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Men's Basketball: A time for healing - Editorial - Acadiana Gazette

Men's Basketball: A time for healing - Editorial - Acadiana Gazette

Acadiana Gazette, Jan. 26, 2011

A time for healing.
      There was a time when basketball, as played by the local university was one of the most exciting events in Southwest Louisiana. This team, first called Bulldogs, then Fighting Bulldogs, then Ragin' Cajuns took on all comers. 
      During a 10-year stretch they defeated Long Beach State, the University of Texas, Baylor, Pepperdine, Creighton, Nevada- Las Vegas, Hawaii, Arizona State, Arkansas, Yale, Oklahoma State, Texas-El Paso, Oral Roberts, LSU-NO, Kentucky Wesleyan, Houston, Dayton and Marshall. 
      Equally vanquished were such "equals" as Louisiana Tech, Northeastern Louisiana, Lamar, McNeese State, Arkansas State and more and others.
      No doubt about it. This was a building dynasty. Then, disaster.  NCAA investigations, allegations of preposterous proportions: payoffs of athletes and their parents, the purchase of houses and automobiles as enticements for said athletes.
      None of these allegations were proven. Circumstances led to the university's rolling over and accepting the charges and one of the harshest punishments in NCAA history: The Death Penalty. The university's basketball program was disbanded for two years and all athletic programs were put on probation.  
      Before the penalties were announced, the coaches that had created the roundball magic resigned not because of the charges but because of the school's reluctance to raise their salaries.
      As has become traditional, the media piled on. Head Coach Beryl Shipley and his assistant, Tom Cox, were considered by the rest of the Lousiiana media "outlaws."
      The true and full story has only been revealed in the last couple of years. Shipley and Cox were guilty of breaking an unwritten and illegal rule of the State Board of Education. That rule was to forbid the playing of black athletes for or against any Louisiana institute of higher education. 
      Ten years after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled otherwise, the State Board's clandestine ruling was still being honored in Louisiana. Shipley recruited three superb black athletes. Briefly, the board forbade the school from granting them scholarship money; local black and white leaders raised the money through a raffle; the commisioner of athletics for the board found out about it and ordered a private "work out" of the new signees at Earl K. Long gym. The workout was held, as ordered two days before such meetings were legal under NCAA rules. The board  commissioner reported the illegal workout to the NCAA. The NCAA sanctioned the basketball program for illegal recrutiment, funding of scholarships and early workouts. 
      A local black community leader notified the U.S. Justice Department. They responded with a discreet investigation and ordered the university to honor the scholarships. Nonetheless, the NCAA probation was not successfully challenged by the university.
      Shipley and Cox continued their recruitment of black athletes in spite of the illegal orders of the State Board and without the backing of the university administration. Thus the 1973 death penalty punishment by the NCAA.   For the next 37 years, Beryl Shipley and Tom Cox, the two men most responsible for making USL basketball a national phenom and a watermark memory for local fans, have been virtually ignored by the university.
      Whether he is ultimately successful or not, new UL Head Basketball Coach Bob Marlin has written his name large in the history of this university.
      According to sources, it was he who conceived of the "reunification reunion" held last weekend on the UL campus. Marlin believed, as few others have in the past, that ALL past university athlets and coaches should be honored in a gigantic reunion.
      With the help of many dedicated workers and sponsors it came off as a huge success. More than 100 former athletes, managers, trainers, play-by-play announcers, sports information directors and coaches were on hand for two days of camaraderie, memories, tearful eyes and laughs.
      It was a magnificent two days. Unfortunately, the main architect, Beryl Shipley, has been seriously ill for several weeks and, though en route to the Cajundome for the halftime festivities Saturday night, had to turn back and was later taken to Lafayette General Medical Center for emergency treatment. 
      We can report he was alert and in great spirits last Sunday and fully aware of "his boys" who had returned for the reunion and the love lavished on his memories by the large Cajundome crowd.

      Congratulations, Coach Marlin, we hope you have reignited a rocket.

Athletic Network Footnote: Click here for the photo gallery of the Jan. 21-22, 2011 Basketball Reunion http://athleticnetwork.net/site1894.php

Click here for the January 18, 2003 Basketball Reunion  http://athleticnetwork.net/site266.php

Click here for the Nov. 1-2, 2001 Shipley Basketball Reunion    http://www.coachshipley.com/beta/scrapbook.php