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Tom Shipley Response to "Shipley Still Trying To Find Door To Louisiana Hall," Times Picayune 7/9/11

Thomas E. Shipley Jr.

2694 Dorchester Road

Birmingham, Michigan 48009

248/514-1050 - www.tshipley.cnchost.com - tom@tshipley.cnchost.com

 

July 9, 2011

 

Mr. Ashton Phelps, Jr.

Publisher

The Times-Picayune
3800 Howard Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70125-1429

 

Dear Mr. Phelps:

I sent this e-mail message to Mr. Moss on May 13, 2011; I haven’t received an acknowledgement, so I am addressing it to you, with a copy to Mr. Moss, and trying the U.S. mail instead.

This is a response to the disgraceful article, Shipley Still Trying to find door to Louisiana Hall, Robin Hood or Jessie James?  Beryl Shipley looks different angles, A Times-Picayune story in 1991 -- copy enclosed – as reported by RaginPagin.com  

This was a helpful article for all Louisianans whose basketball teams had suffered ignominious defeat from teams coached by the irascible red head, and I’m sure it was well read. It was almost entirely wrong, but the true story would never have received the same rapt attention

Unfortunately, the 2004 repeat of the 1991 article, probably resulting from RaginPagin interest, was two years too early, so no one could respond; at that time the accused knew no more, specifically, about their accusations and who their accusers were than they did in 1973 --  and didn’t really know until 2006.

And the reason they didn't know, and you didn't either, was because you didn't do your job. And, I suspect, you didn't do your job thoroughly because you liked the story you had.

The title is a disgrace; you have absolutely no information concerning what Coach Beryl Shipley wanted or acted on in respect to the writers' hall of fame. Some people, better schooled in what had actually transpired during the '60s and '70s, knew the true story and were trying to right some wrongs.

A book has now been published, Slam Dunked, The NCAA's Shameful Reaction to Athletic Integration in the Deep South, which has information that should change your mind. But I have a manuscript, The Turbulent '60s ... How Deep South Universities Struggled with Racial Integration, which I wrote that presents the university’s true, factual account of those days.  I used USL’s actual responses to the NCAA’s accusations as a source. My manuscript of those events enabled Ron Gomez to write the book.

To get ULL's information of that period, I had to pay ten cents per page. If you are interested in having the complete account, including the University's response to all of the NCAA's allegations, I offer it for free -- if you promise to read it and react, pro or con, to its contents. Slam Dunked is a much more readable account of those years, but The Turbulent '60s provides actual copies of the university documents that responded to the accusations, including letters from those accused of wrong doing — students, professors, fans, players, coaches, and other citizens of Lafayette. The University emphatically denied the vast majority of the allegations presented in the NCAA’s “Official Inquiry.”

I said you didn't do your job — how do I know that?

Because you took the NCAA’s, State Board’s, and university’s stated accusations as gospel; you didn’t even ask for a copy of the university’s written response to the NCAA.  How do I know that?  Because in none of your reports that I have seen did you say: “I asked USL for their response to the accusations, and the president refused to supply it.” 

I almost made that same big mistake.  Starting slowly in 2001 I began collecting data and writing history and I had pretty much written the story from newspaper accounts, interviews with profs and deans of those days, and I was almost through.  I knew I wouldn’t get any information from either the NCAA or ULL, but I knew the story would not be complete if I didn’t ask, and then be able to write, “They refused my requests for information.” 

I asked both for specific communications; I never received a response from the NCAA, but I obtained complete information from the university. I had a little advantage over you in my quest for information.  I knew, for example, no way would he send somebody else in to take the SAT’s for a potential player, or ask a professor to pass a player.that had  failing grades.  Some professors gave up free time to give them extra help when they needed it, but that wasn’t a violation and we have to remember the state of education for black kids in the ‘60s.

With a little persistence on my part, Dr. Authement, the acting president in 1973, responded with the complete file of correspondence between the university and the NCAA that I had asked for. We had to root a little in order to get the listing of the files and data, but Beryl got them — and with no skills along those lines. I just listed the files in a letter dated September 20, 2006 and asked for copies of the information. Dr. Raymond Authement copied and mailed the material on October 25, and shortly thereafter, I received a stack of material about three inches thick. The top file was titled The University of Southwestern University Reply to NCAA Official Inquiry, June 1973. And everything I had asked for was there. The files were not located with other files of the period; they were located in a different area of the library, the president said, and I have added to the words he used, "a spot known only to Dr. Authement."

The university's response to the second inquiry was fabulous -- so detailed and comprehensive that I was taken aback. The response to the first had been almost totally absent of important information which was known and available at the time of writing.

If you or any other media representative had demanded the information -- from either the university or the NCAA -- your great story would never have been written. And there were USL people available with useful information who violently disagreed with the State Board of Education — and you should have known who they were. A good man lived 38 years with a pall over his head. However, for five of those years he finally knew the identity of his accusers and the complete story of the many accusations.

The accuser, responsible for about nine tenths of the allegations of wrong doing, which benefited the State Board of Education segregationists, had been fired as a recruiter from the university basketball staff for misconduct, and he had a record of other of his misdeeds, available from Lafayette City Police and Lafayette Parish Sheriffs offices.

To take you to task on specific portions of your article I will begin with the so-called "death penalty." When the 1991 article was reprinted in 2004, it became obvious: the writers were too busy writing to read.

Walter Byers, Executive Director of the NCAA from 1951 to 1987, wrote a book, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, published in 1995 (hardback) and in 1997 (paperback). In his book, contrary to your statement: "A decade before the term ‘death penalty’ became a part of NCAA jargon, a shutdown of the Cajun program was ordered....Only Kentucky, in the early '50s, has ever endured a similar basketball sentence." Byers wrote that there were two death-penalty cases — the University of Kentucky in 1952 and the Southern Methodist University in 1987.  In 1972 and 1973 USL was a big-name, Division I-A university, rated among the top 10 teams in the nation and I think USL, now ULL, should be hurt. The word was spread from coast to coast in the '70s that USL's record of allegations is "the worst in NCAA history," and the accusations involved precisely the same as those of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, whose allegations were described in detail. Yet, when it really counts — in a book that will last forever — USL isn't even mentioned. In Walter Byers complete book — all 414 pages —contrary to your biased reporting, USL isn't even mentioned once. And Byers knew the details; he was prominently involved in all of the NCAA's dismal proceedings with USL.

The 1991 report was inaccurate at its inception; the 2004 reissue of it, without correction, was totally out of order.

It will become evident, as you become more acquainted with the details, the NCCA enforcement officer you quote, familiar with USL at the time, wasn't very familiar.

Shipley and his staff (one assistant coach) were charged with giving cash payments "up to $185 a week." If you had been interested, let me tell you how much these devilish coaches had been paying to maintain their fabulous lifestyle, their stable of athletes, and the prospective recruits. The outright cash gifts, when looking at all the allegations, amounted to $8,651, and their annual outlay, according to the allegations, amounted to $14,183.  Nobody but a total fool would believe that two coaches, with no rich wives, relatives, or uncles, and with salaries of $16,800 and $11,000, could manage that. And there were no rich outside contributors; the NCAA investigated that and came up empty. You’re talking about Lafayette, La -- not Las Vegas, Nev.

And you asked Beryl about the payments, and he responded with an incriminating, foolish answer. He had absolutely no idea what the allegations were -- those to which he was responding. But you knew -- the NCAA had told you and others in the media. He said, according to you: "Hell, some of those kids need clothes ...they needed linen ... toothbrushes. Yes, they got something. And I'd say we got by cheaper than anybody else in the top 10." He had no idea of the extent of the accusations to which he was responding, but what he said was true – and those were examples of the only NCAAA violations which were true.   

You wrote, "Less easily rationalized is the grade-tampering, which Shipley said was done by well-meaning academic 'friends."' He had no idea what the charges were, assumed you knew details that he didn’t, and guessed at what might have been going on. He had no knowledge that the entire range of accusations had been denied by the university with corroborative details.  And those details are available, verbatim, in the referenced manuscript.

You write: “Neutral observers on the scene [maintain] ...Shipley's problems began in 1965 ... by taking his Gulf State Champion Cajuns to the NAIA tournament in Kansas City, Mo.” If that isn't the silliest comment I have ever heard. Of course that was the beginning. He defied the segregationists in the State Board of Education, and they were aided and abetted by the NCAA.  The university students, not cowed by the State Board, marched on President Fletcher’s house, accompanied by Dean Glynn Abel, and forced the State Board and the school to allow the team to play.  You ought to read that story – extremely interesting, as related by Dean Glynn Abel before he died.  He tells that story and an earlier one – he was in charge of the procedures in 1954 when the student body was integrated.  Southwest Louisiana Institute was the first all-white institution in the Deep South to make undergraduate studies available to black kids.  SLI later became University of Southwest Louisiana, and is now University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Austin Wilson, your AP writer, has poor recollection.  Jim Caillier, of a proud black family in Lafayette, was a student in 1960, later became a USL staff member, then a university vice president.  He says: “When Beryl came to SLI all of the regional schools in the conference at that time were on equal par – designed to be a conference of Louisiana schools that would play within the state.  But Beryl wanted to attract great players and compete with the best.  He did that very well, despite limited resources.  But even before he brought the black players, before 1966, Beryl was recruiting athletes from out of the state.  He brought in great white players from the outside, and they were a part of the successes.  The other schools resented USL playing the big guys and gaining national attention.  USL was moving too fast.  USL was supposed to stay in the GSC, but times were a’changing, and if a coach at that time was to remain successful, he had to reach out”

Your statement in 1991 and again in 2004 that “…neither USL nor the NCAA has copies of the 1968 case on file to verify Shipley’s claim” was totally incorrect. Those files were available then, and also in 2006; Dr. Authement had them, but I didn’t need them and said so.  You obviously didn’t know that the university staff and coaches were corresponding during the first case proceedings; correspondence didn’t stop until early 1968.  If you had wanted Beryl to verify his claims, all you had to do was ask Beryl to show you the files.  Or, you could have read the Lafayette  Daily Advertiser, March 3, 1968 issue.  Located in a prominent spot in the paper, the Advertiser referred the reader to its featured article.  Facts Behind USL Suspension Are Explained.”  It’s not too late to read it, however; the entire contents are presented in The Turbulent ’60s.

Dr. Ray Authement is quoted that after that Shipley became “sort of obsessed with getting the players he wanted.”  Beryl had had that obsession from the day he first set foot as a coach on a basketball court.  Jim Caillier told a little of the story, above.  Dr. Authement, in fear of the State Board and his job, let the whole school down – coaches, players, students, professors -- and fans, citizens of Lafayette.  He knew the true story, but he kept it hidden for all those years: from 1973 to 2006. 

Beryl had no desire, nor the finances, to sue the NCAA.  Jerry Tarkanian, a highly successful basketball coach did, though, just four years later.  He was able to afford it.  He sued the NCAA in 1977 for violating his due process rights.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, “…and in 1988 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the NCAA violated Tarkanian’s due-process rights.  In the decade between the original suspension and the Supreme Court ruling, it was found that the NCAA’s enforcement staff was allowed to build cases on hearsay, and to share few of their findings with the targeted school.”  That, in a nutshell, was USL’s problem.  The NCAA had accused Tarkanian of wrong doing, had convicted him and instituted punishment without ever proving its case – just as it happened to USL.  Then, the NCAA continued to harass Tarkanian; he sued, and in 1998 the NCAA settled the case out of court with a present of $2,500,000. 

Mr. Richard Chappius, a Lafayette lawyer, who told you the university was guilty and “The NCAA had USL dead to rights,” was either ignorant, or a member of that unholy alliance of racial segregationists.  As anyone can see who reads the university’s replies to the NCAA’s accusations, sworn testaments from those accused in response to specific allegations and reproduced in their entirety in The Turbulent ‘60s -- USL was railroaded.

Dr. Authement may be an honorable man, but he has made several untruthful remarks to the press such as those he made to you over the years. I replied to some of them, and one example involved a July 6, 2005, Don Allen article in The Times. Dr. Authement was one of the few people who knew the true story of the events of those days.  In 2006 Dr. Authement knew, and it appears only he knew, the location of the entire NCAA/USL file of records of the 1970s that were residing in ULL archives. The regular archives’ staff had no knowledge of its existence – and we learned that to be a fact.

Coach Beryl Shipley has now left us – he died April 15, 2011.  Since he is beyond more punishment, it is now possible, and fitting, for you to discover what really happened during those years, and then to better inform your readers.

 

Sincerely yours,

 

Cc: Mr. Jim A Moss

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