The Legacy of Strawberry Stadium

The current home of Southeastern men’s football, as well as women’s soccer, Strawberry Stadium has a rich 83-year history. Throughout the decades, it has stood as a solid testament to both the fierceness of true Lion Spirit and our ever-changing world. Generation after generation have battled for victory on its turf, cheered on their school with pride or reconnected with Southeastern and fellow classmates in its stands, experienced some of the best years of their lives living in its housing or forging friendships in its social spaces, celebrated a new school year on its grounds, and so much more.

In honor of the more than eight decades of tradition, we look back at some of the most monumental moments and triumphs in the story of Strawberry Stadium.


On May 12, ground is broken on Strawberry Stadium as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) program. Under project #1304, the
construction cost $144,000 ($2.95 million in 2020 dollars). Edward F. Neild, D. A. Sondal, and E. F. Neild Jr. were the architects of the two buildings that would collectively become known as Strawberry Stadium. The structures were designed to hold 8,200 fans.

Strawberry Stadium is completed and the first game is held in the new facility on September 17, during which time then-Governor Richard Leche dedicated it in person. The Lions, fresh off an 8-0-1 season in 1936 under head coach A. L. “Red” Swanson, face off against the LSU freshman team for their first game in the stadium.

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They celebrate their first landslide win in it a week later, defeating Southwest Mississippi Junior College 52-7. The Lions finish their first season in Strawberry Stadium with a 6-1-1 home record and an overall mark of 8-2-1.

Mornings in Strawberry Stadium

In addition to providing an exciting new venue for the community to cheer on their team and school, the new stadium also serves as one of the campus’s first student housing facilities and much-needed space for auxiliary services. The first floor of the East Stadium building held a cafeteria, post office, and social room—a precursor to the first War Memorial Student Union completed in 1950, although it continued to be used as a gathering spot even beyond then and served as a meeting room for student organizations. A men’s dormitory occupied the second floor. West Stadium housed athletic offices and training facilities on the first floor and a football player dormitory on the second floor. To this day, the two buildings continue to provide space for campus operations, with East Stadium’s first floor now housing University Advancement’s Office of Marketing and Communications and its second floor serving as additional office space for the Department of Visual Art + Design, while West Stadium remains home to athletic offices and training facilities.

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The stadium was completed in only 16 weeks, due in part to the eagerness of Governor Leche, who reputedly pulled workers from other government construction projects in the area to work on the stadium. Leche initially planned to name the stadium after himself, but it instead was decidedly named in honor of the local strawberry farmers. A plaque still remains on the north end of East Stadium in honor of governor Leche’s contribution.

From 1942-1945, the excitement and celebration in Strawberry Stadium is put on hold as players and other members of the Southeastern community heroically serve their country during World War II. When the roar finally resumes in 1946, it does so epically.

The returning Lions achieve a perfect 9-0 season, becoming the first undefeated and untied football team in the University’s history. Southeastern outscores the five visitors
to Strawberry Stadium by a combined total of 159-19 and end the victorious returning season by winning the only bowl game in Lions football history, the Burley Bowl in Johnson City, Tennessee.

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Strawberry Stadium’s field was named Carroll Field in honor of longtime Southeastern supporter Eldridge Carroll (1867-1960) who passed away in October. Carroll, a prominent Hammond real estate developer who became known as “Coach” for his tutelage of the football team, served for many years as a dedicated volunteer in several leadership roles on campus, including as superintendent of the Strawberry Stadium building.

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Two of football’s most legendary players take on the Lions, but Strawberry Stadium plays witness to their defeat. With Coach Pat Kenelly at the helm, Southeastern triumphs over Pensacola Navy College and quarterback Roger Staubach on October 28. The next week, on November 4, a Terry Bradshaw-led Louisiana Tech squad is outmatched during the 1967 Homecoming game. Staubach (with the Dallas Cowboys) and Bradshaw (Pittsburgh Steelers) both go on to be members of the NFL Hall of Fame and win a combined six Super Bowls in the 1970s.


Halloween 1970 proves to be scary for another future NFL quarterback when Southeastern defeats Youngstown State University, led by Ron Jaworski, who would later play for the Philadelphia Eagles and in Super Bowl XV.

On October 18, Southeastern ties a national record as three Lions—Mack Boatner, Kendall Denmark, and Charlie Thomas—make history by all topping 100 yards rushing in a 47-6 Homecoming victory. A few weeks later, fans go crazy as Boatner rushes for a school-record 275 yards, a mark that stands until today.

The largest crowd ever in Strawberry Stadium, 12,000 fans and visitors, packs the stands while cheering the Lions on to victory against Jackson State University on October 3.

On November 23, the final Lions football game of the twentieth century is played in Strawberry Stadium. Due to budget constraints, football is discontinued for nearly a generation to come as the first of many chapters in Strawberry Stadium’s story comes to a close.

The roar returns to Strawberry Stadium! Following the success of the Campaign for Excellence, which raised $5 million, and an outpouring of support from the Southeastern and local communities, the first Lions football game in nearly 18 years
is played in Strawberry Stadium on August 30. A 24-minute lightning delay followed by a losing deficit threaten the celebration, but the Lions rally and go on to achieve victory as cheers once again echo throughout the beloved facility.


Playing in a driving rain due to Tropical Storm Matthew, on October 9 Southeastern soundly defeats the University of Northern Colorado and wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who goes on to make the Pro Bowl three times during a 12-year NFL career playing for the San Diego Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s disastrous impact on South Louisiana, the start of the football season is delayed as members of the Southeastern community address their own devastating losses or aid in recovery efforts for others. The Southeastern campus warmly welcomes and shelters those who have been displaced, including McNeese State University’s football team. Games resume on September 10, helping provide a sense of normalcy and a spark of happiness to those who are able to attend. Crowds witness the Lions win both this delayed home opener against Alcorn State University on September 10 and their big game against new neighbor McNeese on October 22.

Southeastern unveils new renovations at Strawberry Stadium on September 13. The much-anticipated additions include the Victory Club, which features 116 additional outdoor seats and six luxury suites seating 15 people apiece. The top level of
the new structure is dubbed the John A. Chauvin Press Box. As part of the project, a parking garage with a 500-vehicle capacity is constructed adjacent to the west side of Strawberry Stadium to better meet the needs of Southeastern’s growing student body.

On September 22, the Lions earn their first win under head coach Ron Roberts in dramatic fashion by earning a touchdown and two-point conversion against McNeese State University with only 2:39 remaining. Future NFL starter Robert Alford clinches the win with an interception on his opponent’s final possession.


The first-ever Lady Lions soccer match is held in Strawberry Stadium. The team celebrates their August 23 debut on the facility’s turf by defeating Jackson State University, and they eventually become a fresh staple of Strawberry Stadium. They make their full-time move to the facility for their home matches prior to the 2015 season.

Strawberry Stadium also witnesses a momentous year in Southeastern’s football history. On November 16, a win against Sam Houston State University clinches the program’s first-ever trip to the NCAA FCS playoffs. Southeastern then secures its first football conference championship since 1961 with a 51-27 win over Nicholls State University on November 2. A month later, on December 7, playoff football makes its debut at Strawberry Stadium as Southeastern defeats Sam Houston State University in a second-round game.


Over 10,070 fans storm the stadium for the River Bell Classic on November 21, becoming the second-largest crowd in program history. Over a week later, spectators witness the return of playoff football to Strawberry Stadium as the Lions triumph over Villanova University and a school-record three players—CJ Turner, Javon Conner, and Bransen Schwebel—all top 100 yards receiving.

The rampant rise of COVID-19 throughout the world halts all fall Southeastern athletic competitions, including football, along with other annual large celebrations in Strawberry Stadium, such as the traditional school year kick-off party Strawberry Jam.

But there is no stopping the roar, and Strawberry Stadium’s story still has many chapters ahead that are waiting to unfold among both current and future generations. As the sounds of football and soccer practice continue to reverberate across its evergreen field and throughout its history-steeped walls, with players fiercely readying themselves for the return of competition and victory, Strawberry Stadium remains a steadfast reminder of the indomitable Lion Spirit, of the unforgettable times lived and shared within its steadfast structure over the past 83 years, and of the exciting moments that still lay ahead.

By Kemmler Chapple

Strengthening Business Outreach

Southeastern President John L. Crain and St. Tammany Corporation CEO Chris Masingill recently formalized a coordinated effort to expand access to services and resources to the business community in St. Tammany Parish through an innovative agreement. The partnership will provide enhanced technical assistance and increased collaborative efforts to best support businesses in St. Tammany Parish.

“We are proud to formally announce our ongoing partnership with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southeastern to continue the work we’ve been doing collectively to strengthen and streamline business resource opportunities for our existing businesses in St. Tammany,” said Masingill. “Economic development is a team sport and creating stronger alignment and collaborations means more efficient service delivery and responsiveness to businesses in St. Tammany Parish, specifically our small business community. It is important that businesses have consistent access to programs and resources to help meet their needs, especially as we all continue to navigate the effects of the COVID-19 public health crisis.”

“One of the hallmarks of effective regional universities is a close alignment of the mission of the institution and the needs of the region,” said Crain. “An integral part of the mission of Southeastern is to support economic development across our region, which includes St. Tammany Parish. The award-winning Louisiana Small Business Development Center at Southeastern is one of the university’s most effective means by which we bring this part of our mission to life. Through this agreement with St. Tammany Corporation, I am thrilled to affirm Southeastern’s commitment to support economic and business development in St. Tammany Parish. I look forward to continuing to expand and enhance our support and services for businesses located here in conjunction with our partners at St. Tammany Corporation.”

Through this agreement, partners will work toward accomplishing specific outcomes, with the overarching goal being stronger businesses, more jobs, and a resilient economy. Both organizations have an interest in strategically aligning support for the St. Tammany Parish small business community. St. Tammany Corporation will serve as the primary partner in St. Tammany Parish with LSBDC. St. Tammany Corporation and the LSBDC will promote the joint efforts established under the agreement.

“Southeastern’s Small Business Development Center has been working closely with St. Tammany Parish Development District for over 20 years,” said Director of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center Bill Joubert. “When St. Tammany Corporation was formed, Chris Masingill reached out to formalize our relationship and articulate the ways to leverage our resources for St. Tammany businesses to continue benefitting from our collective efforts. From projects and training to individual one-on-one business consulting, our center stands ready to assist the community.”

The agreement establishes a framework for both agencies to facilitate its commitment to move relationships with business and industry beyond a transactional level, but truly build relationships, partnerships, and coalitions that are transformational, creating an environment in which  businesses can grow and people and communities in St. Tammany can thrive.

Artificial Intelligence meets Higher Education in Sales Training Competition

At a time when some students were quarantined, isolated, zooming and/or learning behind masks, they were able to get the attention they needed from their professors with the help of Alex Taylor, who happens to be an artificially intelligent customer bot in a simulation called RNMKRS (pronounced “Rainmakers”). 

Southeastern students learned and practiced professional sales skills and communication in the fall semester by selling to Alex, who listens, adapts, and responds as students use voice activation on their mobile phones via an app to train virtually. The training ultimately led to a worldwide sales competition, where employers like Dell, Gartner, TTi, EMI, and YRC Worldwide recruited students for jobs.  

“Fifty-nine schools from the US, Canada, and Germany for a total of 2,176 students competed,” said Dr. Stefanie Boyer, RNMKRS co-founder, and Bryant University professor.   

Real-time scoring and feedback allowed coaches to see how their students were doing as they were practicing building rapport, empathy and trust with the customer bot—all from their mobile phone.

Directed by Southeastern Professors Dr. Tará Lopez and Dr. April Kemp, the following Southeastern students finished among the top in the competition:

Top 10%: Mckay Rayborn, Sabir Hishamuddin (Overall, Southeastern College of Business Winner)

Top 20%: Breanne Choate, Colby Ford, and Darnell Butler

Top 30%: Aubin Brian, Katherine Lively, Kirstyn Garland, Michael Rivera, Preston Gautreau, Phillip Mosher, and Sami Madona

For more information about Southeastern’s Sales Program, visit

Creating a Use for Old Christmas Trees

Southeastern is again asking area citizens to give the environment a gift after Christmas this year. Discarded Christmas trees can be dropped off and used for wetland restoration rather than throwing them out with the trash.

“We can put the old Christmas trees to work in our area marshland while also reducing the waste stream going into landfills,” said Rob Moreau, manager of Southeastern’s Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station located on Pass Manchac between Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas.

Although grant funding from the state for Christmas tree recycling in many areas ended years ago, local partners stepped up to keep the project going. This marks the 26th straight year Southeastern has conducted its recycled tree program. Moreau depends on volunteers and students to deploy the trees in the Manchac wetlands, and those groups were in short supply last year due to the pandemic. Therefore, he relied more on the Turtle Cove staff, mainly graduate students, to deploy the trees in various areas of the Manchac Swamp. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 trees have been deployed through the Southeastern program during the 26-year period.

Southeastern scientists and volunteers at Turtle Cove use the discarded trees to help build up marshland in areas that have been impacted by erosion and other factors, said Moreau.

Moreau explained that the trees will be used in a variety of ways, including ongoing research on the trees’ effects on helping to fill in test logging ditches, creating new habitats for wildlife and, of course, helping to control erosion along various shorelines, most recently occurring on Galva Canal and in areas around the research station itself on Pass Manchac and the boatshed/parking lot area at Galva Canal.

This practice also provides hands-on environmental education opportunities for students and other volunteers who help with the project.

Collaborating in the project for the sixth consecutive year is the Southeastern Sustainability Center on North Oak Street, which will serve as a drop-off point for area residents to leave their used Christmas trees. Other primary partners include the city of Hammond and Middendorf’s Restaurant in Manchac. Several local tree farms and other businesses usually jump in on the action as well in terms of providing left over trees.

Trees can be dropped off through Mardi Gras from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hammond Maintenance facility, located at 18104 Hwy. 190 next to Piggly Wiggly Supermarket. Trees should be dropped off using the gate on Falcon Drive next to Piggly Wiggly. The Southeastern Sustainability Center, located at 2101 North Oak Street, is collecting trees through the end of the month from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Friday. Moreau said a Turtle Cove trailer drop-off site will also be maintained at Middendorf’s Restaurant.

“The city of Hammond will again provide transport of collected trees to the Turtle Cove Galva Canal parking lot area in Manchac, where they will be stored until they are deployed in the marshes in the spring,” Moreau said. “Small groups of students and volunteers will socially distance and wear masks to help deploy the trees, unless of course the pandemic conditions dictate otherwise.”

No flocked trees will be accepted, and all trees should be stripped of any ornaments, lights, tinsel, stands, nails and screws, etc.

“This greatly helps our efforts to get the trees quickly deployed,” Moreau said.

For more information, contact Moreau at or visit the website at

Donations to help support the activity can be sent by check payable to Southeastern Foundation—c/o Turtle Cove and mailed to Southeastern, Box 10585, Hammond, LA 70402.