In what’s a very cool idea, Kentucky and UTEP officials are discussing the possibility of staging a contest in 2016 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of one of college basketball’s landmark games. In 1966, UTEP — then “Texas Western” — beat Kentucky in the championship game of the NCAA Tournament. The Miners used an all-black starting lineup. The Wildcats’ lineup was all white.
From a civil rights perspective it was a groundbreaking moment. If you read the history — and don’t just accept what was presented in the movie “Glory Road” — you’ll find that black stars like Bill Russell and KC Jones had been leading teams like San Francisco to national titles since the 1950s. But the ’66 title game marked the first time an all-black starting captured the crown.
Kentucky wouldn’t feature a black player until Tom Payne starred in 1971, five years later.
Current discussions for a 2016 game are targeting a matchup on Martin Luther King Day to be played at Cole Field House, the site of the 1966 game. Maryland no longer uses the arena as its basketball home.
Kudos to Kentucky for its apparent willingness to draw attention to a game it lost 50 years ago. Then again, when has current UK coach John Calipari ever missed a trick when it comes to gaining national attention for his Wildcat program? The man is the Maestro of Marketing.
Here’s hoping a deal can be struck between the two schools and the University of Maryland. This is an idea that needs to come to fruition.