I recall something about a commemorative plaque at the USL stadium "disappearing" or something like that.
What a Downer 2002 June 12th (Wednesday)
A plaque honoring UL''s Yvette Girouard has gone missing. And that is not all that''s missing.
Call it the plaque that never was. There one moment, gone the next. Like a nasty slider that drops off the table a foot from the plate, like the cheesy bread in the Domino's Pizza commercials.
Like, well, civility between feuding University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Louisiana State University alums.
UL Athletic Director Nelson Schexnayder says he doesn't even know where the plaque came from. So too, say a number of athletic department employees.
But former Lady Cajuns softball coach Yvette Girouard, the woman whom it honored, knew it was there - behind the dugout at Lady Cajun Softball Park. There, at least, until Girouard and her new team, the hated LSU Lady Tigers, came to town to take part in last month's NCAA Division 1 Regional.
It was then that Girouard, who compiled a .751 winning percentage during her 20 years at UL, learned that the plaque recognizing her for "coach of the year" honors she earned in 1990 and 1993 had vanished.
After a 7-15 mark in 1981, Girouard's teams enjoyed 18 straight winning seasons. They appeared in eight consecutive Regionals and three World Series. The plaque was one of the few mementos recognizing the only coach the USL/UL team had ever known until two years ago.
Conspiracy theorists say the plaque was removed under the cover of darkness. Perhaps by someone affiliated with the Lady Cajuns who felt snubbed when Girouard left to coach the cross-river rival Tigers. Perhaps by some LSU students perpetrating just another sorority or fraternity prank.
It was, one person says, "like the Colts' Robert Irsay packing up his team in the middle of the night and taking off for Indianapolis."
Schexnayder says this is much ado about nothing, that there is no second gunman, no grassy knoll.
"It was no conspiracy," says Schexnayder. "No one's indicated that they have it, there's no (mystery) letter, no one's winked knowingly at me about it."
But current Lady Cajuns softball coach, Stefni Whitten-Lotief - who played under Girouard during her UL career - isn't so sure.
"I think this is the work of a very sophisticated criminal ring that waited until all our attention was focused on homeland security and, in the dead of night, swooped down and stole the plaque," says Lotief.
"Obviously, these are some skilled criminals to successfully steal away with it."
Schexnayder says soon after the plaque disappeared he met with Lotief.
"I met with Coach (Lotief) and asked her if she was aware of the plaque coming down. I asked if any of her staff members had taken it down and she indicated that no, they had not," Schexnayder says
So far, no one's called in to claim responsibility for the pilfering of the plaque. No ransom note pieced together with multi-colored words cut and pasted from magazine pages has surfaced. Just a bare brick wall with four holes where the plaque once rested.
The plaque seems to have disappeared as quietly as it appeared. And even that's an interesting story.
Until this Times special investigation, no one knew for sure where the plaque came from, when it was mounted on the Wall of Honor, or who put it there, says UL's sports information director Daryl Cetnar.
"This is a big campus," Cetnar says. "Who knows ... how many unauthorized plaques are out there?"
Schexnayder says the athletic department did not pay for the plaque, nor did it take it down. He recalls it surfacing three or four years before Girouard left for the Tigers, sometime around 1996 or 1997.
"The plaque went up one day," and, pausing for just the right words, he says, "and that was fine."
Some have speculated that a Girouard supporter put it up, or that Girouard herself did.
Until now, Girouard has not commented publicly about Plaque Flak, but in an exclusive (and lengthy) interview with The Times - perhaps our biggest scoop of the year (OK, not counting our Best-Dressed edition) - Girouard said:
"Whoa, I don't want to get involved in this."
But, after further prodding by our pushy answering machine, Girouard, like a pitcher wilting in the late innings, gave up the goods.
"I did not originally ask for my own plaque to be put on the wall. I didn't have anything to do with that. The Louis (Snook) Castille family insisted that it be placed up there. So, it wasn't my idea. I didn't put up my own plaque, someone else did it."
And, in perhaps The Times' biggest scoop of the year (didn't we already say that?) this newspaper has confirmed, at least, as best one can confirm anything that is told to you by an 87-year-old Cajun man named Snook, that Girouard might just be telling the truth.
"The plaques, I gave them that. I was very disappointed about the plaque that's missing," says Snook Castille, owner of Castille's Marble and Granite Works.
Castille says Girouard asked him several years ago - "maybe 10 years ago" - if he could make a plaque recognizing the team's accomplishments. He's not sure if the second plaque recognizing Girouard (the one that's gone missing) was her idea or his. "I'm 87, I don't remember much," he says. Castille also recalls a brief ceremony after the plaques were mounted, but doesn't recall who was there.
But he's sure the plaque's disappearance is no accident. "I don't even want to get into that, son," he says.
The granite plaque, about 18 x 24 inches and weighing nearly 50 pounds, was held in place by four half-inch thick metal bolts. Easy prey for a smooth criminal.
"It would be real easy to take it down," Castille says. "You get a little crescent wrench ..."
Castille says he contacted Schexnayder's office when the plaque went missing.
"I spoke to the assistant and I told her I was disappointed and she says, 'Snook , we're looking into this' ... and I didn't hear from them since."
When asked whether this would even be an issue had Girouard gone to work for, say, Stanford University, Castille says, "No, I don't think so."
Lotief wonders why it's an issue at all. She wonders why no one's talking about the team's back-to-back 50-win seasons, about their team record 76 homeruns, about their star shortstop, Alana Addison, who became the school's first player to make the USA National Elite Team, earning her a shot at the 2004 Olympics in Greece.
But did she go to work for LSU?
Louis Rom is public life editor for The Times. Phone him at 237-3560, ext. 118, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 22, 2010, Dependence Day. Remember in November.