Irv Cross, a Pro Bowl defensive back with two N.F.L. teams who later made history as the first Black full-time television analyst for a network television sports show, died on Sunday in a hospice in North Oaks, Minn. He was 81.
The cause was ischemic cardiomyopathy, a heart disease, said his wife, Liz Cross. He also had dementia, which he believed had been caused by concussions he endured in his playing days. He had arranged to donate his brain to the Boston University Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center.
By 1975, after nine seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Los Angeles Rams and four years as a game analyst for CBS Sports, the network hired Mr. Cross to join the cast of its pregame show, “The NFL Today,” beginning a 15-year run as a high-profile commentator. He, Brent Musburger and Phyllis George — and, starting a year later, the betting maven Jimmy Snyder, who was known as the Greek — previewed and analyzed the day’s coming games and gave half-time scores.
The cast was unlike others in N.F.L. television programming, with Mr. Cross in a job that no other Black sports journalist had held before, and Ms. George, a former Miss America, becoming one of the first female sportscasters. With entertaining banter and byplay, the combination of personalities proved extremely popular.