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Men’s Basketball: Former UL hoops coach Beryl Shipley joins Hall of Fame

Bobby Ardoin, Special to the Advertiser, June 21, 2014


Beryl Shipley as a young head coach for the then-SLI Bulldogs.(Photo: Courtesy of UL sports informatio)

Dolores Shipley says her late husband never spent that much time worrying about when he might finally be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

Beryl Shipley guessed , she says, that his induction moment, if it ever happened at all, would probably come sometime after his death.

Shipley, whose legendary 16-year career as basketball coach at The University of Southwestern Louisiana was the most successful in school history, will be placed among the state’s most celebrated players coaches and sports celebrities Saturday night when he enters the Hall of Fame beginning at 6:30.

Tom Cox, Shipley’s longtime assistant, will introduce the Cajuns’ former coach, while Tom Shipley, brother of Beryl Shipley, will receive the Hall of Fame plaque following the presentation.

Shipley, who died in April, 2011, following his lengthy cancer illness, was nominated numerous times by the Hall of Fame selection committee, but it wasn’t until last summer that he received enough votes to make him eligible.

Dolores and Tom Shipley said in separate telephone interviews Thursday, that the former coach was more concerned about clearing his name in connection with the NCAA investigation of the school’s basketball program than he was accepting a Hall of Fame award.

Ironically Shipley’s induction comes 30 years after Cajuns’ guard Dwight "Bo" Lamar, was part of the 1984 induction.

At times Shipley, 84 at the time of his death, was displeased about the delay in voting him into the Hall of Fame, said Dolores Shipley, but he came to understand the nature of the mindset.

"I think at one time Beryl held out a little bitterness, but had accepted the fact.. He knew there were people out there who didn’t want him to get in as long as he was living," said Dolores Shipley.

Dolores Shipley said that several years before her husband’s death, he decided total forgiveness of those he perceived as enemies, including the persons who voted against his Hall of Fame induction.

"For a long time he was at peace, well before he came down with cancer. He was very much at peace and had decided it was time for forgiveness," said Dolores Shipley, who was married to her husband for 61 years.

Dolores Shipley said it was Tom Shipley, who launched a tedious effort to discover the truth about the role of the university and the NCAA, which ruled in 1973 that the school could not play men’s basketball for the next two seasons due to alleged infractions.

Tom Shipley, she said, eventually uncovered a three-inch document of information in the university’s library, that she says contains extensive documentation of the investigation of Shipley’s basketball program and the school’s response to it.

"None of that would be known if (Tom) had not given his life to it. Tom really didn’t know the in’s and out’s to (the investigation), but Tom saw how Beryl felt about it. Tom became determined and that’s when he started writing the book.

"I know that (Beryl) had broken some rules; he was no angel, but those serious rules that (the NCAA) was accusing him of made him determined to prove it wasn’t true. Tom was looking for the answers," said Dolores Shipley.

Tom Shipley, who lives in Birmingham, MI., said that since Beryl Shipley stepped away from coaching in 1973, said his brother wasn’t that obsessed at being recognized by the Hall of Fame.

"He really wasn’t wanting anything other than trying to clear his name. Beryl said he felt the harshness of the penalty was that the university did not put up a strong enough defense.

"I discovered through the research I did that the university really did put up a defense of the charges, but (the defense) was something that was sat on for 33 years.

"The NCAA got them (in 1973) and paid no attention to (the school’s responses). The documents showed that the accusations were untrue," said Tom Shipley.

Tom Shipley said the documents that were located in an obscure spot in the UL library until he located them before Shipley’s death, shows all the correspondences between the NCAA and the university in connection with the investigation.

It is his opinion, Tom Shipley said, the State Board of Education wanted his brother punished.

Tom Shipley did not elaborate in the interview why Board of Education members acted punitively against Beryl Shipley.

In a letter to Ashton Phillips, at that time publisher of the New Orleans Times Picayune, Tom Shipley said his brother’s life was affected by the quest to know the truth about the NCAA investigation.

"A good man lived 38 years with a pall over his head. However for five of those years, (Beryl Shipley) finally knew the identity of his accuser and the complete story of the many accusations," Tom Shipley wrote in the letter.

Tom Shipley also wrote in the letter that "(Beryl Shipley) had no knowledge that the entire range of accusations had been denied by the university with corroborative details."

Dolores Shipley that her husband’s life was illuminated during its last three years by a friendship that he forged with current UL men’s basketball coach Bob Marlin.

"He (Marlin) was wonderful to Beryl. (Marlin) came over and he and Beryl talked basketball and then (in 2011) Bob gave Beryl a plaque," said Dolores Shipley.

It was Marlin who arranged for the university to honor Shipley in January, 2011, when many of his former players came to a reception and then attended a basketball game the following night at the Cajundome.

Shipley was on his way to the game where he would be honored at halftime, but he never entered the Cajundome because he was too sick.

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