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Galloway had created his own legend in the state as a football coach at Southeastern Louisiana University, where he'd won or shared six Gulf States Conference titles between 1951 and '64. His will was as implacable as Shipley's, and his stance wasn't up for debate. According to Shipley, Galloway instructed him to conduct a practice on Oct. 7, in violation of an NCAA rule that set the first day of organized practice a week later, and cut the black players for the simple reason that they weren't good enough. (Galloway later denied to the NCAA that he had ordered the early practice, but the instruction was reported by the Lafayette Daily Advertiser.) "It all started there," says Cox, the former assistant. "They forced Beryl to do what they wanted and to break the rules. And then it just ballooned."
As ordered, Shipley held the practice early, but he didn't cut the three. How could he convince anybody who saw them play that they didn't deserve spots on the team? "You know how the incoming freshmen play the varsity?" says Ivory. "We beat the varsity, the freshmen did. They couldn't touch us. I couldn't tell you who the two white guys on our team were, but I can tell you we didn't need them."
When Galloway learned that Shipley intended to keep the players, he made it clear that state money to finance their scholarships would not be made available, according to Shipley. Without the funding, Shipley knew, the players would have no choice but to transfer. But the coach had already figured out a way to circumvent this problem. He solicited financial help from black leaders in Lafayette and funneled their donations to the university. The three players could then receive the same benefits that were given to white scholarship players. "I didn't have any other choice if I was going to protect those three guys," said Shipley. "I couldn't go to the boys and say, 'I don't have scholarships for you.' It was ridiculous—it would be in today's time—but back then it was pretty tense.
"I'll be honest. I didn't care about any damn rule book. I just tried to do what was right for the boys, what I knew I had to do."
The gambit succeeded in getting the three players on the team, and they eventually received regular scholarships. But Shipley's maneuver would lead to the school's first NCAA investigation and probation, in 1968, and it made Shipley a marked man. The coach had created a perception that he was buying players. Once, during a game at Louisiana Tech, fans rained coins on the floor. "Quarters, dimes, nickels," says Payton Townsend, a 6'7" center who played for Shipley from 1969 to '72. "I could never decide whether they were saying we were getting paid or whether they wanted us to slip and get hurt." And in 1973, when Shipley and his squad played Houston in the NCAA tournament, the Houston band uncorked a brassy rendition of Big Spender.
The team needed a police escort every time it traveled by bus to north Louisiana for a game. Still more police stood at arena exits and monitored the crowds. The black players learned to tune out racist taunts, but Shipley never let one pass without using it to motivate them. "This is an opportunity for you to help your race," Shipley exhorted his black players.
"North Louisiana is full of Baptists," says Ivory, "and I used to call them the KKK because of how some of them treated us. They're the ones who called us names. But it only made me play harder. I must've had 20 dunks one day in a game with Louisiana College in Pineville. I wanted to make sure they never forgot me."
To my mind Shipley's run always had an ephemeral quality. It was too rare and precious a thing to last long. Seven years after recruiting his first black players, the coach resigned in May 1973, after 16 years at USL, a 296--129 record and only one losing season. Ostensibly he quit over a salary dispute with the university. Only a few months later the NCAA revealed that an investigation into the program had uncovered some 125 violations. The most serious of them, which Shipley denied knowing about, accused people close to him of doctoring players' transcripts, changing grades on academic records and arranging for surrogates to take the ACT exam for incoming freshmen. But many of the infractions involved small cash payments to recruits and players in the amount of $10 to $30. Shipley and boosters let players borrow their own cars, and the coaches arranged for them to fill up and pay with university credit cards at a gas station near campus. Another violation had Cox buying clothes for a player at a Lafayette store. The NCAA shut down USL's basketball program for two years and placed every other athletic team at the school on probation.
Shipley was 46 years old. Even though boosters and staff members were responsible for most of the infractions, Shipley as head coach was ascribed the blame. "If he didn't know what was going on, he should have known," says Ray Authement, who was acting president of the university when Shipley quit.
In his own defense, the coach said he broke rules only for "humanitarian reasons," such as when a freshman player from a poor background reported to school without "a change of clothes or sheets for his bed." His dealings with sportswriters had always been testy, and now many of them seemed to enjoy vilifying him. "They felt like if the NCAA came in and found those violations, then we must be guilty," said Shipley. "But the NCAA doesn't operate that way. If somebody tells [an investigator] that I did this or I did that, [the investigator] treats the allegation as fact, and it goes down on the record that you did this and did that when you didn't do what they said at all." (The NCAA did not respond to SI's requests for an official comment.)