Was Coach Who Was Beaten By Haskins In 1966 A Racist?
If you're from El Paso, chances are you know about the storied Texas Western basketball team that won the 1966 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship under Hall of Fame Coach Don Haskins. That amazing team remains the only Texas college team to bring home that title, a title they have held for 54 years.
The team that Haskins and the Texas Western Miners beat was the Kentucky Wildcats led by Coach Adolph Rupp, a man who has for decades been considered a legend at the university, but now the arena that bears his name might be getting a new name after a group of students and faculty said that his name is synonymous with "racism and exclusion in UK athletics and alienates Black students, fans, and attendees."
The reason why that game is so important to El Pasoans isn't just because we won the title, it's because it ushered in the acceptance of black players on college teams. Bobby Joe Hill, Orsten Artis, Willie Worsley, Willie Cager, Nevil Shed, Harry Flournoy, and David Lattin are names most serious sports fans in El Paso can rattle off and they helped carry Texas Western to the title. Rupp, on the other hand, had no black players on his team that year and didn't for three more years until he recruited his first black player.
When the film Glory Road, the Disney movie about the game, came out, Rupp's son was worried about his father's portrayal. The film's director said that he and Jon Voight, who played Rupp in the film, were careful about they way he was portrayed. There was a scene that showed Confederate flags being waved by fans during the game and there are photos of that happening in the real game.
So was Adolph Rupp a racist? Does his name deserve to be scrubbed from the arena in Kentucky? There are arguments both pro and con about the name change, but ultimately it is up to the university and the bank that bought the naming rights to Rupp Arena to make the change. The university released a statement that said in part, "Senior officials have been meeting and corresponding with them to address their specific concerns..." There is no word on when a name change might, or might not, happen.