NATCHITOCHES — Beryl Shipley broke down racial barriers by making the University of Southwestern Louisiana the first state school to sign black basketball players in the late 1960s.
The Shipley family celebrated an emotional milestone — induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame — by recalling his life and saying little about the controversies that engulfed his career Saturday night at the Natchitoches Events Center.
“Do not complain to the Shipleys about how long it takes to get from Lafayette to the Hall of Fame,” the late coach’s longtime assistant, Tom Cox, quipped as the presenter.
Shipley, who died in 2011, was one of eight inductees for the Hall, which began in 1959 and now has 330 members. It is the first induction class since the opening of the Hall of Fame museum for the 2013 ceremony.
At USL, Shipley compiled a 293-126 record in 16 seasons from 1957-73 and led the school, then known as the Bulldogs, to prominence first in the NAIA, then on the NCAA level. His last two teams each finished 23-3 and were ranked in the top 10 nationally.
“No college basketball coach was ever better qualified for the Hall of Fame than (Shipley) the instant he walked off the stage,” Cox added, at times getting emotional.
Shipley’s widow, Delores, accepted his Hall of Fame plaque, and his brother Tom chose to speak about his brother’s upbringing and life instead of echoing complaints about Shipley’s treatment before an NCAA investigation that led to the disbanding of the program for two years.
LSU and NFL offensive lineman Alan Faneca; New Orleans Saints/Pelicans owner Tom Benson; Tulane and NFL defensive back Lionel Washington, now an assistant coach for the Green Wave; Catholic High-Baton Rouge track/cross country coach Pete Boudreaux; Louisiana Tech and 1996 Olympic basketball standout Venus Lacy; and Major League Baseball pitcher Shane Reynolds, a Bastrop native, also spoke during the ceremony.
Cottonport native Richard “Moon” Ducote, a pro football pioneer in the 1920s who later coached at LSU and Loyola, also was inducted posthumously.
Also honored were Dave Dixon Leadership award winners Wright Waters, the former Sun Belt Conference commissioner and Director of the Football Association, and Tynes Hildebrand, a former Northwestern State coach, who is an NCAA Division I regional basketball officiating adviser.
The Advocate’s Joe Macaluso received the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism.
Cox provided colorful anecdotes about Shipley, recalling the time he was told to apologize to the USL’s league after referring to it as a Mickey Mouse conference. The next day, Cox said the headlines read “Shipley apologizes to Mickey Mouse.”
Cox also noted Louisiana-Lafayette’s work to embrace Shipley’s legacy, which now includes a banner in the Cajundome.
Benson, a New Orleans native and self-made millionaire, started as a car salesman and built a business empire that allowed him to purchase the Saints in 1985, preventing the team from leaving the Crescent City. He stepped in again in 2012 and purchased the Hornets, now known as the Pelicans, preventing another professional team from leaving.
Catholic High’s Boudreaux is the first high school track coach inducted into the Hall. An SEC champion and record-setter in the pole vault for LSU in 1965, Boudreaux has won 41 state titles at his alma mater: 16 in cross country, 14 in outdoor track and 11 in indoor track. His teams won Division I indoor and 5A outdoor titles in 2014.
Faneca was a two-time All-America selection as an offensive lineman at LSU selected to nine consecutive Pro Bowls after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1998. He helped the Steelers win the 2006 Super Bowl and later played for the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals.
Washington, a standout in football, basketball and track at Lutcher High, played at Tulane from 1979-82 and was drafted by St. Louis Cardinals in 1983. He went on to play 15 NFL seasons with the Cardinals, Raiders and Broncos.
Lacy averaged 20 points per game and grabbed 1,125 rebounds in three seasons at Louisiana Tech. She was a Kodak All-American and National Player of the Year in 1990. She played professionally for a decade and won a gold medal with the 1996 U.S. Olympic team.
Reynolds pitched for 13 major league seasons with a record of 114-96. He pitched for the Astros from 1992 to 2002 and later for the Braves and Diamondbacks. He won 10 or more games six times and was 19-8 in 1998 with the Astros.
Ducote played football at Auburn from 1915-17 as a halfback, fullback and kicker. In the early days of pro football, he earned comparisons to Jim Thorpe by legendary Chicago Bears coach George Halas. Ducote later coached at LSU and Loyola.