Stokley Endowed Scholarship Fund to honor former UL coach
LAFAYETTE – Nelson Stokley dedicated much of his adult life to strengthening and growing the UL Lafayette athletic department and football program.
Now, friends of the late Ragin’ Cajun coach and former LSU football great are gathering to help cement his legacy, and are seeking help from Stokley’s long line of friends, professional acquaintances and former players.
The Nelson R. Stokley Endowed Football Scholarship Committee has announced plans for a three-phase program to raise funds to endow a $100,000 scholarship at UL in Stokley’s name. The fund-raising will be in the form of a direct mail and e-mail campaign, a benefit golf tournament scheduled for the spring of 2011, and a dinner/social/auction tentatively set for early next summer.
“Nelson touched the lives of so many in so many ways,” said campaign co-chairman Preston Guidry. “He dedicated his whole life to athletics and was hugely successful in that, but he also embraced so many groups and community organizations that made life better for those of us in Acadiana.”
Stokley passed away last June 5 at age 66 from complications linked to his long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, and his funeral at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Lafayette drew hundreds of ex-players and coaching comrades.
The first priority for awarding of the scholarship, once the fund reaches the needed endowment levels, will be to the child of a former Ragin’ Cajun student-athlete who intends to play football at UL. If there are no applicants to meet that requirement, the second awarding priority will be to a student who played high school football in Louisiana and who intends to play football at UL.
“It was here at USL (now UL) that Nelson returned to Louisiana to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a head coach,” said campaign co-chairman Kathy Stokley. “That’s why the first priority is to help former Cajun athletes. But Nelson’s impact was obviously felt throughout Louisiana, and we felt it was important to also have all of the state represented in some way.”
Minimum funding to establish the scholarship is $10,000, and two anonymous benefactors have already helped establish the fund with an initial investment totaling $4,000. The $100,000 goal would provide funding for the scholarship in perpetuity.
The direct mail and e-mail campaign is currently underway, and most former athletes and others with a connection to the UL program, including current season ticket holders, should have received information on the fund-raising drive. Groups, businesses or individuals wishing to aid in the drive or receive more information on a tax-deductible contribution may contact UL athletic development director Gerald Hebert at (337) 482-0927 or Darleen Lugenbuhl (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the UL Office of Development at (337) 482-0922
The golf will be held in conjunction with the UL Gridiron Alumni Club’s annual Bill “Blackjack” Landry Memorial Tournament and is scheduled for Friday, April 15, at Acadian Hills Country Club. Funds from that tournament, which is one day prior to the Cajuns’ Red-White Spring Football Game, go to the Gridiron Alumni group, who will then in turn donate those funds to the Stokley Endowed Football Scholarship Fund.
Guidry said that plans are underway for next summer’s social gathering and fund-raising auction, with the date and site to be determined. The auction is slated to feature several high-end items in both athletic and non-athletic areas.
Stokley, a native of Kennedy, Texas, was a standout athlete in both high school and college, earning the maximum 12 athletic letters at Crowley High School. He later was the starting quarterback for three seasons at LSU from 1965-67 under former coach Charles McClendon, being named the team’s Outstanding Player in his senior season. He guided the Tigers to the 1966 Cotton Bowl and to a win in the 1968 Sugar Bowl, leading LSU to a comeback 20-13 victory over previously unbeaten Wyoming and throwing two fourth-quarter touchdowns after the Cowboys held a 13-0 halftime lead.
Following that season, he was honored as winner of the inaugural James J. Corbett Award, which is presented annually to the state’s top amateur athlete. Ironically, two Cajun athletes – football’s Tyrell Fenroy and softball’s Ashley Brignac – won the 2009 Corbett Award which now goes to one male and one female athlete.
Stokley served at LSU, Virginia Tech and Clemson during his coaching career, and was offensive coordinator for the 1981 Clemson team that won the national championship.
He then took over as head coach of the then-USL program in 1985 and guided the Cajuns for 13 seasons, and ranks second on the school’s all-time victory list. He had seven winning seasons including three straight from 1993-96 when the Cajuns were members of the Big West Conference and won two league championships. His record in the Big West was 14-4 in two seasons, but his most memorable game came after that tenure when he guided the Cajuns to a 29-22 upset over nationally-ranked Texas A&M in 1996 – considered the program’s greatest victory.
Stokley, who also served as UL’s athletic director for almost five years from 1988-92 while continuing as head football coach, tutored a dozen players drafted by the NFL during his career including such Cajun greats as Brian Mitchell, Jake Delhomme, Orlando Thomas and Damon Mason. That group also includes his son Brandon Stokley, who is a member of the Seattle Seahawks in his 13th NFL season and holds two Super Bowl rings.