Shipley's protestations were ignored, and even his family and friends found his complaints wearisome. After spending half a season as head coach of the San Diego Conquistadors in the old American Basketball Association, Shipley returned to Lafayette and left coaching for good, taking a job as a salesman with an oil-services company called Drilling Measurements Inc. "I didn't know anything about what I was trying to sell," he said, "but they let me in anyway. Everywhere I went, people called me Coach." In his first year alone Shipley more than tripled the $15,800 he earned during his last year at USL, but the money didn't comfort him any. At home at the end of the day, he reclined in his favorite chair and contemplated what he had lost until, he said, he "began to fume."
"Coach Shipley's legacy is yet to be determined, but I know what he would want it to be," says Rocke Roy, his onetime assistant. "He'd want to be exonerated for the shame and the guilt that were put on him. These things ate at him and attacked his gut every day of his life after he left coaching."
Shipley on occasion was invited to speak at public events, and he routinely broke from his prepared remarks and unburdened himself on the audience with attacks against the NCAA and those whom he believed betrayed him. His screeds brought crowds to their feet, even when people weren't entirely sure what he was saying. At a reunion of former players in 2001, "Beryl started talking in code," says Ron Gomez, a former radio announcer who did the play-by-play for Shipley's games. "He's up there saying, 'There was one individual that you all would know who I'm talking about. He was out to get this team. I can't say who he was, but anyway. . . .' And people just sat there scratching their heads and muttering, 'What the hell's he talking about?'"
"It's become so ingrained in Beryl's psyche: He's innocent and other people did this to him, but if you read the NCAA findings, it's hard to conclude that he was not involved," says former president Authement, a frequent target of Shipley's rage.
By the early 2000s, Dolores was so troubled by her husband's fixation that she arranged for a minister from their church to come and talk to him. The minister's counsel seemed to resonate, but Shipley soon went back to his old ways. "We really did have times over the years when he was happy and seemed to be enjoying himself," says Dolores, "but he always got back to basketball and what happened to him."
"We know what you did," a man told Shipley once. This was a black man, a coach at one of the local high schools. Shipley looked at him for an explanation. Was he talking about the scandal? Or was he talking about how Shipley had sacrificed everything to open doors for people? "You made things happen," the man said.
In 2007, Shipley and Gomez self-published Slam Dunked: The NCAA's Shameful Reaction to Athletic Integration in the Deep South, a book about Beryl's case based on research by his older brother, Tom Jr. The Barnes & Noble in Lafayette sold about 800 copies, but when Shipley and Lopez secured an invitation to a signing at the chain's store in Baton Rouge, they sat at a table for two hours and signed one book. "Beryl didn't take it well," says Gomez. "And you know what really got to him? He couldn't sell the book to blacks. We'd have black people walking by and he'd say, 'Hey, buddy, come here. Come here. This is your history, baby. Look at this.' And the guy would say, 'Yeah? No kidding? O.K. . . .' And then he'd just walk on."
Shipley had thought his story would put him on Oprah, and he had hoped it would prompt some of his old enemies to sue him and give him the chance to face them in court. He hoped to prove once and for all that he'd been destroyed for doing what no one else had been brave enough to do, but the book came and went without anybody seeming to notice. Not only was Shipley an accidental hero, he was also a forgotten one.
The university, only two miles from Shipley's home, did not honor him for his championship career until a reunion ceremony in January, when he was too sick to attend. There has never been a school-sponsored celebration of his role in the integration of team sports in the Deep South, no plaque with fancy script etched into the metal. Until the school hired Bob Marlin in March 2010 to coach the team, Shipley was persona non grata to many of the people associated with the program. Marlin changed that by showing up at Shipley's home at odd hours to talk X's and O's with him and by calling him from road trips to let the old coach know how much he meant to him.
Then late last fall, Shipley, faced with a medical prognosis that would have him in the grave by spring, finally understood that he could do better with the time he had left. "He'd had his heart cut out of him, and he never really got over it until he was finally able to forgive," says Dykes. "So he forgave everyone. One of his old adversaries came to visit, and they sat together for an hour and a half and talked, and the past between them never came up. Not a word.