The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame is loaded with well-known athletes, coaches and athletic officials.
But of the 400-plus members in the Hall of Fame, there are only two sets of siblings — track hurdlers Dave and Don Styron and golfers Lionel and Jay Hebert.
That number will increase to three when the Class of 2017 is inducted June 24 in Natchitoches. Former Southwestern Louisiana Institute, LSU and Nicholls State baseball coach Raymond Didier will join his brother Mel Didier, who was part of the Class of 2003.
“It’s one of the greatest things to happen to our family,” Mel Didier said. “Raymond was more than just my brother, as he was my tutor and coach when I was in school. He set some standards for me very, very high, and I am really proud that he will be joining me in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.”
Raymond Didier’s son, Chip, said his family is proud to be joining the Hall’s elite set of siblings.
“It’s a real honor for the Didier name, considering his brother Mel went in several years ago,” he said. “We are real proud of the Didier name and glad to see that my dad was finally able to get in.”
Didier’s journey to the Hall of Fame began at age 28 in 1948, when he started coaching baseball and football at Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now UL-Lafayette). His path never left south Louisiana with stops at LSU and Nicholls.
Until his death in 1978 at age 56, Didier touched the lives of countless student-athletes and sports fans during his 29-year tenure in college athletics.
From 1948-56, Didier served as the head baseball coach at SLI, compiling a 137-78 record and winning five Gulf States Conference titles. He also coached the school’s football team for six seasons, compiling a 29-27-2 overall record and winning a share of the 1952 conference title.
Didier’s next stop was at LSU, where he coached the baseball team from 1957-63. He led the Tigers to a 104-79 record and won the Southeastern Conference title in 1961. Doing double duty in football, Didier was also an assistant for LSU’s 1958 national championship football team.
LSU's 1961 SEC baseball championship was its first in 15 years.
Despite winning the SEC title, LSU was unable to represent the SEC in the NCAA baseball tournament because of a university policy keeping the team from competing against teams that had black players.
Didier was looking for a new challenge by 1963, and Nicholls provided him with the right opportunity.
When Vernon F. Galliano took over as Nicholls’ president, he asked his old friend Didier to take over as the school’s athletic director and head baseball coach.
Moving the program in the right direction was not easy.
Chip Didier said during a game early in the days at Nicholls, his father couldn’t find his starting pitcher soon after pulling him a few innings earlier. He found the player sitting in the stands with a six-pack of beer and surrounded by girls.
The steps that Didier took to reshape the baseball program were needed as Nicholls was working toward making the jump from the NAIA to the NCAA.
"When Coach came in, they had some guys who were not going to class and were not studying,” said Mike Davis, who played at Nicholls from 1969-72. “He needed to clean that out to get the program set to go into the NCAA and move ahead. We had some guys who were strictly here to play baseball at that time, and Coach had to find student-athletes. Those were the challenges he was faced with early on.”
Didier’s efforts started to pay off in 1969, when he guided the Colonels to a 28-13 record and a second-place finish in the Gulf States Conference.
Nicholls followed with one of the best seasons in school history. The Colonels advanced to the Division II College World Series and finished as the national runner-up, losing to San Fernando Valley State 2-1 in the national championship game.
Didier remained in the Colonels’ dugout for three more seasons, winning one Gulf States titles and earning another trip to the Division II regionals.
After the 1973 season, Didier stepped down as baseball coach to concentrate on his duties at the school’s athletic director. He compiled a 217-154-3 record at Nicholls and a 460-311 mark overall.
Under Didier’s guidance, Nicholls experienced unprecedented success in the three big sports — football, men’s basketball and baseball. The three programs combined to win four Gulf South Conference titles from 1974-77.
He stayed as AD at Nicholls until his death on March 9, 1978. He died of a stroke at 56.
The Nicholls baseball field is known as Ray E. Didier Field in his honor.