Irv Cross, 1st Black Full-Time Sports Analyst on National Television, Dead at 81

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Jay Connor
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Irv Cross accomplished quite a bit in life.

He was a two-time Pro Bowler who spent nine years in the NFL as a defensive back, and while pursuing a broadcasting career after his retirement, he became the first Black man to work full-time as a sports analyst on national television with CBS.

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Sadly, he’s no longer with us, as ESPN reports that his son, Matthew, has confirmed that Cross died on Sunday. He was 81.

His cause of death has yet to be provided, but as news of his passing began to circulate on Sunday, the NFL community openly grieved for a pioneer who inspired so many.

“All of us at CBS Sports are saddened by the news of Irv Cross’ passing,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in a statement. “Irv was a pioneer who made significant contributions to the storied history and tradition of CBS Sports and, along with Phyllis George and Brent Musburger, set the standard for NFL pregame shows with THE NFL TODAY.

“He was a true gentleman and a trailblazer in the sports television industry and will be remembered for his accomplishments and the paths he paved for those who followed.”

Cross spent 23 years at CBS and was the first-ever Black recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award in 2009, which recognizes “longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.” After leaving the network in 1994, he went on to become the athletic director at Idaho State and at Macalester College in Minnesota.

On Twitter, others offered their condolences:

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“So sad to hear of the passing of Irv Cross,” Greg Coleman, the NFL’s first Black punter, tweeted. “This man a true broadcast pioneer, when there were so few people of color on the set of NFL pre-game shows he is a legend and someone who I knew as a friend. Prayers go out to his wife, son and the entire Cross family. RIH my Brother.”

Cross, the eighth of 15 children, is survived by his wife, Liz, and their children Susan, Lisa, Matthew, and Sarah.