Preserving History & Legacies
The Cal Irvin Legacy
North Carolina A&T University 1954-71
Five CIAA championships
First MEAC championship
Men’s Head Basketball Coach
18 yrs. 401-143
(Johnson C. Smith, NC A&T)
A Celebrated Era in Black College Basketball
Black College basketball begin to produce some of the top notch performers in the 1950s which continued into the 70’s. With the breakthrough in the National Basketball League and the newly formed American Basketball League, Black college players begin to show up in impressive numbers. Legends were created in the coaching ranks as more of their proteges began to make their mark in the professional leagues.
Cal Irvin played for the legendary Clarence “Bighouse” Gaines at Morgan State University and became a major competitor and friend to Gaines, John B. McLendon, Jr. and others who became Hall of Fame recipients. Here is Irvin’s story:
(Click to enlarge)
This month in Black College Sports: 1901 Grambling State University opened as the Colored Industrial and Agricultural School…founded by the North Louisiana Colored Agriculture Relief Association (organized in 1896 by a group of African-American farmers who wanted to organize and operate a school for African Americans in their region of the state). Charles P. Adams was the first president…1924 MAGIC CITY CLASSIC…The first football game between Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University became an annual tradition in post-war 1945 at Legion Field in Birmingham (Alabama State leads the series 39-36-3)…1928 FIRST BLACK COLLEGE HOMECOMING GAME was played between Howard University and Virginia Union University…
Calvin “Cal” Irvin was a native of Orange, NJ where he attended the public schools and excelled academically while playing three sports: baseball, football and basketball.
He was the first African American to serve as the commencement speaker at Orange High School.
Cal was a two-time all-state basketball player and received a scholarship from Morgan State University to play basketball and football.
He was captain of the basketball team and All-CIAA running back in football. After a leg injury which limited his performance, he transferred to the University of Illinois where he received a bachelor of science degree. He went on to earn a master of arts from Columbia University and did further study at University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
His first job was a recreation supervisor in the Department of Recreation in East Orange, NJ and later his first teaching and coaching job was at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC, where he served as an assistant football coach and the head basketball coach.
He led the men’s basketball team to their first CIAA championship. After four years at Smith, he coached the Atkins High School in Winston-Salem to the 1952 state championship.
In 1954, Cal joined the staff at North Carolina A&T State University as a teacher, the head basketball coach and assistant football coach. His main focus was developing a winning basketball team and was a mentor to many of them, stressing the importance of education, perseverance, respect and dignity.
He sent eighteen players to the professional basketball leagues, most notable is Alvin Attles, former coach of the Golden State Warriors. Read more…