The Allstate Sugar Bowl Believes in Champions
Champions have long defined the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The list of Hall of Fame athletes who have competed in the annual contest is staggering. But the list of champions extends well past the football game. Since its inception in 1934, the Allstate Sugar Bowl has given opportunities to young athletes in many amateur sporting events.
In late 2016, the Allstate Sugar Bowl published stories on five athletes who competed in Sugar Bowl events and then went on to excellence after their New Orleans’ experiences.
Feature No. 1: Derek Wolfe, Football
Feature No. 2: Bob Cousy, Basketball
Feature No. 3: Patrick Mullins, Soccer
Feature No. 4: Jemima Jelaget Sumgong, Road Racing
Feature No. 5: Janice Davis, Track & Field
This was followed by four additional stories in the fall of 2017.
The Allstate Sugar Bowl Believes in Champions – Barbara Farris
The girls’ basketball players at John Curtis Christian School look up to their coach, Barbara Farris, in the literal sense. With Farris standing 6-foot-3, it’s easy to see why. It would be understandable if they did figuratively as well considering Farris’ impressive accomplishments in the sport.
But Farris said she suspects they don’t.
“I don’t bore my players with my résumé; they don’t care,” she said with a laugh. “I’m always trying to find ways to meet their specific needs and make them better. That gets them to buy in quicker to what will make us successful. I ask them, ‘What do you want to get out of this season? What do you want to work on?’ It’s about focusing on the player and what will make them better.”
That’s a lesson that Farris, who enjoyed a stellar career at the high school, collegiate and professional levels, learned from her coaches. And that is a formidable list.
From Dobee Plaisance at St. Martin’s Episcopal in high school, to Lisa Stockton and Katie Meier at Tulane, to Nancy Lieberman, K.C. Jones and Bill Laimbeer in the WNBA, Farris said she was blessed to have so many outstanding mentors.
They, in turn, said it was Farris’ work ethic and love for the game that made her arguably the top female post player to ever come out of the state of Louisiana. Farris was honored last summer (2017) when she was inducted into the Allstate Sugar Bowl’s Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame.
“Barbara has had a tremendous influence on girls’ basketball in the New Orleans area,” said Stockton, Tulane’s head coach. “Her accomplishments as a high school, college and professional player, as well as a high school coach, are unmatched.”
Farris was a champion at every level in which she played. From 1990-94, she won two state championships at St. Martin’s. Farris helped lead Tulane to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments from 1994-98, including the Conference USA regular season title during her junior year.
Following her days with the Green Wave, She enjoyed a 10-year professional career before stepping away after the 2008-09 season – a key highlight came in 2003, when she helped the Detroit Shock capture the WNBA championship.
The championship run has continued as she’s moved into coaching. She led Curtis to the 2012 Class 2A state title and Division I crowns in both 2017 and 2018.
In addition to outstanding coaches, Farris credits her parents for her success. They never forced her to play, she said. In fact, she didn’t start playing basketball until she was 13.
“I was going to go to college regardless of basketball,” Farris said. “That was already in the plan for all the Farris children. There was never any pressure to play basketball. My parents always said you enjoy (basketball), you work hard and if you sign up you’re going to stick with it.”
Another key to her success, she said, was she always had fun. That’s another thing she learned from her parents and coaches.
“With every coach, every teammate, it was always fun,” Farris said. “It didn’t hurt that we won a lot. I learned that when you work hard, you get good results. That was something I could buy into. We worked hard. We had fun with it.”
But Farris wasn’t all about basketball. She also gave back to the community. Farris volunteered for the Shock’s outreach projects, including visiting cancer patients at the hospital or helping a needy family during the Christmas season.
“Typical of Barbara, she didn’t just give them money; she went shopping for them and helped wrap the gifts and put them under the tree,” said Kari Pardoe, who worked in the Detroit Pistons/Shock community relations department when Farris played in Detroit.
Farris also stepped up to send aid to Hurricane Katrina victims after that devastating storm’s strike in New Orleans in 2005.
“Barbara Farris’ incomparable basketball career is, of course, a key reason why she is enshrined in the Allstate Sugar Bowl’s Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame,” Allstate Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan said. “But it’s not the only one. Her commitment to the betterment of her community and charity are as important to her makeup as her considerable basketball achievements. She’s a perfect example of why the Sugar Bowl is proud to sponsor the Hall of Fame.”
From its earliest years, the Sugar Bowl Committee has been honored to provide opportunities for young athletes from around the country and locally, athletes like Barbara Farris. That’s because, at the Allstate Sugar Bowl, We Believe in Champions.
– Story by Trey Iles