PHILADELPHIA — Irv Cross, the former Pro Bowl defensive back who became the first Black man to work full time as a sports analyst on national television with CBS, died Sunday. He was 81.
The Philadelphia Eagles, with whom Cross spent six of his nine NFL seasons, said Cross’ son, Matthew, confirmed his father died near his home in Roseville, Minnesota. The cause of death was not provided.
“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 won the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award in 2009. He was the first Black recipient of the annual award, which seeks to recognize “longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.”
Cross, a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, had 22 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries, eight forced fumbles and a pair of defensive touchdowns for his career. He also averaged 27.9 yards on kickoff returns and returned punts.
He joined CBS after retiring from the game, covering a variety of sports before teaming up with Musburger, George and Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder on “The NFL Today” in 1975. The show broke a variety of barriers, including featuring the first woman network sports show anchor in George. It also was the first live pregame show.
Cross left the network in 1994 and later served as athletic director at Idaho State and Macalester College in Minnesota.
Musburger called Cross “one of the finest gentleman I’ve been with” in a statement posted to Twitter on Sunday.
“No one ever had a bad thing to say about Irv,” Musburger wrote. “He led the way for African Americans to host NFL and other sports shows. Rest in peace my friend.”
The eighth of 15 children, Cross is survived by wife, Liz; children Susan, Lisa, Matthew and Sarah; grandson Aiden; brothers Raymond, Teal and Sam; and sisters Joan, Jackie, Julia, Pat and Gwen.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.