“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Texas Western: 1966 NCAA Champions
You sometimes get the “David vs. Goliath” match-up in sports: the scrappy underdog, with almost zero chance to win, versus the powerhouse favorite, who’s a near-lock to win. The 1966 Men’s NCAA Basketball Championship was no different. The University of Kentucky (‘UK’) was the ‘Goliath’: a then-4 time Champion, playing at home (which I never knew before this morning), and the overwhelming favorite to win Title #5. Their opponent: a small southwest school, from El Paso, named Texas Western. But this match-up was a little bit different:
UK, like most Southern and Southwestern schools, did not play or recruit black players. Adolph Rupp, UK’s coach, was particularly famous for not doing either.
Texas Western not only recruited black players (and other races, as they also had a Mexican player), they started 5 of them.
The result? ‘Goliath’ was defeated, 72-65. Texas Western (now UTEP) became the first school to win an NCAA Title with 5 Black starters.
A couple of links for more info:
Blackpast.org – The Texas Western 49ers
El Paso Times – 1966 Texas Western Roster (with bios on the players)