

Ireland has been the chairman of the Hall of Fame, a volunteer role, since April 1990, just over a year after he left the Alexandria Town Talk sports staff to become sports information director at Northwestern. He spearheaded efforts leading to construction and opening of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum in Natchitoches in 2013. Ireland wrapped up over 30 years as the Demons’ innovative SID last summer.

Mickles is in his 43rd year of sports coverage in Baton Rouge, currently as a beat writer on LSU basketball for The Advocate. First for the Baton Rouge State-Times, a now defunct afternoon paper in Baton Rouge, and then the morning Advocate, Mickles covered the New Orleans Saints for 30 seasons. While winning many state, regional and national writing awards, Mickles has been a key leader for the LSWA, including a term as president, and has been chair of the nomination subcommittee for the Hall of Fame for years.

The DSA honor, to be made official next summer in Natchitoches, means they will be among an elite 12-person Class of 2021 being inducted in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. The trio was selected from a 26-person pool of outstanding nominees for the state’s top sports journalism honor.

The Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism recipients are chosen by the 40-member Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame selection committee based on nominees’ professional accomplishments in local, state, regional and even national arenas, with leadership in the LSWA a contributing factor and three decades of work in the profession as a requirement.

Distinguished Service Award winners are enshrined in the Hall of Fame along with the 444 current athletes, sports journalists, coaches and administrators chosen since 1959. Just 66 leading figures in the state’s sports media have been honored with the Distinguished Service Award since its inception 38 years ago in 1982.

Brown, Ireland and Mickles will be among the 2021 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Class to be spotlighted in the annual Induction Dinner and Ceremonies on Saturday evening, June 26, at the Natchitoches Events Center. The Induction Dinner and Ceremonies are the highlight of the 2021 Induction Celebration beginning Thursday afternoon, June 24, with a regionally-televised (Cox Sports Television) press conference at the Hall of Fame museum at 800 Front Street in Natchitoches.

Marques Colston, the all-time leading receiver for the New Orleans Saints, joins two of LSU’s greatest competitors, basketball’s Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and football’s Glenn Dorsey, former LSU football coach Nick Saban and Southern Jaguars baseball star Rickie Weeks among eight competitive ballot inductees set to enter the Hall of Fame next summer.

The LSHOF Class of 2021 also includes Baton Rouge native Courtney Blades Rogers, considered one of college softball’s best pitchers ever as a phenomenal player at Nicholls and Southern Mississippi. North Louisiana is represented by Bastrop native and Grambling alumnus Ronnie Coleman, the eight-time Mr. Olympia bodybuilding champion, and Natchitoches native Villis “Bo” Dowden, the 1980 Bassmaster Classic champion.

Also honored with enshrinement in the Class of 2021 will be the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award winner, to be announced this week.

The 2021 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.

The selection of Brown, Ireland and Mickles was announced Wednesday by LSWA president Raymond Partsch III.

“The most phenomenal aspect of this trio of DSA honorees is not the hundreds of awards they have been bestowed with over the decades of service or their reputation as respected journalists,” Partsch said. “For me, it is the years of unselfish dedication to sports and sports media here in the state of Louisiana that stands out.

“From Sheldon’s work behind the scenes with the LSWA and its annual writing contest, to Ro’s mentorship of aspiring reporters-broadcasters of all ages and backgrounds, and finally Doug dedicating nearly his entire adult life championing the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame,” Partsch added. “We have been blessed to have had them be a part of our state’s storied sports history and there is no better way to honor them than having them inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

Brown spent a year (1980-81) at KPLC-TV in Lake Charles, then returned to WDSU where he remained for 21 years, 18 as one of the market’s primary sports voices before shifting to education coverage in his final three years.

In 1983 his five-part series on the Black student-athlete won a Louisiana Associated Press Award for Best Sports Series. He won a New Orleans Press Club honor for highlights of the Liberty Track and Field Meet.

The Sports Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists presented him with the 2012 Sam Lacy Pioneer Award. A few months ago, the LSWA awarded him its prized Mac Russo Award presented to an association member who has advanced the ideals and stature of the organization.

A four-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, Brown is a member of four Hall of Fame selection committees: Louisiana Sports, Allstate Sugar Bowl, Greater New Orleans, and New Orleans Saints. A New Orleans native, he attended George Washington Carver High School and graduated from John F. Kennedy High, and earned his college degree from Loyola University in New Orleans.

While continuing to cover sports in and around his hometown, he has served the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation as director of community relations. Brown has worked for Event Productions as a producer and host of sports shows featuring the Louisiana High School Athletic Association and the Sun Belt Conference.

Brown has also worked as assistant director of communications at the University of New Orleans.

Mickles, a Gretna native and Archbishop Shaw High School product who graduated from LSU, worked for the State-Times from 1978-91 and then joined the Advocate. He covered high schools, then moved up to Southern University football and basketball coverage before taking over the Saints beat in 1984.

He was in the press box for 540 preseason, regular season and postseason games, including the team’s run to the Super Bowl XLIV title – and covered 17 other Super Bowls. Mickles has covered LSU track and field for the past 42 seasons and is also part of the Advocate’s LSU football coverage team.

Mickles has provided coverage of LSU gymnastics, women’s basketball, baseball and softball. He has been on site for the PGA Tour event in New Orleans for the past 31 years.

A two-time LSWA Class I Columnist of the Year, Mickles was the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors 2012 Columnist of the Year. He was the 2019 recipient of the Track and Field Writers of America Cordner Nelson Memorial Award for lifetime achievement and writing excellence. Mickles is a voter for college football’s Heisman Trophy and Biletnikoff Award, and votes on the AP’s Top 25 college basketball weekly poll.

He was LSWA president from 1988-90 following stints as secretary and vice president, and has been a Hall of Fame selection committee member since 1983. His longtime involvement with, and stewardship of the LSWA’s annual writing contest, teaming with 2015 Hall of Fame inductee Glenn Quebedeaux, has been a bedrock for the state sportswriters’ organization.

Ireland, who grew up in Jonesboro, 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.

He broadcast a live morning NSU Sports report weekdays on three area radio stations throughout his 30 years as SID, also did some play-by-play in basketball, baseball and softball, and was a color analyst for Demon basketball. Ireland guided NSU to innovative delivery of interviews and highlights to television outlets, leading to extensive coverage for the Demons in the university’s key markets of Shreveport-Bossier City and Alexandria-Pineville.

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 to stage the Induction Celebration each year. He serves as executive director of the Foundation, led by CEO/President Ronnie Rantz since 2016 as its events schedule and brand has greatly expanded around the state and throughout the 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 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.

The 2021 Induction Celebration will kick off Thursday, June 24, with a press conference and reception. The three-day festivities include two receptions, a youth sports clinic, a bowling party, and a Friday night riverbank concert in Natchitoches. Tickets for the Saturday night, June 26 Induction Dinner and Ceremony, along with congratulatory advertising and sponsorship opportunities, will soon be available through the LaSportsHall.com website.

Anyone can receive quarterly e-mails about the 2021 Induction Celebration and other Hall of Fame news by signing up on the LaSportsHall.com website.

Adding to the 350 sports competitors currently enshrined, 19 winners of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership award and 64 recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism, there are 433 current members of the Hall of Fame before next year’s inductions. Eleven more will be added when the Class of 2020 is enshrined next spring after a pair of pandemic-rooted postponements this year. A date for the 2020 induction festivities will be announced in the coming weeks.

The 2020 and 2021 Induction Celebration weekends 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 Ronnie Rantz at 225-802-6040 or RonnieRantz@LaSportsHall.com. Standard and customized sponsorships are available.

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LSWARo Brown, Doug Ireland, Sheldon Mickles are 2021 Distinguished Service Award inductees