OXFORD, Miss. (WJTV) – The first Black student-athlete at the University of Mississippi has passed away at the age of 71.

“Emily and I are saddened by the news of Coolidge Ball’s passing,” said Chancellor Glenn Boyce. “He was a pioneer and a trailblazer whose immense courage opened the door for countless student-athletes at our university and in our state. Coolidge was widely respected for his strength, humility, and kindness and will always be remembered as an extraordinary source of inspiration. We extend our deepest condolences and prayers to his family and loved ones.”

Ball signed his scholarship with Ole Miss in August 1970 to play for the men’s basketball team. The Indianola native decided to stay in his home state, where he would become the first Black student-athlete at Ole Miss and break barriers for future generations.

Visitation is set for Friday at 3:00 p.m. at the Tallahatchie-Oxford Missionary Baptist Association Building. The funeral service will also take place at the facility on Saturday at 12:00 p.m.

“We are heartbroken to learn of the passing of Coolidge Ball — the greatest trailblazer in the history of Ole Miss Athletics,” said Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Keith Carter. “He not only broke down walls for future generations of student-athletes but also provided an example for all those who followed him. Coolidge remained an active member of the Ole Miss family throughout his life and always blew me away with his grace and kindness. Our university is forever grateful for his impact as a student athlete, civil rights leader and friend to us all.”

Ball scored more than 1,072 points while at Ole Miss and guided the Rebels to three consecutive winning seasons from 1972 to 1974.

He was inducted into the Ole Miss Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2008, and was named an SEC Basketball Legend in the class of 2005. He earned a spot on the Ole Miss Men’s Basketball All-Century Team in 2009, and in 2021, was honored with a bronze statue that stands outside in the Pavilion Plaza.

After graduating in 1975, Ball coached basketball for four years at Northwest Mississippi Community College. In 1979, Ball owned and operated Ball Sign Company in Oxford.