DENHAM SPRINGS — When Kevin Wagner returned home and found his collection of LSU championship rings had been stolen, it took him a moment to fathom the loss.

“I got a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach,” said Wagner, an assistant athletic director for LSU.

“I just stood there looking,” he said. “I couldn’t believe they were gone.”

Included among the 24 stolen rings was the prized 2007 ring from the football team’s national championship, which Wagner said is the most valuable to sports memorabilia dealers.

The theft of the rings, announced Tuesday by the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, occurred more than two months ago, and Wagner said he has little hope of recovering them.

Perry Rushing, chief of operations at the Sheriff’s Office, said that at Wagner’s request, investigators didn’t report the theft to the news media earlier in hopes that the thieves would get caught trying to pawn or sell the rings to dealers who had been quietly notified of the theft.

The rings commemorate national titles, bowl games, men’s basketball championships, women’s basketball Final Four tournaments and baseball championships, the Sheriff’s Office reported.

The collection of rings, which are engraved with the name “Wagner” on the inside and embossed with the name on the outside, are valued at more than $50,000, Rushing said.

The rings and his wife’s jewelry both have sentimental value exceeding the street value, Wagner said.

“The rings represent 23 years of LSU athletics,” Wagner said.

He said that on the day of the burglary, he arrived at his Plantation Estates home earlier than usual and didn’t realize the house had been broken into until he went into the master bedroom.

“It was a surreal feeling,” he said.

“I don’t think they were after the rings,” Wagner said. “They weren’t displayed.”

He said national dealers in such rings exist, but he doubts that the thieves had any idea what to do with what they took, especially after they saw his name on them.

Though he often wore one of the rings, unfortunately, he hadn’t done so on the day of the burglary.

Wagner said that once he comprehended that his residence had been burglarized, he grabbed a gun, thinking the burglars might still be in the house. He went outside to call authorities.

Rushing asked anyone with information about the case to call detectives (800) 443-7681 or Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-7867.

Wagner said he tries not to keep his hopes up that the rings will be found.

“Realistically, I don’t believe we’ll ever see them again.”