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Beryl Shipley Tribute Gala

Beryl Shipley Tribute Gala

Peek of Shipley film tonight – Lights Out in Blackham set to preview

Kris Wartelle, Daily Advertiser, Nov. 16, 2011

Most people don’t think of UL, formerly USL, as being at the forefront of integration in the Deep South. But a local film crew aims to tell that story and how UL’s greatest basketball coach blazed a trail and left his mark on the university forever.

The era of Beryl Shipley often is referred to as the greatest in Cajun basketball history. Shipley coached the team from 1957 until 1973, and during all that time had only one losing season. Filmmaker Douglas Domingue, of Nerd Pictures, says he set out to make a documentary about the coach, his days coaching the UL team, and his controversial recruiting of black players well before it was acceptable to do so.

"Beryl Shipley integrated the Deep South as far as athletics," Domingue said. "Under him, UL was the first school to offer black athletes scholarships, and the state and the NCAA didn’t like it. He wanted to compete at the highest level possible, and no one was recruiting these players. He was also the winningest coach in UL history."

Domingue says Shipley was very polarizing and while he made lot of friends, he also made a lot of enemies.

"The state and the NCAA didn’t like what he was doing," Domingue explained. "They ended up disbanding the entire program in 1973. This documentary will be about the controversy, the fallout and the aftermath. We want to give everyone the real story about what happened with the program."

Tonight at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, a special fundraiser and tribute gala will showcase the film. Proceeds from the event will go toward completing the documentary and to the Beryl Shipley Mended Hearts Scholarship, a fund for UL students with heart problems. The event is from

6 to 9:30 p.m. and tickets are $75 per person.

"It is going to be a great night," Domingue said. "We will have food, refreshments and entertainment, plus we will show a sneak preview of the film."

Domingue says the night also will be a celebration of the man he only met this past January. Although he was able to interview him and his family for the documentary, their relationship was short-lived. Shipley died of lung cancer just a few months after their meeting, at age 84.

"I don’t know if it was tragic or divine," Domingue said, "but the stars aligned on everything."

This weekend also will be a special one for the entire Shipley family. On Friday, the first Beryl Shipley Classic Basketball tournament will be played in the Cajundome. The invitational tournament will run through Sunday.

It is a round-robin format, with the first games starting at 5 p.m. At halftime, the Shipley family will be honored with a special presentation by coach Bob Marlin and others.

"It means the world to them," said Tom Cox, family friend and former assistant to coach Shipley. "The entire family was wrapped up in basketball for 30 to 40 years — that was their life. They remember when UL ranked in the top 10 in the nation for Division I. We are giving a portrait to the family, and the entire family will be recognized at the games.

"It will bring back some memories and some tears and some smiles. I think they will be delighted with everything that is going on."

* * * * * * * * *
Become a part of history as you walk the red carpet with USL basketball legends, current players and coaches and help kick off the inaugural "Beryl Shipley Classic" tournament. Fans will get a sneak peek at new unseen footage from the film "Lights Out in Blackham", meet the film crew, bid on one-of-a-kind memorabilia and enjoy complimentary food and drinks from Lafayette’s finest chefs. It’s all part of the official "Beryl Shipley Tribute Gala", a one-time event to honor the life and contributions of Beryl Shipley and fund the completion of the documentary "Lights Out in Blackham."

When:  Wednesday November 16th, 6 P.M. – 9:30 P.M.

Where: The Acadiana Center for the Arts

                101 W. Vermilion St, Lafayette, LA 70501   (337)233-7060

Tickets:  Tickets go on sale October 25th. Price is $75.00 per person and includes food, beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks. Tickets can be purchased at the Acadiana Center for the Arts Tuesday-  Saturday 10am to 5pm, or online at www.acadianacenterforthearts.org/tickets. A portion of all        ticket sales will help fund the Beryl Shipley "Mended Hearts" scholarship endowment.

Scholarship information is available at www.athleticnetwork.net  > Photo Gallery > Basketball (M) >Tribute to Coach Beryl Shipley > Mended Hearts Scholarships.

Dress: Cocktail attire

For more information or if you wish to help sponsor the event please email Douglas Domingue at  douglas@nerdpictures.net  or call 337-298-3312. Please visit www.LightsOutinBlackham.com  for future updates.