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Men’s Basketball: Basketball coach Beryl Shipley a major UL flagship – Coach Bob Marlin letter

Bob Marlin, The Advertiser,  Opinion Letter, June 21, 2014

Marlin, Bob.jpg

Coach Beryl Shipley will be remembered for his impact on collegiate basketball, race relations and his players. I’ll remember him also for the influence he had on my life in the short time I knew him.

It is an honor to represent the University of Louisiana at Lafayette during Coach Shipley’s posthumous induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame today.

As Sports Illustrated reported, in 1966 Shipley “became the first coach to integrate a major sports team at a large public university in the Deep South.”

He did that by recruiting student-athletes for their ability to play basketball, regardless of their race, at a time when segregation was the norm. He was vilified for it, but his teams responded by helping him amass an overall record of 296-129.

I met Coach Shipley during an off-campus "meet and greet" soon after I moved to Lafayette in 2010. One day, he met me at my office. It was the first time he had been on campus in 37 years. It was also the first of many enjoyable conversations we had over the next few months.

Coach Shipley became ill at the end of 2010 and was unable to attend our games. But that didn’t stop him from coaching me. Our team was struggling and I would go to his home to visit and ask for advice on Xs and Os.

He was able to travel to the Cajundome in 2011 for a game against ULM. He was to be honored at halftime. But, once he arrived, he was too ill to go inside. Our victory that night was the start of a 10-game Sun Belt Conference winning streak, 11 games overall and the longest in 38 years — since Coach Shipley’s last team.

Coach Shipley and I spoke before almost every game by phone. I would remind him he was directly responsible for the streak.

He seemed to be at peace at the time of his death. He talked about healing that had occurred between the university and his family.

His efforts to raise the level of skill and competition in college basketball — by enabling all talented athletes to play — is viewed through a different lens today. Once again, history has proven that a leader’s greatness is not always fully recognized or appreciated until the passage of time.

Today, he is recognized with Louisiana’s highest honor in sports. And, if Coach Shipley were here, he would say, “We did it, by golly!”


— Bob Marlin is the head coach of UL men’s basketball team, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns.

Athletic Network Footnote:

Click here for a Tribute to Coach Beryl Shipley. This tribute by the AN contains stories, video, photo galleries, etc.

Click here for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame website