Beryl Shipley, who led then-USL basketball to unprecedented heights during a 16-year career and was one of the driving forces in ending racial segregation in Louisiana collegiate athletics, passed away Friday night after a long battle with cancer.
The 83-year-old Shipley died at his home at approximately 10:30 p.m. Friday. Funeral services are incomplete as of late Saturday, but a memorial service for the legendary coaching icon is set for noon Friday at the First Baptist Church of Lafayette, located at the corner of Lee and Main Streets. Visitation will be held from 9 a.m.-noon Friday at the church prior to the memorial.
The winningest coach in Raginâ€™ Cajun basketball history, Shipley guided USL to a 293-126 record in his 16 seasons and had 15 winning seasons in those 16 years. Beginning in 1963, Shipleyâ€™s teams captured five Gulf States Conference titles in six seasons and won the 1964-65 NAIA District 27 Tournament title.
But it was in the early â€˜70s that Shipleyâ€™s teams gained national notoriety. USL compiled a 25-4 record in 1970-71 in its last season as part of what was then known as the NCAAâ€™s College Division, winning the NCAA South Regional title that year and advancing to the national tournament.
One year later, in their first year as a member of the NCAAâ€™s University Division, the Cajuns compiled a 25-4 record and captured the Southland Conference title with an unbeaten mark. USL made the NCAA Tournament Field â€“ one that only included 25 teams at the time, and took a first-round win before falling to Louisville in the Midwest Regional semifinals and beating Texas in the regional third-place game (played at that time).
One year later, the Cajuns went 24-5 and won the Southland title with a 12-0 record and again went to the 25-team NCAA Tournament, beating Houston in the opening round of the Midwest Regional before falling to Kansas State in the regional semifinals.
A third-place-game loss to South Carolina in that Midwest Regional was the last game of Shipleyâ€™s coaching career, as the NCAA put the USL program on two-year suspension for infractions and closed the program down until the 1975-76 season. Shipley remained in Lafayette, going into private business in the oil sector.
Shipley was honored as Gulf States Conference Coach of the Year four times, twice as Southland Conference Coach of the Year in only two years in the league, and twice as NAIA District 27 Coach of the Year.
More information on Shipleyâ€™s legacy both in and out of basketball is available at www.coachshipley.com and on UL Lafayetteâ€™s Athletic Network web site at www.athleticnetwork.net. His full obituary will also be posted there when available.
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