In 1966, the men's basketball team from Texas Western – now the University of Texas El-Paso – beat Kentucky in Cole Field House to win the title that year with an all-black starting lineup, and to the extent these things have clear lines of demarcation, that was credited as a major turning point in collegiate athletic integration in the South.
The 50th anniversary of that victory is next month, and Maryland welcomed a group of Texas Western players back to College Park on Saturday, honoring them at the Terps' game against Wisconsin. Many of the team's members are deceased, including head coach Don Haskins, but five were on-hand for what turned out to be a really nice tribute: Willie Cager, Willie Worsley, Nevil Shed, David Lattin and Louis Baudoin.
Maryland radio voice Johnny Holiday emceed a classily done roundtable discussion in front of donors at Heritage Hall before the game, and the men got their due from Maryland's crowd at halftime. That was all fun and good, but what's really important about this event is the history it calls back to mind.
"It was great to come back," Lattin said. "I wanted to see it. I'm proud that the win made it possible for [children] of color to go to school, especially in the deep south. That is our legacy."
Maryland's racial history regarding athletics is a pretty mixed one. The Terps integrated several ACC sports, including football, and Texas Western's victory coming in Cole Field House is a great pride point for the school even if Maryland didn't, itself, have much to do with it. It's still a historic thing, and it deserved recognition.
"It was the first time I've been back in 50 years to a place that had many, many historic games," Shed said. "It was funny, as I was walking into the gym, I started shaking. Maybe because I was cold. When I look back, we were getting ready to play the most important game of our lives - not even thinking about the magnitude of history that we are representing today."
Via our Sung-Min Kim, here are some photographs:
Thanks for dropping by and sharing some wisdom with our community, Miners.