Celebrating 53 Years: 1966 Championship Still Beams in El Paso’s Heart
Texas Western's 1966 National Championship? Yeah, it's referenced just about every single March in El Paso. The championship—still the only men's team in Texas to win the NCAA title—still serves as the cornerstone of the city's athletic history.
And there might never be a championship with as much magnitude as Texas Western's 1966 title in college basketball again.
The team, coached by the legendary hall of fame head coach in Don Haskins, made history by becoming the first team to start five African American players en route to win an NCAA basketball championship.
Fifty-three years ago today the Miners beat out Adolph Rupp's Kentucky squad, 72-65, in the historic matchup played at Cole Field House in College Park, Maryland (March 19, 1966).
“It took years later to realize what we did, changed the era of basketball,” Nevil Shed told me at the 50th Anniversary celebration in 2016.
“Willie Worsely was sitting on my head to cut the net down after we won the championship. Today, at a championship team today, you see teams climbing up the ladder to cut down the net. After we won against Kentucky, they didn’t give us a ladder. Do we look upset because of that? Nope. I wish they didn’t have that famous photo of Willie on my head. Why didn’t they crop me out in the Wheaties photo? It shows some guy (himself) holding Willie up." - Nevil Shed
Here are some old great quotes I dug up on this game:
Four titles? No big deal
“Going into this game, all we knew was University of Kentucky had won four times prior and that was it,” Shed said. “Was it the white versus the blacks? No. That was what the media brought out during that time. Did we have a chance to win? Nope, because of our ‘mentality,’ (they said) ‘we weren’t smart enough’ and ‘not good under pressure.’ But we changed that.”
The dunk heard round the world
“I think about the dunk at the beginning of the game. It set the tempo,” David Lattin told me in 2016. “Kentucky players knew they were in for a game. The dunk made a difference."
There will never be another '66
It's time for another team in Texas to win the NCAA Championship. We've all relished in the '66 title for so long and now, for the sake of college basketball prospering in the Lone Star State, let's cheer on a Texas champion.
After all, 53 years is a pretty long streak to keep up and as soon as it happens again, the '66 team will be brought up.
This team will be brought up every time you research civil rights in sports; they will be brought up each time you look for the greatest upsets in sports; and, 1966 Texas Western will always be brought up in the city of El Paso.
Let's keep the championship's spirit alive and continue to celebrate it.