EL PASO, Texas - On March 19, 1966, the Texas Western Miners became the first team in history to win the NCAA Men?s Basketball Championship with five African American players in the starting lineup.
Led by coach Don Haskins, the Miners? 72-65 win over an all-white Kentucky squad opened doors for African Americans. Colleges that didn?t recruit African Americans began to do so after the historic win and those teams that already did have African Americans on their teams began to put more African Americans in the starting lineup.
The game is also credited as being a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement, as well. Texas Western (now UTEP) finished the 1965-66 season with a 28-1 record. The season and championship game were immortalized in the 2006 film ?Glory Road,? which starred Josh Lucas.
Non-basketball fans might not have learned about the film if it wasn't for "Glory Road" and the film might not have ever been made if Pat Riley, one of the players on the Kentucky squad, hadn?t told producer Jerry Bruckheimer about the historic game.
"Pat Riley told me this great story that Magic Johnson came into his office when he was coach of the Lakers and said, 'Had not David Lattin dunked that ball over you, I wouldn't be in here.' So he's aware of it, but a lot of the kids aren't aware of it. So the best way to educate people is to entertain them at the same time," Bruckheimer said in a 2005 El Paso Times interview about why he decided to make ?Glory Road.?
In 2007, the 1965-66 Texas Western squad became one of eight teams in the history of basketball to be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Click here to learn more about the the 1965-66 Miners at UTEP's special Web page dedicated to the team.