Irv Cross, a key member of The NFL Today and CBS Sports for more than two decades following a career as a player and coach, died Sunday near his home in Roseville, Minn. He was 81.
Previously diagnosed with mild cognitive dementia, Cross told the Philadelphia Inquirer two years ago that he intended to donate his brain to Boston University researchers so they could study it for CTE, the brain disease that has plagued many former NFL players. It has been linked to concussions and repeated blows to the head.
Cross played for Ara Parseghian at Northwestern from 1958-1960 then was drafted in the seventh round by the Philadelphia Eagles. He spent six years with the Eagles and three with the Los Angeles Rams. He was twice voted to the Pro Bowl before spending two seasons as an assistant coach.
In 1971 Cross was hired by CBS Sports as a game analyst. Four years later, CBS took a gamble putting together Cross, Brent Musburger, Phyllis George and Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder for what would become a legendary pregame show. Cross became the first Black network sports show anchor, on what became the first live pregame show. Previous pregame packages were taped.
His role grew to include coverage of other sports for the weekly CBS Sports Spectacular. He was the first Black recipient of the Pete Rozelle Award in 2009 and was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"All of us at CBS Sports are saddened by the news of Irv Cross' passing," CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said in a release. "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 is survived by his wife Liz and four children.
--Field Level Media