By Kevin Shannahan
Last Friday’s matchup between Lakeview and Red River high schools had an attendance of over 1,800 fans in Prather Coliseum. The venue is a superb place to hold a ball game. Its capacity is much larger than a high school’s gym, the seats are far more comfortable than bleachers and there is ample parking. Friday’s game between the Gators and Bulldogs was also proof of the feasibility of an idea
I proposed a few years ago in the Natchitoches Parish Journal.
I wrote a piece in 2016 proposing holding a basketball game between Natchitoches Central High School and Lakeview High School. The purpose of the game would be to raise funds for a scholarship at Northwestern State University for students graduating from the parish’s public schools. It fell on largely deaf ears at the time. We re-ran the piece after the State of Louisiana did not fully fund TOPS for the first time in the state’s history. Once again, the proposal fell on deaf ears. The third time’s the charm!
The Lakeview vs. Red River game is as fierce a rivalry as one will find in high school sports. The security at the game was more than up to the task. The crowd, while unabashedly vociferous in their cheering, was well behaved. With a junior varsity, girls’ and boys’ varsity game, it was a full evening’s entertainment at a modest admission price. Now imagine the crowd cheering on two powerhouse Natchitoches Parish teams with the proceeds going into a NSU scholarship fund. In a single night, the proceeds from the Red River vs. Lakeview game raised more than enough to endow a scholarship at NSU.
With that in mind, the Natchitoches Parish Journal is reprinting “A Game With a Purpose.” The time has come. Let’s make it happen!
It costs $10,000 to endow a scholarship at Northwestern State University. NCHS and Lakeview High Schools both field well-coached, talented and perennially successful boys’ and girls’ basketball teams that are a joy to watch. These two facts present Natchitoches Parish with an opportunity to help both our young people and our local university.
I’d like to propose an annual basketball game between the two schools’ teams with the gate and concession proceeds going into a fund to be used to endow the scholarship. The two teams have not met on the court in years and it remains the biggest unsettled sports rivalry in the area. I think this game could consistently fill Prather Coliseum for each year’s match-up. The game would showcase local talent, keep money circulating in the local area and above all, help our children.
Each year, a boy and girl who had played at least a season as a varsity athlete or trainer in any sport at either NCHS or Lakeview would earn a scholarship to NSU. The details as to qualifications and method of selection could be hashed out between the two schools. I don’t think it would take more than a year or two to raise the initial $10,000. As the amount grows with each year’s game, the amount of the scholarship can be increased. The NSU Foundation takes care of the money so there is no administrative burden on the schools. After a certain point, there would be enough funds for more than the two initial scholarships. Imagine the good that could be done after, say, 10 years.
Over the years that I have photographed local high school sports, I’ve been uniformly impressed by the young men and women of the various schools’ teams. They are a hard working, disciplined group of young people who have represented our parish with skill and class over the years. As they put away their uniforms and go on to the next phase of their lives, let’s help them get there! I can’t think of a better reason for a ball game.