The Baron and the Bear: Rupp's Runts, Haskins's Miners, and the Season That Changed Basketball Forever

The Baron and the Bear: Rupp's Runts, Haskins's Miners, and the Season That Changed Basketball Forever

The Baron and the Bear: Rupp's Runts, Haskins's Miners, and the Season That Changed Basketball Forever

The Baron and the Bear: Rupp's Runts, Haskins's Miners, and the Season That Changed Basketball Forever

Synopsis

In the 1966 NCAA basketball championship game, an all-white University of Kentucky team was beaten by a team from Texas Western College (now UTEP) that fielded only black players. The game, played in the middle of the racially turbulent 1960s—part David and Goliath in short pants, part emancipation proclamation of college basketball—helped destroy stereotypes about black athletes.

Filled with revealing anecdotes, The Baron and the Bear is the story of two intensely passionate coaches and the teams they led through the ups and downs of a college basketball season. In the twilight of his legendary career, Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp (“The Baron of the Bluegrass”) was seeking his fifth NCAA championship. Texas Western’s Don Haskins (“The Bear” to his players) had been coaching at a small West Texas high school just five years before the championship.

After this history-making game, conventional wisdom that black players lacked the discipline to win without a white player to lead began to dissolve. Northern schools began to abandon unwritten quotas limiting the number of blacks on the court at one time. Southern schools, where athletics had always been a whites-only activity, began a gradual move toward integration.

David Kingsley Snell brings the season to life, offering fresh insights on the teams, the coaches, and the impact of the game on race relations in America.

Excerpt

I can never think about the 1966 ncaa Championship without remembering that Kentucky star Pat Riley later called the game “the Emancipation Proclamation of college basketball.” That victory shook the game to its very foundation. and that’s what I think The Baron and the Bear does, too. Author David Kingsley Snell challenges conventional wisdom about Coaches Don Haskins and Adolph Rupp. and the book puts the reader back into the climate of a racially divided 1960s America. This story is a timely reminder of past prejudices and captures the feel and flavor of two historically significant teams and their Hall of Fame coaches.

In the fifty years since mighty Kentucky, with its all-white team, was beaten by upstart Texas Western’s all–African American lineup, both coaches have undergone radical makeovers in the media. First, in the immediate aftermath of the game, Haskins received bundles of crude hate mail from racists who believed his all-black lineup had somehow tainted college sports.

In 1968 Sports Illustrated accused the University of Texas at El Paso (which by then had changed its name from Texas Western) of abusing their minority students, particularly their athletes, who were, according to the article, discarded once their eligibility was over. the accusation wasn’t true—only two of the twelve players on that year’s team failed to graduate, and both of them went on to highly successful careers.

By then Haskins was already getting mail from African American ministers and community leaders, charging him with exploitation. Rival coaches used the Sports Illustrated article to muck up the recruiting advantage Haskins should have reaped from his ncaa Championship.

As the anniversary of that championship season passed—twenty . . .

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