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April 2, 1966
Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

April 2, 1966

On April 2, 1966, Pittsburgh Courier sports editor Bill Nunn, Jr., wrote about the Texas Western Miners men’s basketball team. The newly crowned national champions upset Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky Wildcats and became the first team to win the title with five African-American starters. “Few individuals (not readers of this column) it turns out, were aware of the fact that the Miners floored five Negroes on their starting five this season,” Nunn wrote. “Even less, gave the galloping Texas any sort of a chance against a Kentucky team that had been built up as some sort of supermen from another planet. Yet, when the dust of battle had cleared there was Kentucky, tears and all, accepting the prizes that go to losers. The Wildcats had met their masters and were now as tame as kittens.”

Nunn argued that the game was a contrast between “the Old South and the new” and described how Texas Western coach Don Haskins recruited hard after the “color barrier tumbled”: “word went out all across the country that Texas Western was interested in basketball players. The color of their skin didn’t matter.” Nunn explained that this approach was in contrast to what legendary coach Adolp Rupp did at Kentucky. “While Texas Western was loading up on tan talent, Kentucky continued following the line of least resistance," he wrote. “Even though the state of Kentucky lowered its racial bars, the biggest school in the state still stayed lily white on the cage court.” The Norfolk Journal and Guide and several other black newspapers ran a United Press International (UPI) story describing the role of recruiting in Texas Western’s victory.

In his Courier column Nunn concluded, “For Kentucky and its thousands of faithful followers, the defeat must have been crushing. Not only did the Wildcats lose the opportunity to bring the school its fifth national cage title, the team missed out on the opportunity of proving that there are schools who can still win the big title without Negro players. Throughout the country coaches have been whispering among themselves that Negro players help bring major titles.”

short video clip from the national championship game between Texas Western and Kentucky shows the player introductions and tip off.