In the summer of 1994, UL Ragin’ Cajuns baseball was at a serious crossroads.

The seven seasons that had just transpired put the program on the national scene for the first time in its history. Under coach Mike Boulanger, UL had enjoyed five 40-win campaigns, won six conference tournament or division championships and competed in four NCAA regionals, including making the Baton Rouge regional finals in 1991.

But Boulanger was on his way out. The NCAA chased him out of town and college baseball forever because of improper financial aid to athletes.

The program was placed on probation for the next two years. There wasn’t really much money left to rebuild it either.

Then-athletic director Nelson Schexnayder and his search committee had a giant decision to make.

The program was in trouble. A poor choice at that pivotal juncture and winning seasons at Tigue Moore Field could suddenly be few and far between.

In stepped Tony Robichaux.

He was no stranger to the field, the program, the university or the area.

Robichaux had played at then-USL from 1982 to 1984. He was a native of nearby Crowley. Ironically, he had eliminated the Cajuns in their first regional in Stillwater in 1988 as McNeese State's head coach.

And he had a Cajun last name.

Unfortunately for Schexnayder, none of those things were going to bail out the program.

What he needed was a miracle worker both with the energy to rejuvenate support for the bruised program as well as ingenuity to rebuild without much financial support to tap into.

In February of 1994, the man the field was named after — Marion Lartigue Moore — died.

Mr. Moore was a man of high integrity who never believed in lowering standards for any reason.

The best thing I can say about Tony Robichaux is that Schexnayder’s wise choice would have made Mr. Moore proud.

Sure, Mr. Moore would have enjoyed all the wins, conference titles and NCAA regional appearances.

Sure, Mr. Moore would have been blown away by his program making the College World Series.

Sure, Mr. Moore could never have even dreamed of what Russo Park looks like today.

Sure, Mr. Moore would have never stopped smiling as his program ascended to No. 1 in the country.

But none of those miraculous feats Robichaux brought to the area would have been as important to Mr. Moore than the character, consistency and class which Robichaux exhibited year in and year out to allow the Cajuns’ baseball program to achieve all of those lofty goals during his 25 years as UL’s head baseball coach.

Of course, the beauty of Robichaux was the humble mentality behind his master plan.

“It’s not about me,” Robichaux was once quoted as saying. “It’s never been about me. Some call this my program. It isn’t. It’s the University’s program and I’m fortunate enough that they hired me to manage it. We’re supposed to glorify God, not glorify man. God gets all the glory. I don’t want it.”

He never claimed to be perfect, but it didn’t take a microscope to detect how many of his values came directly from the Bible.

Jesus clearly taught his disciples to be servants. He hammered that point home by washing their feet, despite being the creator of the world.

Talking to other head baseball coaches around the conference and the state this past week and that’s what every one of them looked at Robichaux as. Despite all of his success, he never was above helping them.

And like any Christian who lives by his savior’s commands, their mere example serves all those who watch.

Several of his former players relayed to me how Robichaux’s influence still impacts their lives on a daily basis. That may be the greatest part of being a great head coach.

Bo Stuart, who was UL’s catcher during Robichaux’s playing days, had a servant’s story of his own.

Coaching a little league team in the area a few years ago, he called his old buddy Robichaux one day in hopes he could orchestrate a little league clinic for his young team.

The College World Series coach immediately asked him to name the day and time.

Robichaux brought only his teenage son Austin along to help. Stuart said the coach worked “like a dog" for three and a half hours running those kids through every drill possible. Then he talked to the parents and coaches about life for an hour.

And he still wasn’t done.

Stuart said as the clinic ended and people were walking to their cars, Robichaux and his soon-to-be UL ace right-hander son were picking up empty Gatorade bottles and other trash left on the ground to help keep the park clean.

Without that level of character, determination and meekness, UL’s program would have never made it to Omaha just five years after being at such a dangerous crossroads.

Another lingering lesson Robichaux left for the ages took place a year after that infamous 2000 trip to the College World Series.

The following season was spoiled largely because of Robichaux's decision to suspend ace left-hander Justin Gabriel for the entire season after a marijuana charge.

It didn’t matter that the charges were dropped weeks later.

Years before the NFL adopted that approach, Robichaux’s laws superseded the legal system. Gabriel had potentially sacrificed the integrity of the program.

That didn’t mean Robichaux didn’t give him a second chance. Gabriel could have transferred, but instead, he performed the punishments Robichaux demanded and eventually returned to the program.

Sure, it had to hurt Robichaux when the Cajuns didn’t even qualify for the conference tournament at Tigue Moore Field a year after making it to Omaha.

But that wasn’t worth sacrificing the program’s integrity.

Mr. Moore had to be smiling.

May Robichaux’s example and high standards ever guide UL’s entire athletic department.

May his ‘Robeisms’ serve future UL players, coaches and fans who never had the pleasure of hearing one of Robichaux's many gems firsthand.

May we learn from his example, work hard, do the right thing and make him proud.


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.