Jimmy Collins Special AwardsWhile there are many different categories of awards presented by the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee, some years the committee finds that there are people deserving of recognition who do not necessarily fit into one specific category. For that reason, the Committee presents the Jimmy Collins Special Awards to outstanding individuals and organizations. Collins was a longtime New Orleans sportswriter who is credited with creating the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards and forming the awards committee in 1958.
This year's Jimmy Collins Special Awards are being presented to a pair of longtime contributors to amateur athletics in the Greater New Orleans area. For many years, both, who are coincidentally graduates of East Jefferson High School, gave selflessly to improve opportunities for young student-athletes in the New Orleans region.
Manny Barocco dedicated 40 years of his life to the young people of the region. After getting his start in education at Bonnabel High School in 1975, he served in multiple roles before taking over as the director of athletics for Jefferson Parish in 2002, a position he held for 14 years until announcing his retirement this spring.
Barocco, a native of Kenner and a graduate of Nicholls State, was recognized as the national athletic director of the year in 2011, receiving the award in San Diego. He also received the 2004 Outstanding Athletic Director of the Year Award from the Louisiana Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (LAHPERD), the 2007 Louisiana High School Athletic Director's Association (LHSADA) Athletic Director of the Year Award, and most recently the 2010 LAHPERD Athletic Director of the Year Award.
Barocco is particularly pleased with some specific advances made during his tenure.
"We added soccer in the middle schools and were able to upgrade both of our stadiums at Joe Yenni and Hoss Memtsas," Barocco told SportsNola.com. "We were able to improve athletic facilities at several of our schools. We had a really good Jefferson Parish School Board that enabled us to help our schools with facilities. Now, we're getting certified trainers at all of our schools."
What Barocco enjoyed most was working with the students.
"It is all about the kids," Barocco said. "I hope that I have helped to make their experience a better one. It has certainly been a pleasure."
The other Jimmy Collins Award honoree is Jim Ravannack, a longtime supporter and promoter of the sport of wrestling. While he is recognized as a leader world-wide in the sport, his focus locally has been on building wrestling at the high-school level into a highly-attended spectator event.
Ravannack, who serves as President of USA Wrestling, spent 20 years as the volunteer director of the state wrestling championship for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association.
After earning a state wrestling championship for East Jefferson, Ravannack competed collegiately at LSU before becoming involved with USA Wrestling. He was named 2001 Man of the Year by USA Wrestling, which recognizes an outstanding man for his contributions to the sport of wrestling and in 2005, he was inducted as an Outstanding American into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Ravannack served as Team Leader of the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team for freestyle wrestling which competed in Athens, Greece.
Under Ravannack's guidance, Louisiana's high school wrestling tournament grew from a campus event to a huge tournament which drew over 13,000 fans the past two years in Kenner. Ravannack coordinated the event, donating his services and was responsible for officials, match planning, mats, clocks and the complete oversight of the tournament.
"It has been a great 20 years of service to the sport I love," Ravannack told SportsNola.com. "It was a pleasure providing the very best facilities and organization we could possibly generate for the kids of our state. We feel good about the growth of the sport over the last two decades."
[The Special Awards were renamed in honor of Jimmy Collins prior to the 2015 Hall of Fame event.]