In 1965 Beryl Shipley, head basketball coach for the University of Southwestern Louisiana, took the first steps in abolishing the deep south’s unwritten rule against integration in athletics.
Most people think they know the story. It’s been covered by Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, local media outlets, even compiled into book form. It’s been hashed and rehashed on talk radio. Yet to this day the story remains largely a mystery, even to most of those directly involved.
USL Head Basketball Coach Beryl Shipley was no stranger to risk taking. His fiery approach positioned the team at the top of national rankings … and in the crosshairs of the NCAA. The NCAA labeled the Cajun’s rise to the top as “the largest infractions case we’ve ever seen” as they sentenced the basketball team to complete dissolution for an unprecedented two years, along with forcing USL’s other sports into four years of post season and television probation. They didn’t stop there. The organization even proposed an outright ban on the university from the NCAA .
What prompted the NCAA to shut down one of the nation’s most competitive programs? The investigation report includes an exhaustive list of allegations, but many who were there tell a different story. They tell a story of white and black athletes competing for the first time. They tell a story of a university that peacefully integrated a decade before the civil rights movement. They tell the story of a clash of mindsets and a man who refused to bend his beliefs.
For the first time on film, players, officials on both sides, historical experts and Coach Shipley himself describe the facts and factors of that fateful decision. What was it like to be on the team? Who was part of the decision? Sit back and learn the story of a team who rose too high, too fast led by a man that never buckled under pressure.
This is about a small isolated city that gained an identity along with pride, this is about what it means to be a RAGIN CAJUN!