Former Big Brothers Big Sisters Executive Director, Irv Cross, Dies at 81

ST. CLOUD, MN (March 1, 2021) –

Irv Cross served as Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota from 2006-2010. Cross had an enthusiastic passion for mentoring. During his time with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Cross was matched with a Little Brother, Travelle, for three years. His compassionate spirit and notoriety brought increased visibility to Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission and helped recruit many mentors for the program.  

In his autobiographical book, Bearing the Cross, Cross says, “The most fun I had with Big Brothers Big Sisters was playing with the Little Brother assigned to me, who was ten years old when I was seventy. Man, did he wear me out!”

Upon learning of his Big Brother’s passing, former Little Brother Travelle states that Cross, “had a big impact on my life, was very inspiring, and a strong leader.”  

Former Big Brothers Big Sisters Board President John Schnettler shares, “In 2006, our search committee asked why this nationally acclaimed person wanted to commute from Roseville to serve as Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota. Irv shared the story of how, after the death of his mother, his 5th grade teacher changed the course of his life. She helped him set his sights on high goals. Irv personally understood the power of mentorship and we are grateful for Irv’s contributions to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota.”

Cross was a former NFL Pro Bowl cornerback and legendary broadcasting pioneer. He was the first African American sports analyst on national television when he worked for CBS Sports as an NFL analyst and commentator from 1971 to 1994. He anchored the Emmy-winning show “The NFL Today,” from its inception in 1975 through 1989. Cross also covered other sports, including the NBA, track and field, and gymnastics.

Fellow sports analyst, Brent Musburger, commented, “I’ve been around all kinds of people, from every walk of life. I don’t know that I could give you one person who was nicer than Irv Cross. He was a constant gentleman.”

While Executive Director at Big Brothers Big Sisters, he frequently spent his lunch breaks in downtown St. Cloud befriending a local homeless man. Among his many accomplishments, Cross will always be remembered for his big heart and humility.    

Cross died Sunday morning in Roseville, Minnesota. He was 81.

Cross is survived by his wife, Liz; four children, Susan, Lisa, Matthew, and Sarah; grandson Aiden; brothers Raymond, Teal, and Sam; and sisters Joan, Jackie, Julia, Pat, and Gwen.

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