Beryl Shipley- A Basketball Legend

Sports Illustrated has an article in their newest issue about Kingsport native Beryl Shipley.

Shipley, a graduate of Dobyns-Bennett, coached basketball at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He became the college’s most successful coach and over 16 seasons he led the college to 15 winning seasons and finished with a 293-126 record. Under Shipley’s reign the school had seven conference championships. He was also awarded nine Coach of the Year honors.

Despite the legendary status Shipley received, his career was also marred with controversy. Shipley was the first coach in the Deep South to actively recruit black athletes. This unfortunately did not sit well with locals, athletic officials, other coaches, and political figures. There are many theories that his decision to  break the color barrier led to the NCAA sanctions that were later handed down. The sanctions enforced by the NCAA essentially ended Shipley’s coaching career. Regardless of the fact that he never coached again, he remained a basketball icon who helped integrate college basketball.

Shipley died April 15 after a battle with cancer.

To view the Sports Illustrated article please visit Sports Illustrated online.


Beryl Shipley, 84, peacefully slipped away after a fight with lung cancer late Friday evening, April 15, 2011, at his home in Lafayette, LA.

A memorial service of celebration will be held at noon on Good Friday, April 22, 2011, at First Baptist Church of Lafayette, LA. Visitation is from 9 am until the time of noon service. Pastor Steve Horn and Associate Pastor Luther Burney of First Baptist Church, Lafayette, will lead the celebratory service.

Music will be provided by Luther Burney and the Men’s Quartet of First Baptist Church.

Pre-service gospel music will be played by Huey Miller and friends. Honorary pallbearers are “his boys,” former players, and coaches.

Beryl was interred on Monday, Apr 18, at a private family graveside service at Lafayette Memorial Gardens Cemetery. Pallbearers included Beryl’s grandsons and grandsons-in-law:

Staff Sergeant Jesse Cowand, Christopher and Matthew Cowand, Wade Watson, Rob Rubel, and Jonathan Joubert.

Beryl Clyde Shipley was the youngest of three sons born to Tom and Blanche Dykes Shipley in Kingsport, TN, on August 10, 1926. He attended Dobyns-Bennett High School where he lettered three years in basketball, two years in baseball, and one year in football. He “joined up” after Pearl Harbor, serving 2 years in the US Navy aboard the USS Zaniah. His annual Zaniah reunions meant much to him. After his Navy service, Beryl attended Hinds Junior College. There he met and married Dolores Gerrard of Yazoo City, MS. They moved on to Delta State College on his basketball scholarship and the GI Bill, graduating in 1951. Beryl earned a Masters degree from Mississippi State while coaching at Starkville High from 1952-57. He brought his young family to Lafayette in 1957 as the head basketball coach at SLI, arriving just before Hurricane Audrey. He coached at SLI/USL for seventeen years. He loved and was embraced by the people of South Louisiana, his adopted home. Beryl eventually went to work in the oil patch for Fluid Dynamics and Drilling Measurements Incorporated, retiring in 1992. An AVID sports fan, he daily followed his favorite teams, players and coaches.

Beryl LOVED people–his friendships and family were sacred to him. Everyone enjoyed his quick wit and sense of humor. He insisted his loved ones know the value of a smile, and of making and maintaining friendships. He kept up with friends and former teachers from his childhood days in Kingsport to his golf, business, and sports buddies in Lafayette and around the U.S. He was cheered throughout his illness with the visits of countless friends and loved ones.

He is survived by his biggest cheerleader and devoted wife of over 61 years, Dolores Gerrard Shipley; three daughters, Marilyn Shipley Watson and husband, Bill; and Patty Shipley, all of Lafayette, and Amy Shipley Cowand and husband, Scott, of The Woodlands, TX; nine grandchildren, Cheramie Joubert, Abbey Rubel, Wade Watson, Jennifer Amorello, Leah Lavern, Staff Sergeant Jesse Cowand USAF, Christopher Cowand, Matthew Cowand, Elizabeth Cowand; great-grandchildren, Madeleine Rubel, and Chloe Watson. His brother, Thomas E. Shipley, Jr. of Birmingham, MI; nephew, T. Doane Shipley of Sewickley, PA; nieces, Ardin Shipley Moenart of Troy MI, and Jackie Shipley of Johnson City, TN ; and sister-in-law Mabel Shipley of Kingsport, TN.

He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Jack Shipley of Kingsport, TN. and sister-in-law Virginia Doane Shipley of Birmingham, MI.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making donations to the Beryl Shipley Mended Hearts Scholarships,which were established after the 2001 Shipley Reunion. Since Beryl and many family members were affected by heart disease, he wanted to help the families of students who have struggled physically and financially due to heart problems. Since 2002, fifteen awards have been provided to students in need. Checks can be made payable to: Shipley Mended Hearts Scholarships and mailed to: UL Development Office, PO Box 43410, Lafayette, LA 70504. Contributions can be made online at (click Donate, UL Lafayette Endowments). Donors may also use a credit card by calling the UL Lafayette Foundation at (337) 482-0700. The family would like to thank Hospice of Acadiana, especially Nurse Jenny, for help at the end of Beryl’s illness. We are so grateful for recent caregivers Lance Thomas and Cassandra Alexander, who provided such faithful and skilled care. Also appreciated are the doctors who helped him to live such a long life, especially Dr. Mike Mounir.


If you are interested in learning more about Shipley and events that took place I suggest you check out Slam Dunked: The NCAA’s Shameful Reaction to Athletic Integration in the Deep South by Ron Gomez.

Here is a description of the book from

In 1957, a fiery, red-haired basketball coach named Beryl Shipley arrived at what was then known as Southwestern Louisiana Institute (later Southwestern Louisiana and now the University of Louisiana – Lafayette). The university had peacefully integrated in 1954 when 114 African-American students were quietly enrolled, but athletics were off limits to minority students for many more years. Shipley wasted little time in turning the basketball program into a powerhouse, winning a slew of Gulf States Conference and later Southland Conference championships. Shipley’s Bulldogs — later known as the Ragin’ Cajuns — proved to be one of the most exciting teams in the country, making the leap from NAIA to NCAA Division I without missing a beat. In 1972, Cajuns’ guard Dwight “Bo” Lamar led the nation in scoring. Despite consistently putting out quality basketball teams and endearing himself to the community, Shipley had to contend with an unlikely opponent — Louisiana segregationists who were hell-bent on curbing athletic integration in Shipley’s program. “Slam Dunked” reveals for the first time the questionable procedures and allegations of the NCAA. Newly discovered documents, dating back three decades show the NCAA’s actions abetting those of the racially motivated Louisiana State Board of Education and other segregationists who were determined to punish those responsible for integrating athletics in the state. In 1965, Shipley’s crew qualified for the NAIA National Collegiate Championship tournament. Because the Louisiana State Board of Education did not permit all-white teams to play integrated teams, Shipley sought and received assurances by the university athletic director that the team would be allowed to compete in the tournament. However, under pressure from the state board, the president ordered the team to cancel its tournament trip. A last-minute student protest at the president’s home forced him to buckle, allowing the team to participate in the prestigious, integrated tournamnet. In 1966 a new university president gave Shipley his blessing to recruit African-American players, USL became the first public college in the Deep South to field an integrated athletic team. The state board immediately ruled that scholarship money for black players was unavailable. Shipley organized a community effort to raise scholarship money specifically for the black players, which violated NCAA rules. Within days, the state athletic commissioner alerted the NCAA to recruiting violations, resulting in the program being placed on probation in 1968. In spite of the constant harassment, the Cajuns became the cinderella team of college basketball, breaking into the top ten rankings and recording wins over such powerhouses as Houston University, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Long Beach State, Texas-El Paso and Marshall. In 1972, the NCAA again introduced recruiting allegations against Shipley’s program. With neither the university nor Southland Conference officials willing to defend against the charges, the Ragin’ Cajuns were given the so-colled “death penalty” in 1973, not being allowed to field a basketball team for two years.


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