Adolph Rupp was the biggest racist on the planet. He was the end all and be all of evil in college basketball. He had the audacity to coach a Kentucky team that didn't have a single black player against Texas Western which had five black starters. He deserved to lose that game and all his collegiate wins are tarnished because he's so filled with hate.
Adolph Rupp coached the Kentucky Wildcats from 1930 to 1972. During that time, he won an unprecedented 876 victories, winning four national championships, twenty-seven SEC championships (82.2% winning) and turning Kentucky into one of the greatest collegiate basketball programs of all time.
One of the most memorable and important games during Rupp's career was the 1966 championship game against Texas Western (now University of Texas-El Paso). That game marked the first occurrance that an all-white starting five (Kentucky) played an all-black starting five (Texas Western) in the championship game. Texas Western won the game in a hard-fought victory, 72-65. This was especially significant as it came at a time when the civil rights movement came into full swing around the country.
In 1969 Rupp signed Tom Payne, an athletic 7'-2" center out of Louisville. This ended the aspect of all-white Kentucky teams forever and marked a new era with black Kentucky basketball legends including Jack Givens, Sam Bowie, Kenny Walker and Jamal Mashburn.
| Introduction | Why Basketball ? Why Kentucky ? Why Rupp ? | Early Pioneers | The Game | Fall-out from the Game | Media Spin after the Game | Motivations for Perpetuating the Charge | Poor Journalism | The Evidence Against Rupp | Player Case Studies | The Evidence for Rupp | Reading List |
Adolph Rupp was a coach over a span of time when the society in America made dramatic changes.
In the spring of 1966 the nation was about midway between the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. It had watched Watts burn and witnessed the backlash against integration in Mississippi and elsewhere. - by Pat Forde, USA Today, "Legacy of Rupp Slow to Recede Repercussions of 1966 Title Game Still Echo in Many Ears," April 2, 1996.
Many basketball teams in the South did not have black players on their rosters or admit black students into their institutions. The Southeastern Conference especially had many member schools so opposed to integration that some schools refused to compete against other schools with black players. Mississippi State at one time had to sneak out of town under the cover of darkness to play in the NCAA tournament. (This, after ignoring bids in earlier years.) During that time, Rupp was playing all comers around the country, white or black. He often took his team to Chicago or New York to play against some of the powerhouse collegiate teams with black players. He recruited black players (at least fifteen - Lexington Herald Leader, March 31, 1990.), including Wes Unseld, Butch Beard and Jim McDaniels, but it was a difficult undertaking to convince a black player to come to Kentucky. Doing so, he would be the focal point in college basketball, as at that time Kentucky was the premier basketball dynasty. A black player would be subjected to the worst taunts and slurs imaginable during road games at places such as Oxford and Starkville Mississippi, Athens Georgia, Baton Rouge Louisiana etc. (Not to mention the aspect of arranging lodging and meals in the segregated South.) Nevertheless, there were a number of people who claimed that Rupp did not recruit these players or when he did, Rupp didn't recruit them hard enough. When Rupp finally did sign Tom Payne in 1969, Kentucky was one of the early SEC schools (starting with Vanderbilt with Perry Wallace, followed by Auburn with Henry Harris, Alabama with Wendell Hudson) to sign a black player (*). Football players Darryl Bishop and Elmore Stephens joined the UK team in the 1971-72 season for a short time, Rupp's last season as coach. (by John McGill, Lexington Herald Leader, "Kentucky a Leader in Integrating SEC Sports," March 31, 1990.)
It is difficult to assess the attitude of a man who is long since dead, especially the Baron who was only well known by those few close to him. A large amount of anecdotal evidence suggests that Rupp showed few signs of being racist and in fact supported blacks while a few specific quotes attributed to him suggest he was indeed racist. So was Rupp racist or not ? The information at hand is too contradictory to say for certain. Most likely he was to an extent, just as the majority of white men his age living in the South at the time would be judged racist by today's standards. There are two explicit instances where Rupp, while angry, made derogatory comments about blacks to people in confidence. Was he overtly racist ? The evidence does not show any public statements or acts to suggest so.
"To put 1997 standards on Coach Rupp during the time that he coached -- in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s and a couple of years in the 70s -- is totally unfair." - C.M. Newton, CNNSI, "New Era in Lexington," October 30, 1997.
"I know there have been a lot of people who thought he was a racist. But I think the times can dictate how people act -- where you're brought up, how you're brought up. If he was a racist, he wasn't alone in this country. I'm never going to judge anybody. . . . That's a long time ago, too . . . You learn from the past, and you go on." - Orlando "Tubby" Smith, Chicago Tribune, "New Face Leads Kentucky These Days," November 30, 1997.
The following information is intended to present the evidence at hand, both pro and con, so people can make an informed decision for themselves. Granted, much of the information is contradictory but that's what can happen when you try to understand a real person rather than a stereotype.
Warning and Note - This page is an extremely long and often rambling piece. If you are pressed for time and are only interested in the topic of Adolph Rupp and the evidence of whether he was racist or not, I would suggest you read the evidence against Rupp and the evidence for Rupp sections. If you are interested in the history of the championship game and its ramifications, I would suggest you read the game, fall-out from the game and media spin after the game sections. If you are interested in stories of some of the black pioneers who integrated basketball in the south, I would suggest you read the early pioneers and the player case studies sections. Despite what some may assume, the major point of this entire page revolves around the media and how they have done a poor job reporting and discussing this topic. If you are interested in how the media has distorted and shaped this topic through the years, please be sure to read the media spin after the game, motivations for perpetuating the charge and examples of poor journalism
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Why Basketball ? Why Kentucky ? Why Rupp ?
Why Basketball ?
It may be useful to consider why it became an important issue that Adolph Rupp integrate his teams. Sports has always been an important tool in bringing together people of different races, economic levels, educational levels and interests. Basketball in particular was a high-profile sport where the players are easily recognizable (in comparison to football for instance) and work together closely as one unit.
"I think that in terms of race relations, athletics in general have contributed immeasurably to reducing tensions and putting people on a common ground." - William Winter on the impact of integrated athletics on the South, by Ed Hinton, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, "Run for Respect," September 7, 1986.
Many recognized that integrating sports teams was a quick way to gain acceptance and to bring about integration throughout society. Adolph Rupp was not the best example when it comes to integration, but he is also certainly not the worst. Perhaps people hoped UK would start signing black players so that other, more conservative schools could have the "excuse" to integrate their team (and in effect university) under the pretext of being able to compete.
Why Kentucky ?
History shows that, while there were other factors, not until after Kentucky and Vanderbilt, in particular, began to integrate their track, football and basketball teams did other Southeastern Conference teams follow suit. The Southeastern, Southwest and Atlantic Coast Conferences were lagging behind the rest of the country when it came to integration in the 1960's. Kentucky was a entrance-way into breaking down the more conservative schools to its south. As a border state, Kentucky often had more in common with its midwestern neighbors to the north, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana than with states like Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana.
"'With the location and the circumstances that existed in the high school programs [already integrated], it was only natural that the University of Kentucky would initiate it [integration],' says Charley Bradshaw, the former Kentucky coach who signed the SEC's first black players" - by Ed Hinton, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, "Run for Respect," September 7, 1986.
Secondly, the population of Kentucky was more diverse. While a large part of the state was rural, there was also a large midwestern influence in cities such as Louisville and Lexington. The result being that the political climate was more moderate than might be found further in the south. (Kentucky, after all, was not even part of the confederacy during the Civil War.)
The fact that the University of Kentucky basketball team was the preeminate basketball program at the time made it a prime target for those looking to break down barriers. For one, Kentucky was a high-profile team which travelled around the country and earned media attention. To many in the North, Kentucky basketball was the South, simply because none of Kentucky's neighbors had the desire to travel (due in part because many didn't want to play against integrated teams but most likely also because not enough support or interest was given to basketball at these other schools to allow them to travel any substantial distances) to such places as New York City or Chicago. Therefore, Kentucky received the lions share of the scrutiny for why Southern schools were using all-white teams. Secondly, because of Kentucky's stature, it was felt that integrating the squad would have dramatic effects on the rest of the league. Having the hated UK come to town with black players could only hasten the rest of the league into recruiting their own. Ideally, coaches and athletic directors could tell their boosters and fans that "UK is signing blacks, we have to do the same or we'll never win."
"Kentucky's pursuit of [Butch] Beard means that the SEC has a new gentleman's agreement to forget the old one [to not recruit blacks] and thus the last major-conference color bar has quietly fallen. This does not mean that every southern school is out chasing Negro athletes. But the pressure on those that are holding out for sporting segregation is likely to become irresistible as soon as they are regularly whupped by their integrated neighbors" - by Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, "The Negro Athlete is Invited Home," June 14, 1965, pp. 26-27.
The hypothesis that people, both inside and outside UK, wanted UK to integrate its teams because that would mean more rapid integration throughout the South is supported by this item from Butch Beard's recruitment.
"Practically every day his senior year, Beard said, 'some Kentucky alum' came by his home. 'They wanted Kentucky to be the first to integrate the SEC. They said if Adolph did it, everybody would.'" - by Dave Kindred, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, "Facts Belie Stereotype of Racist Rupp at UK," May 11, 1997.
Why Rupp ?
There are a number of reasons behind the eventual denunciation of Rupp, and in some ways it may seem inevitable. Rupp came from the obscurity of the Kansas plain, the son of hard-working Mennonite German immigrants. He went on to not only build a basketball dynasty where none had existed before but to play a hand in the shaping of the modern game. He was brash and arrogant when it came to his coaching ability and didn't mince words. His domination over teams in his own conference can only be described as ruthless. Rupp not only demolished his SEC foes, he didn't hide his disdain for these schools who put all their emphasis on football.
The coaches at both schools [Georgia Tech and Georgia] still taught physical education classes, or were football assistants filling in between seasons; they got a bonus for taking on basketball. It was a practice so obsolete the Adolph Rupp was insulted that his Kentucky teams had to play them." - by Furman Bisher, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, "Oh, If Adolph Rupp Could See the Football State Now," February 10, 1985.
"Because the other schools were unwilling to make such a commitment to a sport [basketball] that couldn't show a profit, the SEC was so weak as a league that Kentucky had to depend on non-conference games for quality competition. Rupp, not known for subtlety, told the rest of the SEC it had better improve or 'we'll bury you.'" - by Tony Barnhart, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, "Basketball Revolution Comes to the South: Once the Stepchild of Most Athletic Programs,: The Game has Taken Hold in the SEC, Thanks to Integration . . .: and an Old Man in a Brown Suit," November 22, 1987.
The brash man not only took his teams to the Northern cities and beat them, he had the audacity to show them how the game was supposed to be played. It certainly must have been a shock at the time to see a bunch of country boys from Kentucky take Madison Square Garden by storm, demonstrating a brand of basketball which was fast-paced and beautiful to watch. Along the way of winning his unprecedented 876 victories, there's no doubt that he cultivated a number of people who envied his success and disliked his demeanor, something which Rupp was no doubt aware of.
"I know I have plenty of enemies," he [Rupp] once said, "but I'd rather be the most hated winning coach in the country than the most popular losing one." - by Joe Gergen, Sporting News Final Four Archive, "1951, Kentucky is Top 'Cat Again."
"Defeat and failure to me are enemies. Without victory, basketball has little meaning. I would not give one iota to make the trip from the cradle to the grave unless I could live in a competitive world." Adolph Rupp after gaining his fourth NCAA title, - by Jim Savage, The Encylcopedia of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, Dell Publishing, 1990, pg. 705.
Rupp was also obsessed with not only winning but with perfection from his teams.
Once the Fabulous Five ran up a 38-4 halftime lead, but Rupp was furious - a single player had scored all the opponent's points, and the Baron wanted him stopped. "Somebody guard that man," Rupp bellowed. "Why, he's running wild !" - by Jim Savage, The Encylcopedia of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, Dell Publishing, 1990, pg. 706.
When asked to compare his current 50-51 team which went on to win a national championship to the Fabulous Five team of 47-48, Rupp said, "They [the Fabulous Five] liked to crush everybody early and get it over with. This bunch is tender-hearted - the only one they're killing is me." - by Associated Press, "Rupp Says Fletcher Caused Most Trouble," Lexington Herald, March 25, 1951.
While Rupp enjoyed the limelight, media relations or sensitivity was not his strong suit. It seems apparent that Rupp was consumed with coaching basketball and was mostly likely oblivious to most other things in life, including civil rights.
"He (Rupp) probably misjudged the power and impact and rightness of the civil-rights movement because, to tell the truth, Rupp never seemed interested in much except himself and basketball." - by Billy Read, Lexington Herald Leader, March 1997.
"I concede one thing to Sports Illustrated and George Will. Rupp probably never cared that his teams had no black players. All that mattered to him was winning and he won without them," - by Dave Kindred, Lexington Herald Leader, "Calling Rupp a Racist Just Doesn't Ring True," Decebmer 22, 1991.
It should also be noted that Rupp's personality wasn't the most sociable, off the court or on, and this has hurt him in the eyes of history.
"Rupp was unique," said Bill Spivey, a Kentucky star in the 1950s. "He wanted everybody to hate him and he succeeded. He called us names some of us had never heard before." - by Dave Kindred, Atlanta Journal and Constitution "The Baron Made Basketball Important," March 16, 1997.
"Adolph would never allow himself to get close to the players," [former player Tommy] Kron said. "He was a tough, gruff kind of guy who would verbally abuse his players to get them to play harder." by Jo-Ann Barnas, Detroit Free Press, "They Changed the Game: Texas Western," March 29, 1996.
Harry Lancaster relates one of Rupp's favorite jokes about himself.
While he [Rupp] was still coaching he liked to tell the story about a coach in the Southeastern Conference who had heard that Adolph was dead. The coach went to his athletic director to get funds to make the trip to Lexington for the funeral. "What a nice gesture," the athletic director told him "What a nice thing to do to pay honor to Coach Rupp." "Honor hell," the coach shouted, "I want to go up there just to make damn sure he's in that box." - by Harry Lancaster, Adolph Rupp As I Knew Him, Lexington Productions, 1979, pg. 119
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The University of Kentucky first admitted black graduate students in 1949 (23 enrolled in the summer of 1949). This was in response to a ruling on a lawsuit by a black teacher from Louisville, Lyman T. Johnson. Federal Judge H. Church ruled that UK must admit blacks as graduate students which overturned the state's 1904 Day law which had made it a felony to educate blacks and whites in the same school. After integration, two crosses were burned, one in front of the Administration Building and one at a UK farm. In 1954, the undergraduate school was opened to blacks and twenty enrolled. (Lexington Herald Leader, "History of Blacks in Lexington," February 21, 1988.) In 1965, Joseph Walter Scott joined the sociology department and became the first black full-time faculty member at the university. (Lexington Herald Leader, "'49 Lawsuit Started UK on Path to Diversity," April 14, 1996.)
Athletics - Basketball
The first black basketball player in the SEC was Perry Wallace (from Nashville and valedictorian of his senior class at all-black Pearl High School) at Vanderbilt, who was also recruited by Kentucky.
"He [Wallace] had been the ideal candidate for the Grand Experiment. He was a class valedictorian who would have no trouble getting through school. He came from a stable family, he was well-spoken, a Nashville native and a local son; Wallace's presence put a lot of pressure on Vanderbilt to recruit him. A couple of other SEC teams talked to him, all to Wallace's surprise. He had had no intention of becoming a pioneer." - by Los Angeles Times Service, Reprinted in Philadelphia Inquirer, "In the South, Blacks were Pioneers on Sports Frontier," March 21, 1983.
Wallace considered going to a northern school but was disappointed in what he saw.
"I saw athletes, particularly black athletes, who were illiterate," he said. "I saw seniors who hadn't grown culturally. I called these schools the new plantation. I was scared away, even though they were in the North, the land of the exodus." - by Los Angeles Times Service, Reprinted in Philadelphia Inquirer, "In the South, Blacks were Pioneers on Sports Frontier," March 21, 1983.
Pressure from the local community and a desire to break stereotypes led him to make his decision to break the SEC color barrier in basketball.
"I wanted to be an example of what black people could produce," he said. I wanted to show that we weren't just colored people on the wrong side of the track, who hadn't developed good values, who weren't intelligent or productive. . . I was always conscious of not reinforcing the negative images of black players," he said. "It inhibited me . . . I played a cautious, conservative game." - by Los Angeles Times Service, Reprinted in Philadelphia Inquirer, "In the South, Blacks were Pioneers on Sports Frontier," March 21, 1983.
With Wallace on the freshman team was Godfrey Dillard (from Detroit, MI). The two had to put up with opposing fans who "shouted racist slogans, spat at them, threw soft drinks and even threatened to lynch the two young strangers in black and gold trunks." (Joseph Stroud, Lexington Herald Leader, "Breaking the Color Barrier," March 1 1992.)
When Wallace would go on the road with Vanderbilt, especially at Mississippi or Auburn, the fans would call him every racial name imaginable. They would threaten to castrate him. In some places, it was said, cheerleaders would lead racial cheers against him. School officials, meanwhile, sat silent. Wallace said he was concerned for his life at times. He figured he could be shot. "This was the South," he said. "At that time in the South, a time of social upheaval, anything could happen." - by Los Angeles Times Service, Reprinted in Philadelphia Inquirer, "In the South, Blacks were Pioneers on Sports Frontier," March 21, 1983.
"It was just a chilling, scary situation. The trips to the south, the crowd was just awful, calling you all kinds of names, all kinds of racial epitaphs. They threatened you, and they hoped above all that you would fail." - Perry Wallace, "Glory in Black and White," CBS, April 2002.
After injuring his knee and becoming involved with the campus "Afro-American Society" and local and campus politics, Dillard was unceremoniously dropped from the team and never got to play varsity basketball for Vanderbilt. Wallace went on to be named captain and earn second team All-SEC honors as a senior but his journey was anything but easy.
"I almost had a nervous breakdown," he [Wallace] said of his college days. "They weren't the worst four years any black person had ever encountered, but they were difficult years. I had to figure out how I was going to deal with the pain, the confusion. It took some time." - by Los Angeles Times Service, Reprinted in Philadelphia Inquirer, "In the South, Blacks were Pioneers on Sports Frontier," March 21, 1983.
"Would I ever do it again ?" wonders Wallace. "I don't know. Probably not. But a son of mine ? God, no. Never. I'd never put him through something like that." - by Los Angeles Times Service, Reprinted in Philadelphia Inquirer, "In the South, Blacks were Pioneers on Sports Frontier," March 21, 1983.
The fate of many of these pioneers was tragic.
Henry Harris, the first Auburn player, jumped off a New York building and killed himself a few years later. Tom Payne, the first at Kentucky, is in a California prison on his fourth rape conviction. Both Wallace and Dillard say they know why. "In some ways, being in that position puts you on a fence, where you fall on one side or the other," Wallace said. "And that was clear to me -- it was clear which side I need to fall on. And I had to fight to do it and to find the strength to do it." - by Joseph Stroud, Lexington Herald Leader, "Breaking the Color Barrier," March 1 1992.
The fourth black player in the SEC was Wendell Hudson at Alabama in 1969. He described his experience as "It was a difficult experience, at times, but a positive one," said Hudson, an assistant basketball coach at Rice. "I'm a better person for having done it. If I had to do it over again, I would, without a doubt." - by Los Angeles Times Service, Reprinted in Philadelphia Inquirer, "In the South, Blacks were Pioneers on Sports Frontier," March 21, 1983.
The Atlantic Coast Conference didn't get off to a rousing start either when beginning to admit black players in the early 1960s. One problem the ACC had was that in response to a point shaving scandal, the league 'voluntarily' increased their admission standards for scholarship athletes. This made it even more difficult to find a black athlete who was adept both on the basketball court and in the classroom. A great high school talent, Lou Hudson of all-black Dudley High School in North Carolina shunned the league and instead opted to enroll at Minnesota where he became an All-American for the Golden Gophers.
"The only ACC school that showed any interest in me was N.C. State," Hudson says. "They invited me to a game against Villanova in the Greensboro Coliseum. Villanova had a black player named Hubie White, and he drew jeers from the crowd....I never actually met Everett Case, but it was suggested that if I enrolled as a student, the booster club would cover my expenses. It seemed to me like a chicken way to operate. They obviously were covering their backs.... I figured, if you can't swim, why walk on thin ice ? Times were beginning to change, but I came along a couple of years too early. They weren't ready for me, and I wasn't ready to be a pioneer under those conditions." - Lou Hudson by Larry Keech in Greensboro News & Record, "One March Night 30 Year Ago Changed the Face of Basketball Today," March 7, 1996.
Billy Jones was the first black varsity basketball player in the ACC, playing for the Maryland Terrapins in 1965-66. He related his experiences growing up in Maryland
"I'm the only one [of his black friends and teammates in Baltimore] who attended a major school. We would get tons of letters from college recruiters. The minute they found out you were black, the communication stopped."
"I remember playing lacrosse for Towson, and someone putting their stick in my groin with the intent to injure. We had an upset win in basketball at Dundalk. The crowd rocked our bus as we were trying to get off the parking lot." - by Paul McMullen, Baltimore Sun, "History in Black, White -- and Gray," December 10, 1999.
The transition to college for the black player was not as harsh as it was for the SEC pioneers, although there were still obstacles.
When Darryl Hill played for Maryland [in football] in 1963, there was speculation that Clemson and South Carolina, then a member, would pull out of the ACC, but both stayed. Brought in by Bud Millikan, Jones remembers the ovation he received when he entered his first ACC tournament game, at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C.
"Some basketball people appreciated what I was doing," Jones said. "You've got to remember, South Carolina had a bunch of players from New York, and they were used to dealing with people like me. I do remember one instance at South Carolina, when I was going for a ball rolling into the corner, and somebody in the stands called me [a racial epithet]."
"As much as possible, we [the team members] did things together, but [current Maryland coach] Gary Williams and the rest of the guys were welcome in places where I was not. You're captain of the basketball team as a senior, and you get no offers to join a fraternity ? I understood. I wasn't even irritated."
All above quotes by Paul McMullen, Baltimore Sun, "History in Black, White -- and Gray," December 10, 1999.
JPS Note - It is interesting to note that Jones was in attendance at the championship game in Cole Field House. He was entertaining a recruit and was sitting a few rows behind the Kentucky bench.
The first black player to be recruited by a North Carolina ACC school was C.B. Claiborne of Danville, Va. Duke University and Wake Forest heard of his achievements on the court and his excellence in the classroom and went after him hard. Claiborne, who otherwise had planned on attending a CIAA school as many of his fellow black athletes in the region did, decided to give it a go (although he may not have been offered a scholarship).
"I wasn't hell-bent to be a pioneer in ACC basketball," Caliborne says now. "Deep down, I still probably would have preferred to play at (North Carolina) A & T. But that would have been a selfish decision on my part. Going to a school with Duke's academic reputation and playing in the ACC were the kinds of opportunities that raised the expectations of the (black) community in a small town like Danville." - C.B. Claiborne by Larry Keech in Greensboro News & Record, "One March Night 30 Year Ago Changed the Face of Basketball Today," March 7, 1996.
Claiborne still encountered racial problems during his stay at Duke, both on and off the court.
"I can remember hearing racial slurs and seeing Confederate flags when we played against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala.," Claiborne says. "When I went to the foul line, I gritted my teeth and told myself, 'If I never make another free throw, I'm going to make this one.'"
"I could sense that there was a group of (Duke) alumni who didn't want me involved," he says. "They would never say anything to my face. But you can read some things from body language, like a certain kind of expression or when somebody turns their back on you...I can remember not being invited to a team awards banquet at Hope Valley Country Club because it was segregated." - C.B. Claiborne by Larry Keech in Greensboro News & Record, "One March Night 30 Year Ago Changed the Face of Basketball Today," March 7, 1996.
Below is a listing of the first black athletes to play basketball in ACC, SEC and the old Southwest Conference schools.
JPS Note - Some will attempt to claim that because one school signed players a few years before another that this makes one school morally superior than the other. I personally tend to think that all the schools were lagging and this listing indicts every single school.
|Chaney, an All-America as a senior, averaged 12.6 ppg in three seasons and was a member of the Final Four teams in 1967 and 1968. Hayes, a three-time All America, averaged 31 ppg and 17.2 rpg in three seasons. The Hall of Famer led the Cougars in scoring and rebounding all three years.|
|Maryland||65-66||Billy Jones||Averaged 8.9 ppg and 4.5 rpg in three seasons. He was the Terrapins' third-leading scorer and rebounder as both a junior and senior.|
|Duke||66-67||C.B. Claiborne||Averaged 4.1 ppg in three seasons|
|Texas Christian||66-67||James Cash||Averaged 13.9 ppg and 11.6 rpg in three seasons. All-SWC selection as a senior when he led the Horned Frogs in scoring (16.3 ppg) and rebounding (11.6 rpg). He had six games with at least 20 rebounds.|
|Baylor||67-68||Tommy Bowman||Led the Bears in scoring (13.5 ppg) and rebounding (9.4 rpg) in his first varsity season. All-Southwest Conference choice in '67-68 and '68-69.|
|North Carolina||67-68||Charlie Scott||Averaged 22.1 ppg and 7.1 rpg in three seasons. He was a consensus second-team All-America choice in his last two years.|
|Vanderbilt||67-68||Perry Wallace||Averaged 12.9 ppg and 11.5 rpg in three varsity seasons. He was the Commodores' leading rebounder as a junior (10.2 rpg) and leading scorer as a senior (13.4 ppg).|
|Wake Forest||67-68||Norwood Todmann||Averaged 10.5 ppg and 4.1 rpg in three seasons, including 13.3 ppg as a sophomore.|
|Arkansas||68-69||Thomas Johnson||Averaged 15.5 ppg for 1967-68 freshman squad|
|North Carolina State||68-69||Al Heartley||Averaged 4.8 ppg in three seasons.|
|Texas||68-69||Sam Bradley||Averaged 6.5 ppg in his only varsity season.|
|Auburn||69-70||Henry Harris||Averaged 11.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg and 2.5 apg in three-year varsity career. Standout defensive player was captain of Auburn's team as a senior.|
|Rice||69-70||Leroy Marion||Averaged 5.6 ppg and 3.3 rpg in a three-year varsity career marred by a knee injury.|
|Texas Tech||69-70||Gene Knolle|
|Knolle, a two-time All-SWC selection, averaged 21.5 ppg and 8.4 rpg in two seasons. Lowery, who averaged 19.7 ppg in his three-year career, was first-team All-SWC as a sophomore and senior and a second-team choice as a junior en route to finishing as the school's career scoring leader (1476 points).|
|Alabama||70-71||Wendell Hudson||Averaged 19.2 ppg and 12 rpg in his career, finishing as Alabama's fourth-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder. The two-time first-team All-SEC selection was a Helms All-America choice as a senior in 1972-73.|
|Clemson||70-71||Craig Mobley||Played sparingly in his only season.|
|Georgia||70-71||Ronnie Hogue||Finished three-year varsity career as the second-leading scorer in school history (17.8 ppg). He was an All-SEC choice with 20.5 ppg as a junior, when he set the school single-game scoring record with 46 points vs. LSU.|
|Kentucky||70-71||Tom Payne||Led the Wildcats in rebounding (10.1 rpg) and was their second-leading scorer (16.9 ppg) in his only varsity season before turing pro. He had a 39-point, 19-rebound performance vs. LSU|
|South Carolina||70-71||Casey Manning||Averaged 2.6 ppg and 1.8 rpg in three seasons.|
|Meeks played sparingly in two seasons. Williams, who averaged 8 ppg and 5.2 rpg in three varsity seaons, was the Gators' second-leading scorer as a sophomore (12.8 ppg).|
|Georgia Tech||71-72||Karl Binns||He was the leading rebounder (6.5 rpg) and fourth-leading scorer (8.8 ppg) in his only season with the Yellow Jackets.|
|Louisiana State||71-72||Collis Temple||Averaged 10.1 ppg and 8.1 rpg in three seasons. Ranked second in the SEC in rebounding (11.1 rpg) and seventh in field-goal shooting (54.9%) as a senior.|
|Mississippi||71-72||Coolidge Ball||Two-time All-SEC selection (sophomore and junior years) averaged 14.1 ppg and 9.9 rpg in three seasons. He led the Rebels in scoring (16.8 ppg) and was second in rebounding (10.3 rpg) as a sophomore.|
|Tennessee||71-72||Larry Robinson||Averaged 10.9 ppg and 8.8 rpg in two seasons. Led the Volunteers in rebounding and field-goal shooting both years.|
|Texas A & M||71-72||Mario Brown||Averaged 13 ppg and 4.3 apg in two seasons, leading the team in assists both years.|
|Virginia||71-72||Al Drummond||Averaged 5.2 ppg in three varsity seasons.|
|Mississippi State||72-73||Larry Fry|
|Fry averaged 13.8 ppg and 8.1 rpg in three seasons. Jenkins, an All-SEC selection as a junior and senior when he was the Bulldogs' leading scorer each year, averaged 19.3 ppg and 7 rpg in three seasons.|
Athletics - Football
The first black athlete to receive a grant-in-aid and play varsity for a SEC school was Nat Northington (from Thomas Jefferson High School in Louisville) for the University of Kentucky football team in the fall of 1967. (Lexington Herald Leader "History of Blacks in Lexington," February 21, 1988). Greg Page (from Middlesboro, KY) was also on the team and was awarded a scholarship. (Letter to the Editor, by Edward Breathitt, Chairman, Board of Trustees, University of Kentucky, Lexington Herald Leader "New Coach Fits Well with Kentucky Goals and Legacy," May 13, 1997.) Jim Green was also signed by Kentucky to join the Wildcat track team.
The New York Times, December 20, 1965 pg. 56.
LEXINGTON, Ky., Dec. 19 (AP) - For the first time the University of Kentucky has given an athletic grant-in-aid to a Negro.
He is Nat Northington, a star back and an "A" student at Thomas Jefferson high School in Louisville.
The university president, John Oswald, said today:
"Northington is an outstanding young man who will be a great credit to the university and its football program."
Kentucky had tried unsuccessfully for two years to sign Negroes to grants-in-aid, including two basketball players and a football player who went elsewhere.
"By August 1967, indications were strong that the historic role of the first black to participate in a Southeastern Conference football game would belong to Greg Page, defensive end. He was outgoing, talented, and by preseason practice that year was listed on the depth chart second only to the team leader, starting defensive end Jeff Van Note, who would spend 18 years with the Atlanta Falcons. Then came the 'pursuit drill' . . . Greg Page got to the ball-carrier first. Piling in behind Page came every other defensive player. . . . When the play was over, Greg Page lay on the ground. 'We knew he was hurt,' says Van Note, . . .'but not how badly he was hurt.'" - by Ed Hinton, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, "Run for Respect," September 7, 1986.
It turns out Page was in critical condition. He lay paralyzed from the bridge of his nose down and later died after 38 days on a respirator. Meanwhile, Northington did enter a varsity game in the season opener against Indiana but suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. After the death of Page, the effect on Northington was too much to bear. "I'm going," Northington told them [black freshman players Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg] "There's no way I can stay here, as close as Greg and I were. But I'm asking y'all not to leave. We've got this thing going now."
After much soul searching themselves, the freshman stuck it out to play the next year on the varsity. The decision was not an easy one though. "When Hackett went home, his friends and neighbors admonished him: 'They killed Greg up there [Lexington], man. What are you doing still up there ?'. After thinking it over, Hackett and Hogg followed Northington's advice to stick it out. "We decided to stay," says Hackett. "And it was rough."
(All above quotes from "Run for Respect," by Ed Hinton, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, September 7, 1986.)
Wilbur Hackett Jr's decision to come to UK was based more on his father's desire to see his son play at UK and the luxury of having his family be able to see him play. Otherwise, Hackett would have gone to Michigan State.
"Yeah, Daddy, he's still quite a UK fan. He's still very, very active. He follows them everywhere. In fact, he was in New York when they won their national championship [in 1996]. He retired from GE, I think about eight or 10 years ago, and now his life is his grandkids and his kids and UK. And I mean he is one of those born-again UK fans." Wilbur Hackett Jr., by John Filiatreau, Louisville Magazine Web Edition, "Boys of Summer," April 1997.
Along with Hackett, Houston Hogg (Owensboro High) and Albert Johnson (Thomas Jefferson, Louisville) made up the black recruiting class that year. The decision to come to UK was still a big step filled with potential dangers, real and imagined.
"There were a lot of things said about it, by family and friends alike," recalls Hackett's mother Olive. "But all the schools were having problems with race at that time. Everybody always mentioned Adolph Rupp, but to me, there was an Adolph Rupp at every school." - by John Filiatreau, Louisville Magazine Web Edition, "Boys of Summer," April 1997.
After the injury to Page and the loss of Northington (and Johnson who got injured and also left), Hogg and Hackett went on to face the SEC alone. (No team in the SEC had a black player at the time save Tennessee with one.)
"I had some very tough times. I mean, you're talking about George Wallace standing in front of the doors at the University of Alabama. You're talking about going to Mississippi for the first time as a 17- or 18-year old kid, traveling the South. This was at the time of the Freedom Riders. You're talking about racial strife that really intensified; you're talking about the riots. I had some incidents, racial incidents, that I will always remember. But overall, I enjoyed it. UK was good to me. I met a lot of good people there; I still have good contacts with people at UK. If I have something that I regret, it's that I never managed to finish my degree." - by John Filiatreau, Louisville Magazine Web Edition, "Boys of Summer," April 1997.
Hackett carved out a respectable collegiate career, despite playing on outmanned UK football teams. His junior year, he was elected captain of the team, making him to first black to be so recognized on an SEC team, an honor which was repeated his senior season.
"I had a good junior year, made honorable mention All-SEC, and after that we started to get more blacks," Hackett says. "We recruited about six guys from Louisville, and things began to change." - by John Filiatreau, Louisville Magazine Web Edition, "Boys of Summer," April 1997.
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The game between Kentucky and Texas Western didn't hold the importance at the time that it received in later years. Western won 72-65 in what many concede was a sloppy ball-game. Kentucky, despite not having any starter taller than 6-5, steadily improved over the year and formed into a fine-tuned machine, relying on the shooting of their two stars Pat Riley and Louie Dampier. Kentucky was impressive during the tournament in dispatching Dayton 86-79 and the Cazzie Russell-led Michigan Wolverines 84-77. In the semifinals, Kentucky outlasted Duke 83-79, in a game where players from both sides were battling the flu. Texas Western came into the tournament with a 23-1 record and a ranking of #3 in both wire-service polls. Despite this, they were largely an unknown commodity to most of the nation, no doubt due in large part to their remote location in El Paso. They were led by a young Don Haskins, who ground into his team a strong dedication to tough defense. Their road to the final four was rocky, surviving an overtime victory over Cincinnati and a double overtime contest with Kansas.
|The title game was a close, hard-fought affair which upon reflection actually turned early in the game. Haskins used a three-guard lineup (by starting 5-6 Willie Worsley) to counteract Kentucky's speed and ball-handling. With the score 10-9, Western, Bobby Joe Hill stole the ball at midcourt from Tommy Kron and sprinted down for the lay-up. The next play, Hill again stole the ball, this time from Dampier, and scored. That was the turning point.
I wish I could forget those two steals," Dampier said. "I wish I could say that he fouled me, but he didn't. I was changing directions, dribbling with my left hand . . .and then it was gone. I can never forget it, either, because my wife has an 8-by-10 picture of it hanging on our wall." by Jo-Ann Barnas, Detroit Free Press, "They Changed the Game Texas Western," March 29, 1996.
The insertion of Worsley gave Kentucky a height advantage at that position. He was assigned to guard Larry Conley who was nine inches taller than the Texas Western player. UK tried to take advantage of the mismatch on the offensive end,
Rupp continually called plays for Conley to get the ball on the blocks and shoot over Worsley, but that strategy failed when Conley - like the rest of his Wildcat teammates - couldn't get his shots to fall. - by Anthony Holden, CBS SportsLine, "Texas Western Stuns Kentucky," 1999.
Kentucky would make some rallies as the game progressed but the strong inside play of David Lattin and the consistent ball-handling and solid free-throw shooting of the Western guards ensured the victory.
"We had no idea what we were getting into," [Pat] Riley said. "In those days, players didn't dunk. I hadn't seen anyone dunk. Guys barely jumped high enough to stick a dollar bill under their shoes. But these guys came out, and after they had dunked on me about three times, I knew they had a lot more to accomplish than we did." - by Jere Longman, Philadelphia Inquirer, "Forget the Glitter, Riley is a Coach of Substance," June 8, 1987.
- Saturday, March 19 1966 -
NCAA Championship (at College Park, MD)
Kentucky - 65 (Head Coach:Adolph Rupp) - [Final Rank 1st by AP and 1st by UPI ]
Texas Western - 72 (Head Coach: Don Haskins) - [Final Rank 3rd by AP and 3rd by UPI]
|Bobby Joe Hill||40||7||17||6||9||3||3||3||6||20|
|1966 NCAA Finals Program|
Preceding the game, there was knowledge that the contest would be special because of the unique racial make-up of the teams, however it was not of the proportions which are often accorded it today.
"All seven of the Texas Western regulars are Negroes, hardly a startling fact nowadays but one that becomes noteworthy because of the likely meeting with Kentucky or Duke. Both those teams are all-white. It is unfortunate -- but it is a fact -- that some Ethniks, both white and Negro, already are referring to the prospective national final as not just a game but a contest for racial honors. More than anything else, however, all four finalists demonstrate that their players are brothers under their recruited skins." - by Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, "Now There are Four," March 21, 1966.
The players themselves were concentrating on the game at hand.
"We didn't see this as a black-white thing -- we just loved to play ball," - Bobby Joe "Slop" Hill, Texas Western Guard, Bergen Record, March 3, 1996.
"For us, I honestly don't think it was a black-white thing. It was Texas Western going up against Kentucky, who's been there before." - Nevil "The Shadow" Shed, by Jack Wilkinson, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, April 1, 1991.
"It just happened that we had five black starters, and Kentucky had five white starters. We were never coached like that. We weren't into black-white. There weren't any racial slurs. We never heard Pat Riley, Louie Dampier, those great Kentucky players, say a word." - David Lattin, by Dave Kindred The Sporting News, "Haskins truly put his heart into game. Winner of 719 games, national title had his share of suffering," August 31, 1999.
"To us it was a pride game," said Texas Western's Harry Flournoy. "It was just simply an opportunity to show the nation what we had. We didn't say, 'We're going to go out there and whip those white players' butts.'" - by Pat Forde, USA Today, "Legacy of Rupp Slow to Recede Repercussions of 1966 Title Game Still Echo in Many Ears," April 2, 1996.
"That part [black-white] never crossed our minds," say former Texas Western guard Orsten Artis. - by Curry Kirkpatrick, Sports Illustrated, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," April 1, 1991.
"At the time we were a group of college kids trying to win a national championship," - Kentucky center Thad Jaracz, by Pat Forde, USA Today, "Legacy of Rupp Slow to Recede Repercussions of 1966 Title Game Still Echo in Many Ears," April 2, 1996.
"We didn't even know they had five black starters, for one thing. And there was nothing said about it. We had a lot of calls because, last year, because it was 30 years since that game. And I had calls from L.A., Detroit, all over the country asking me that very question and it was like they were disappointed when I said 'no we weren't thinking about the black-white thing.' And they keep trying to put words into my mouth they say 'well what did you think when you went out to warm-up and saw all those black guys at the other end ?' And I was like, 'well they weren't all black.' And besides that, in the final of the regions, we beat Michigan. And they started at least three black guys, if not four." - Louie Dampier in an interview with D.G. Fitzmaurice, Wildcat Legends.
"We didn't think of them as black players, we just thought of them as players. People forget that we beat a Michigan team the week before that had four black starters," - Larry Conley, by John Clay, Lexington Herald Leader, "The Runts: Still Special After All These Years," February 9, 1991.
"I've had a lot of chances to consider this over the last thirty years," said [Larry] Conley, a senior on that Kentucky team, "and it's something that really never entered our minds. We were playing another basketball team. That they started five blacks was inconsequential. All the racial overtones developed much later. We were kids, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, trying to play a game. I've had several black writers ask me about that since then and I always say, 'Let me tell you something, I wanted to kick their ass all the way back to El Paso.'" - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 41.
"We didn't know we were going to take part in the Emancipation Proclamation of 1966," [Pat] Riley was to remark jokingly later. - by Ray Sanchez, Basketball's Biggest Upset, Mesa Publishing, 1991, pg. 126-127.
"The only thing that bothers me is that some people think we were motivated by that," Kron said, "by playing an all-black team. That was certainly not the case at all. To me, that's ignorance, and we didn't deserve that. All we cared about was winning the game." - Kentucky guard Tommy Kron, by John Clay, Lexington Herald Leader, "The Runts: Still Special After All These Years," February 9, 1991.
One contradiction to the above was given by Harry Flournoy
"Kentucky was playing for a commemorative wristwatch and the right to say they were national champions," says Flournoy, who averaged 8.3 points and 10.7 rebounds that season. "We were out to prove that it didn't matter what color a person's skin was." - by B.J. Schecter, Sports Illustrated, "Catching Up With . . . Harry Flournoy, Texas Western forward," April 6, 1998.
One interesting aspect of the game was that Haskins only played his seven black players, leaving the remaining five, who happened to be white or hispanic, on the bench. This included Jerry Armstrong, who was Texas Western's most effective defender against Utah's Jerry Chambers in the semifinal game.
JPS Note - Although it should be pointed out that those seven were the top seven players for the Miners that year.
"I just played the five best players, that's all. That's what a coach is supposed to do, isn't it, give your team its best chance ?" - Don Haskins, by Dave Kindred The Sporting News, "Haskins truly put his heart into game. Winner of 719 games, national title had his share of suffering," August 31, 1999.
No doubt that the 66 title game underscored the important emergence of the black athlete in college basketball."
"In retrospect, that was a historic game. It told everyone, in case the point had been missed, that the game had changed, never to be the same again. The five black starters for Texas Western were too quick for Rupp's all-white team." - by Billy Reed, Louisville Courier-Journal, March 2, 1982.
"You guys got a lot of black kids scholarships around this country," Miners coach Don Haskins said in an emotional address at the [25th Anniversary] reunion. "You can be proud of that. I guess you helped change the world a little bit." - by Jack Wilkinson, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, April 1, 1991.
"I understand why it comes up. They beat them. A team starting all blacks, against a team that started whites. The fact that they were all black made a significant impact." - Tubby Smith, in article by Robyn Norwood, Los Angeles Times (Reprinted in The Sporting News) "At Kentucky, Victories Have No Color," January 14, 1998.
"I didn't get it [the national title] because we played a team that was really prepared to play us," said Conley. "That's all that mattered. Whatever was created, was created without us being involved. We were simply the pawns. We were the pawns of the game. If the African-American community wants to use that as something to better their cause, I don't have a problem with that. If that is a watershed in their history, something vitally important to them, then they can use that. That's fine." - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 219.
"I don't know that people see us as bad guys," Conley said. "I think they see the game as representative of change. I've talked to a lot of African-American leaders, politicians, coaches of a certain age, and they saw the game as part of social change, a turning point. The Voting Rights Act (federal legislation that struck down barriers to voting for African-Americans in the South) passed in 1964. It was a turbulent time, there was a lot going on. Let's face it, there were a lot of things in society then that needed to change. I think people see that game as part of the change." - Larry Conley, by Mark Story, Lexington Herald Leader, "Winning, Not Race, on Mind of Runts in '66, Conley Says," August 29, 1999.
Reflecting on the game, Kentucky guard Tommy Kron doesn't see symbolism as much as the strategic reality of his team's segregation. "We could've used Wes Unseld." - by Pat Forde, USA Today, "Legacy of Rupp Slow to Recede Repercussions of 1966 Title Game Still Echo in Many Ears," April 2, 1996.
"Only I think years later, can you really take a look at it, and say you know maybe they were playing for something a hell of a lot more significant. And if they were, then the right team won." - Pat Riley, "Glory in Black and White," CBS, April 2002.
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Fall-out from the Western Game
Rupp took the loss to Texas Western hard. After the game in which Kentucky shot 27 for 70 from the field, Rupp said "Hell, they just whipped us. That's the story of the game." But, Rupp added, "I'll coach until they haul me away. I hope to be back here again sometime." - by Frank Hyland, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, "Flashback: 1966: Adolph Rupp's last hurrah,"March 24, 1985 pp B/26.
"The old man really wanted to win it," [Frank] Deford remembered. "He was jealous of [John] Wooden and knew [Lew] Alcindor was on the way." - by John Clay, Lexington Herald Leader "The Runts: Still Special After All These Years," February 9, 1991.
In the end, the administration at Kentucky did have to haul Rupp away from the coach's seat. He never returned to the title game. "That loss to Texas Western hurt me more than you can imagine," Rupp was quoted as saying after his retirement. "Years later I was wondering what I could have done to win that game."
"He [Rupp] dearly wanted to win the 1966 national championship game. He was 64 years old. He might never get that close again. He loved that team, 'Rupps Runts.' It hurt to lose that one, whether to unknown Texas Western or to another blueblood such as Duke. The coach later told me Texas Western used a player it had gotten out of prison. Well, he no more believed that than he believed Louie Dampier was born in a manger. And he said it knowing I wouldn't believe it, either. He just needed to feel he hadn't been beaten fairly or it wasn't his fault anyway -- a feeling he tried to engender every time Kentucky lost a game to anyone. For 42 years it was his way of dealing with defeat. Acerbic, arrogant, defiant, Adolph Rupp won 875 games and lost none. It was his players who lost those 190." - by Dave Kindred, Lexington Herald Leader, "Calling Rupp a Racist Just Doesn't Ring True," Decebmer 22, 1991.
JPS Note - The belief that Texas Western had a former convict was a gross exaggeration based on some rumors which the media at the time of the game allowed to propagate. David Lattin had enrolled at Tennessee A & I (a school, not a prison) in 1963 but dropped out shortly thereafter. There had been a minor disciplinary problem while at the school, but one which was serious enough to cause the Dean of the school to write that Lattin not be readmitted until the matter had been cleared up. Lattin later enrolled at Texas Western. If he had been dismissed from Tennessee A & I, then Lattin would have had to sit out two years before becoming eligible to play basketball. This, however, had not happened and thus Lattin was eligible. - based on a passage from Basketball's Biggest Upset by Ray Sanchez, Mesa Publishing, 1991, pg. 117-118.
This stubborness to rarely admit defeat most-likely led to a few of the remarks below which Rupp reportedly said and which didn't help Rupp in the eyes of people looking to UK to integrate. The first remark is also unfortunate since Kentucky HAD been recruiting black athletes since 1964, many of them of good academic standing.
In a column by Bill Conlin in the Philadelphia News titled "The Baron Has His Boudaries," Rupp replied to the question of whether he should start recruiting blacks. Rupp said, "Humph. I don't think Duke and Kentucky had to apologize to anybody for the way we played without 'em . . . So far we haven't found a boy who meets our scholastic qualifications. It's got to be a Kentucky boy or from a neighbor state. We can't go raid some schoolyard . . . I hate to see those boys from Texas Western win it. Not because of race or anything like that but because of the type of recruiting it represents. Hell, don't you think I could put together a championship team if I went out and got every kid who could jam a ball through a hoop ?" - by Ray Sanchez, Basketball's Biggest Upset, Mesa Publishing, 1991, pg. 3.
Also, Miners' coach Don Haskins wasn't enamored with Rupp after the game because the UK coach treated him coolly and did not go to the victors locker room to congratulate them on the win.
Added to that apparent snub, Texas Western SID Eddie Mullens reported that he overheard someone ask Rupp about the play of Bobby Joe Hill, the Western guard who scored twenty points and made the two critical steals. Rupp reportedly said, "He's a good little boy, but there's a lot of good little boys around this year." (by Jo-Ann Barnas Detroit Free Press, "They Changed the Game Texas Western," March 29, 1996.)
Despite the bickering with Rupp, Don Haskins really had bigger worries after the game.
"Winning the title focused national attention on the school, and what was discovered embarrassed Haskins. Most of the Texas Western players were either failing academically, or worse, being carried by the school to keep them eligible. Haskins was publicly accused of exploiting his Black recruits for his own glory. For the first time the question of the intellectual cost of athletic integration was being raised. Yes, a basketball scholarship got these brothers into college. But what good did it do them if they made no progress to a degree ?" - by Nelson George, Elevating the Game, Harper Collins, 1992, pg. 137.
One of the prime forces behind the questioning of Texas Western was an article by Sports Illustrated in the summer of 1968. Jack Olsen was writing a four-part series on the black athlete and chose UTEP as a case study of a school which had been an early-to-integrate Southern school. (July 15, 1968) Olsen found a school with a wide gulf of misunderstanding separating the white administrators who brought black athletes into the program and the athletes themselves. For example, these school officials continued to use the term "nigger" repeatedly despite direct requests by the black athletes to have them stop. The article went on to reveal how athletes were lured to the Texas El-Paso campus for athletics but then were abandoned from an enriching social or academic life which should expected of a college atmosphere. For example, very few available black women were living in the vicinity yet the reach of the athletic department and coaches was strict in prohibiting interracial dating, leading on a few occassions to athletes being run out of town. In effect, many of the football, basketball and track athletes interviewed for the story felt they were in many ways no better than prisoners.
"They told me that college would be a rewarding experience,"says Fred Carr. "They said I'd meet people, I'd travel. Well, I did, but I still call college the time of my greatest suffering. I came to college and discovered prejudice."
"There is not a thing that goes on here that I like," says Bob Wallace. "We don't have nowhere to go. After every game we are supposed to stay around the dorm playing cards. Nothing to do. Nothing to do. These are supposed to be the best years of our lives, and it turns out to be a drag."
"It's a funny place," says Dave Lattin, now one year removed from the campus. "On the basketball court you're groovy people, but off the court you're animals. Even the Mexicans look down on you."
Above quotes by Jack Olsen, "The Black Athlete," Sports Illustrated, July 15, 1968, pp. 30-43.
JPS Note - This article should be required reading for anyone under the illusion that Texas Western was "enlightened" compared to other programs at the time when it came to the black athlete.
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Media Spin After the Game
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this entire subject is the role that the media plays in shaping people's attitudes. The modern media, I believe, has done a very poor job dealing with this subject. It seems they either haven't taken the time to realize that this subject is not as clear cut as they've been led to believe, or they choose to ignore the evidence or to understand the time and place that the events occurred in order to make a more entertaining story. Sports Illustrated in particular, has gone beyond lazy journalism and seems to be the prime force driving this characterization of Rupp. Today, these characterizations continue to spread and have become more exaggerated, not based on any new evidence or research but the "common knowledge" based on earlier articles coupled with shoddy journalism.
The belief that Rupp is racist is an alluring one, not only because it demeans the accomplishments of the man who so thoroughly dominated his profession but also because it adds drama to the game in 1966 against Texas Western. The mere spectacle of five whites competing against five blacks on a national stage in the 1960's, both vying for the crown could have been dramatic enough, but the story is made even more interesting if sportswriters can somehow paint Rupp as an evil man, a symbol of the segregation and injustice against blacks, and thus make the loss more fitting. As a sports columnist wrote,
"So visible was The Baron, and so racist were his views, that he was the predominant reason why Texas Western's 83-79 victory is remembered a watershed moment in sports history." - by Dave D'Alessandro, Bergen Record, March 3,1996.
"In this racial drama, a perfect morality play for the decade's heightened social consciousness, Rupp and Haskins were cast perfectly. Rupp, the snarling epitome of an unyielding establishment, made a compelling villain. Haskins, the laconic loner who rode in from the West, was an appealing American hero." - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 36.
"The script for this tidy little morality play called for a colossus of a coach, a legend who had hung four NCAA title banners in his gym, a stubborn man who showed little inclination to change with the times. Every morality play calls for a villain. Although Rupp wasn't that so much as an old man anchored in the past, he would do splendidly." - by Pat Forde, USA Today, "Legacy of Rupp Slow to Recede Repercussions of 1966 Title Game Still Echo in Many Ears," April 2, 1996.
"Basketball's racial evolution simply moved in step with the nation's. One game changed nothing. Still, Sports Illustrated had a case to make, and make it the magazine damn well would. The first thing you need in such a racial case is a villain, preferably one wearing white sheets. So the magazine, using flimsy evidence and unsupported characterizations, portrayed Rupp as a 'charming p.r. rogue' whose politics 'learned toward the KKK.'" - by Dave Kindred, Lexington Herald Leader, "Calling Rupp a Racist Just Doesn't Ring True," December 22, 1991.
"To read and hear the most irresponsible rhetoric, you would have thought that Rupp conducted his practices not in starched khaki shirt and pants but in a white hood and a sheet. You would have thought that, compared with Rupp, George Wallace was a civil-rights advocate. . . Never mind that most of this stuff comes from individuals who never met Rupp nor saw one of his teams play. They have no clue about what Rupp was really like and, frankly, they don't care to find out." - by Billy Reed, Lexington Herald Leader, "Criticism of Rupp Went Way Overboard," March 1997.
"Coach Rupp is made to symbolize the demon, and the demon was much bigger than he was." - Perry Wallace, "Glory in Black and White," CBS, April 2002.
It's very wrong to put that burden on Adolph Rupp. Adolph Rupp was not responsible for discrimination. Our society was responsible for creating an environment which was conducive to accept that. - John Thompson, "Glory in Black and White," CBS, April 2002.
After Rupp died in the middle-1970s, and was not in the position to refute his critics, the racist spin on the game began to make its rounds and it has continued to grow on its own.
"That belief (Kentucky is overtly racist) was given life by a Sports Illustrated article on the 25th anniversary of the 1966 NCAA Championship game ... With no evidence beyond gossip, the magazine indicted the Kentucky coach, Adolph Rupp, accusing him of politics leaning to the Ku Klux Klan. Rupp-as-racist stories now have been so embellished that the average basketball fan can be forgiven for imagining Rupp burning a cross in the yard of any black player who dared think of playing at Kentucky. That image is a lie." - by Dave Kindred, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, "Facts Belie Stereotype of Racist Rupp at UK," May 11, 1997."Rupp after his death, became a racist. The media decided that he was a bogey man that we could pin this on now. The 66 game, the Texas Western game set that in the minds of a lot of sportswriters, and other media, who weren't there, who didn't know Adolph, who had never been around him in any situation. But it became a model, a symbol really of the black arrival in basketball. It became a convenient historical point." - Dave Kindred, "Basketball in Kentucky - Great Balls of Fire", WKET, 2002.
The story by Sports Illustrated prompted political columnist George Will to call Rupp "a great coach and a bad man." (George Will, Philadelphia Inquirer, "Basketball, The Team Game That Can be Practiced Alone, Has its 100th Birthday," December 19, 1991.) These attacks caused Rupp's surviving family to take offense. "How can George Will be that ignorant and dumb?" he [Herky Rupp] say. . . ."I don't see how you can even say what they [SI] say in there," she [granddaughter Farren] tells her mother. "I don't see how you can even say what they say." (Robert Kaiser, Lexington Herald Leader, "Loyal to the Legend, Coach Adolph Rupp's Family Strives to Return Luster to his Reputation," March 14, 1993.)
Curry Kirkpatrick claims in his article "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (Sports Illustrated, April 1, 1991) that the mere fact that five black starters played against a entirely white team was not what was important. What was important was that Rupp lost.
"I always wondered if there would have been all the interest if Texas Western had beaten Duke [Kentucky's NCAA semifinal victim and also all-white] instead of us" says Larry Conley, a Wildcat starter in '65-66.
To which Kirkpatrick replies in the article
"Hardly. This was Texas Western and this was Rupp. Every Quixote needs his windmill. Against the Miners in '66, the Man in the Brown Suit was twirling round and round in a gale."
Motivations for Perpetuating the Charge
| Recruiting | Comparisons to other Programs | Distractions from Others |
The racist charge still carries weight as fans of other schools can point to it to sway potential players from the school. To this day, players are pulled away from UK by this angle, a recent example being Jason Osborne of Louisville whose grandparents told then-UK coach Rick Pitino that no grandchild of theirs would set foot on the campus of Rupp's university. (Sports Illustrated, "On the Scene," April 1996.)
A report aired by ESPN (May 12, 1997) that explored how receptive Kentucky would be to a black man (Orlando "Tubby" Smith) coaching the UK basketball program helped persuade Bryon Mouton to stay in Louisiana and attend Tulane.
"I don't know Coach Smith that well, but right now at Kentucky, there's a lot of controversy with race involved," Mouton said. "There's big pressure for him to win and, right now, I don't need to go into a situation like that." - by Jerry Tipton, Lexington Herald Leader, "Mouton Chooses Tulane, Near Home," May 16, 1997.
Comparisons to other Programs
Other fans may only be interested in order to dismiss Rupp's accomplishments on the court in order to favor other coaches or programs legacies.
"And even with his four national championships Rupp will always be viewed in the mirror of the Texas Western game, where he was on the wrong side of history. Rupp never recovered from that. And for many black Americans, neither did Kentucky." - by Tony Kornheiser, Washington Post, "To Tubby: May the Best Man Win," May 15, 1997.
"Dean Smith has been a paragon of grace, integrity and class. That is in stark contrast to the man he replaced as college basketball's alltime winningest coach, Kentucky's Adolph Rupp, who was the game's George Wallace when it came to integrating black players. For most of his career, Rupp fought tooth and nail against the inclusion of blacks into the game. His all-white team's loss to all-black Texas Western in the 1966 NCAA championship games has often been called the Brown v. Board of Education of college basketball. Smith, meanwhile, was at the vanguard of that movement. . . . Garnering win No. 877 was a remarkable achievement for Dean Smith, but in my mind, when it comes to the things that really matter, Dean Smith surpassed Adolph Rupp a long, long time ago." - by Seth Davis, Sports Illustrated, March 1997.
JPS Note - It is interesting to note that the last all-white team to make the Final Four was not Rupp's 1966 squad but Dean Smith's 1967 North Carolina squad.
When Dean Smith retired from coaching just prior to the beginning of the 1997-98 season, he had surpassed Adolph Rupp in all-time career victories with 879. The day after he announced his retirement, noted UK critic John Feinstein couldn't resist the temptation to denounce Rupp.
Host Alex Chadwick: "He [Smith] retired after beating Adolph Rupp's record for wins. Was that an important thing for him ?"
Feinstein: "No. If he would have had 875 wins, one short of Rupp, he would have still retired. He was never about numbers. And he was uncomfortable being mentioned in the same sentence with Rupp Because Rupp, of course was a segregationalist. Throughout much his coaching career. He was sort of dragged kicking and screaming to integrate his teams. He [Smith] was never comfortable with that connection." - National Public Radio, October 10, 1997.
USA Today ran a story on November 15, 1996 where they identified college basketball's premier program as Kansas. Although Kansas only holds two NCAA tournament championships (compared to Kentucky's 6 (at the time) and UCLA's 11) and lags behind in all-time wins and winning percentage (categories Kentucky leads), the newspaper cited criteria such as Tradition, Current Stature, Coaching, Setting etc. in coming to their conclusion. Kentucky is at least the equal or better in those categories with respect to Kansas. So why was the decision made in favor of KU ? The paper cited:
JPS Note - Kansas also drew NCAA probation in the 50's and the late 80's for recruiting irregularities so perhaps the charge against Rupp tipped the scales in KU's favor ?
Distractions from Others
It is clear that some have benefitted from the label of the University of Kentucky (or the state) being racist. A look at UK's recruiting failures in the city of Louisville is a visible example. Beyond the use of race as a recruiting tool and instrument for fans to dismiss Kentucky's accomplishments, there is a more insidious reason behind the media attention accorded Kentucky and race. This can be traced to the fact that racism was (and still is) prevalent all over the country and concentrating on one man and one school allows others to point fingers without considering how they, their ancestors, or their school dealt with racism at the time, and even today.
"Everybody stood for (racism)," he [UK Coach Tubby Smith] said. "Everybody in this country. I'm not going to hang it on Rupp. Hang it on everyone in this country." - by Robyn Norwood, Los Angeles Times (reprinted in The Sporting News, "At Kentucky, Victories Have No Color," January 14, 1998.
This does not excuse any racist actions at the time, but it does call into question the motivations behind those who are only interested in denouncing a single person or school. It seems to me that the continual focus on one man and one school, even twenty years after his death, serves to blur the actions and events of other schools and the barriers to integration which were put up by people during those times. Even those schools who were integrated often demonstrated a dismal record in terms of providing their athletes with a true education and preparing them for life after basketball.
Beyond the educational institutions, the role of the press during these times should not be overlooked. Sports Illustrated is an especially poignent example as their writers are some of the prime movers behind the villification of Rupp and UK during the 1990s. During the time period of the 1966 season (as will be shown later in this page), SI was very complimentary of Rupp and his team, with Frank Deford writing a number of articles that season especially. If there were racial situations or predilictions on the part of Kentucky or Rupp, they were not mentioned or condemned at that time. Later that decade, Sports Illustrated wrote a scathing (and to Haskins unfair) article (July 15, 1968) on UTEP which denounced the school's intentions and players academic integrity.
"I don't read Sports Illustrated to this day because of some of the things they wrote," Haskins said. "As a young coach, it kind of destroyed me at the time, because I didn't really understand." by John Smallwood, Philadelphia Inquirer, "Texas Western Win Grows with Years," February 7, 1997.
Twenty years later, Sports Illustrated again tried to assume the moral high ground, but this time against Kentucky.
"The University of Kentucky and Rupp have taken a media beating for their policies of 30 years ago. But this same media has conveniently overlooked the role they played in fostering, perpetuating and supporting those racial policies of 30 years ago. Because they themselves, the bastions of journalism, had their own antiracial agenda, we are not amused nor entertained by their media theatrics of 1996." - by Howie Evans, NCAA News (Reprinted from New York Amsterdam News), "Media Needs Some Racial Introspection," May 1996.
Perhaps if SI is so intent to look back on the period, they might want to consider their own actions and policies.
"Newspaper columnists are the triggermen that TV and readers feed off as they express their opinions on a wide variety of subjects. Thus, it's understandable why there are so very few black sports columnists. The coveted columnist positions are doled out by the sports editors, virtually all of whom are white at every news publication in the country. So for the white-dominated media to look back 30 years ago and exploit the nation's lily-white schools and their racist policies while ignoring their own racial exclusions is, yes, a classic case of bias reporting." - by Howie Evans, NCAA News (Reprinted from New York Amsterdam News), "Media Needs Some Racial Introspection," May 1996.
Unfortunately, racism is a reality in todays world. While sports is an excellent tool for breaking down barriers in society, it is the follow-through into other realms of society that will bring about true equality and freedom in terms of opportunity to succeed for all races. The media has had a field day criticizing the University of Kentucky at a time when the University has reached out to minorities, has many black student-athletes and employs a black head coach for both the men's and women's teams. The fact that these news organizations take liberty to criticize Kentucky today for past events while ignoring current problems and injustices, including those inflicted and propagated by themselves, makes for an extremely hollow and hypocritical situation. As Howie Evans wrote, "As we glance back 30 years ago to 1966 and that marvelous Texas Western victory over Kentucky, the greatest changes have occurred on the basketball court. Changes in coaching, athletics administration and the media certainly have not kept pace."
"Earlier this month, the American Society of Newspaper Editors ran up the white flag on its 20-year old commitment to raise the percentage of minority employees at the nation's daily newspapers to a level comparable to their presence in the population. In doing so, supporters of the decision, which met with some resistance, offered up a mealy-mouthed defense of the action. One newspaper editor called the parity quest 'an unrealistic goal.' " - by DeWayne Wickham, USA Today, "Racism Persists in Pro Sports, News Media," April 14, 1998.
I've started to realize that many people are probably content to forget their own actions (or inaction) during the past and allow Adolph Rupp (and in effect the University of Kentucky) take the blame and deal with the consequences of racism in college basketball in the 1940's, 50's, 60's and beyond. I don't mean to encourage a "witch hunt" of past crimes by others in the era (frankly, I think there are enough problems with race in today's society that need to be addressed.) Travelling back 30 years to point fingers does have some educational value, but to use it as a method for scapegoating or branding a particular institution (sometimes as a method to gain favor over the current team) is a disgrace. I am leery of the focus that the national media has presented on this topic and their efforts to perpetuate it and would hope others, not just Kentucky fans, would be too.
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Below are a few examples of what I believe to be poor journalism about the subject. Unfortunately, it seems that journalists are becoming more irresponsible as their claims have become more far-fetched with time.
Poor Journalism: Example I
"Interlude 1: There's poetry that Dean Smith will break Rupp's record. Rupp was an avowed segregationist. For all of Rupp's victories, Rupp's most famous game is one he lost -- the 1966 NCAA championship, the Brown vs. Board of Education game, when Rupp's all-white Kentucky team was beaten by Texas Western, which started five black players. Smith was the antithesis of Rupp on issues of race. In fact, Smith had the courage to sit-in at lunch counters. Okay, back to the game." - by Tony Kornheiser, Washington Post, "On Smith's Ocean, Relation Ships," March 13 1997; Page C01.
JPS Note - While Dean Smith's stand against racism is admirable, this is the first reference to him "sitting-in" at lunch counters. It is well documented that on one occasion, Smith was invited by a minister in his church to join a black seminary student to lunch at the Pines in Chapel Hill, thus forcing the segregated establishment to serve a black person. To bring Smith [UNC-CH assistant coach at the time] was a successful maneuver because the manager of the restaurant was there and knew he couldn't risk offending Smith because he relied on business from the UNC team. To Smith's credit, he went along with the scheme and continued to support integration of Chapel Hill. To suggest, however, that Smith actively demonstrated is stretching the truth. The fact is that it took even a progressive thinker like Smith a number of years before he integrated the UNC team by recruiting and signing Charlie Scott in 1966 (after Rupp had unsuccessfully recruited Wes Unseld). This only supports the contention that the South was not so easily integrated. In fact, it's been reported that Smith's recruitment of black players benefitted from the Texas Western game as Bob McAdoo has stated that they didn't consider playing for a southern University such as UNC until he was inspired by Texas Western. As for Rupp, "avowed" means to "declare openly, bluntly and without shame." Again, there is no evidence to support this claim against Rupp.
Poor Journalism: Example II
Around the time of the national semifinal game against Minnesota and their coach Clem Haskins (who Rupp did not recruit), there was a strange new spin on the story which began to make its rounds and claimed that Rupp did not recruit any black players before he signed Tom Payne in 1969. This claim picked up steam with the subsequent hiring of Orlando Smith. This claim is completely incorrect which is discussed in detail later. It's a clear fact that Rupp not only recruited (starting with Wes Unseld in 1964) but signed black players throughout remainder of the 1960's.
JPS Note - This is a classic case of how inattentive journalism has turned, within a relatively short time, a bogus claim into something which is considered "common knowledge" by the casual basketball fan.
"Had (Clem) Haskins played for perennial power Kentucky he might have reached the Final Four as a player. But those were the days when the Wildcats were coached by Adolph Rupp, who didn't believe in recruiting African-American athletes, no matter how skilled they were. When Joe B. Hall succeeded Rupp, Kentucky's recruiting policy changed dramatically. Haskins' younger brother, Merion, played for Hall and was the captain of the 1976-77 team." - Reprinted from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Raleigh News and Observer, March 28, 1997.
"The old coach (Rupp) recruited but one black player, seven-foot-one Tom Payne from Louisville, who played one year in 1970 at the tail end of Rupp's career. And the Baron was forced to do that. Ghosts from Rupp's past haunt Lexington still." - by Curry Kirkpatrick, ESPN cover story, "Mr. Smith Goes to Lexington," May 12, 1997.
"Legendary coach Adolph Rupp, like many colleagues of his time, did not recruit black players until the 1970s." - by Eric Gregory, Lexington Herald Leader, "Color might be issue, but fans put stress on winning," May 10 1997.
"Adolph Rupp, who held the helm from 1930 to 1972, was attacked for refusing to integrate his program in the 1960's, especially with Kentucky high schools producing such black stars as Butch Beard, Clem Haskins and Wes Unseld." - by Neil Schmidt, The Cincinnati Enquirer, "UK Downplays Historic Nature of Smith's Hire," May 12, 1997.
"Smith becomes the first African-American coach at Kentucky. Rupp refused to recruit African-American players for many years before relenting in the late 1960s." - Reuters, "Former Asst. Smith Takes Head Kentucky Job," May 13, 1997.
"In his 42 years on the Kentucky bench, Adolph Rupp recruited only one black player -- center Tom Payne -- who played for only one season (1970-71) before turning pro. " - by Mark Story, Lexington Herald Leader, "Rupp would've wanted Smith at UK, son says," May 13 1997.
"Texas Western, today known as Texas-El Paso, had five black starters. Kentucky, under coach Adolph Rupp, had never even recruited a black player." - by Tom Weir, USA Today, "This Day in Sports," March 19, 1999.
"Rupp, a bigot who refused to have black players on his teams and presided over a corrupt program that was eventually shut down for having been involved in a point-shaving scandal, is actually admired by few people to the left of David Duke. Feinstein reports that Smith danced around [Andrea] Joyce's question and praises Smith for being 'too honest' to say he admired Rupp. One wonders whether a more honest, or at least more commendable, response might have been: 'No, I did not admire Rupp. He was a racist who used payoffs to recruit his players. There are more important things in intercollegiate sports than winning.' " - by Andrew Zimbalist in his review of John Feinstein's book A March to Madness, Washington Post, January 18, 1998.
JPS Note - Zimbalist bites off a lot in the above paragraph which I'm not going to take the time or effort to refute point by point here. Suffice to say that this author must be carrying around a pretty big anti-UK chip to include this on a book review about the Atlantic Coast Conference during the 1997 season.
"And in Kentucky, there was no room for African-American players as Rupp, considered by many to be a racist, refused to recruit anyone but whites." - by Anthony Holden, CBS SportsLine, "Texas Western Stuns Kentucky," 1999.
JPS Note - This claim is especially sad to see by someone who claims to be a CBS SportsLine Historian.
Poor Journalism: Example III
Another point made by critics of Rupp was that for most of his career, he played against all-white teams from the Southeastern conference. They claim that because of this and because most of his teams were all-white, that this somehow gave him an unfair advantage over other coaches legacies. To an extent, this is true and certainly helped lead to Rupp's gaudy won-lost record. But little mention is made by these writers that Rupp then had to take his team to compete against the other national powers, many of them integrated, where his team performed admirably [Afterall, winning the national championship (as Rupp did four times), should remove any qualifications about the strength of the regular season conference the team plays in.] Some writers incorrectly assume that Rupp did not play against these national and integrated teams which only shows how ill-informed these writers actually are. Also, nowhere have I seen it mentioned that Rupp was actually at a disadvantage in these early contests because he didn't have black players on his team to help compete against his opponents with talented black players.
[Winston Salem State coach Clarence "Big House"] Gaines has said that Rupp's record ought to have an asterisk next to it, like Roger Maris' 61 home runs, because Rupp built it against Southeastern Conference schools that took fanatic interest in football and relegated basketball games to arenas built for rodeos. "I guess I shouldn't have said that about the asterisk," Gaines said. "It wasn't his fault if the other guys were too stupid or lazy to get off their butts and go pick up some basketball players." - by Jere Longman, Philadelphia Inquirer, "How 'Big House' Built His Success; Coach Smashed Barriers on Way to 800 Wins," February 11, 1990.
"Perhaps their (CCNY) most impressive victory was an 89-50 demolition of Adolph Rupp's Kentucky squad in the NCAA semifinals. Not only were the Wildcats two-time defending NCAA champs, but Rupp had always gone out of his way to avoid playing teams with African-Americans." - by Nelson George, Elevating the Game, Harper Collins (1992) pg. 80.
JPS Note - Again, the statement is wrong. Rupp did not go out of his way to avoid playing integrated teams. Quite the opposite in fact, as Rupp was noted for often taking his teams to New York (beginning in 1935 and up until the scandal in the early 50's) and to Chicago where he played against the best teams, white and black among other big cities. It should not be underestimated how much of a forward step this was in the days of poor travel conditions and the fact that most every university still played a largely regional schedule. (Not to mention the prospect of obtaining the necessary funds during the depression era.) Also overlooked is the fact that at that time, the style of play and the way games were called by the officals was very different in different regions of the country. Kentucky often had to adjust their style of play in these games depending on the area of the country. Rupp actually was an important catalyst in making basketball a truly national game by introducing many parts of the country to his brand of basketball which included such innovations as the fast break and the interior screen.
From the perspective of a Kentucky fan, it is interesting to read the reaction by "city" fans and sportswriters to Adolph Rupp bringing his teams up to the major northern cities to play basketball. It seems many of them considered Rupp's teams to be "The South." Afterall, only Kentucky was coming up to compete against all-comers, whether integrated or not. It seems possible to me that while Rupp was intent on taking his team and beating the world, his opponents were interested in more than a basketball game.
"It was not a basketball game. It was a cultural war. It was a religious war. It was City College's way of saying.....forgive me but, 'Screw you Adolph Rupp.' We are also part of this country. It's not just yours, it's ours too." - Marvin Kalb, CCNY 1951, HBO Original (Black Canyon Productions), "City Dump, the Story of the 1951 CCNY Basketball Scandal," 1998.
Poor Journalism: Example IV
When Orlando "Tubby" Smith became the first black head [mens] basketball coach at Kentucky in 1997, many in the media took the occasion to take a swipe at Rupp rather than view it as a natural accomplishment by Smith and the school. Some of the observations, besides being completely unsubstantiated and often incorrect were simply mean-spirited.
"Smith becomes the first African-American coach of the Wildcats, sitting in the seat once owned by Adolph Rupp. If Rupp had his way, basketball would be an all-white sport." - by Ed Sherman, Chicago Tribune, May 12, 1997.
"During his 42 years coaching Kentucky, Rupp flaunted his reputation as a racist by not signing a black player until just before his retirement in 1972." - by Terence Moore, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, May 18, 1997.
"For with all of the efforts past and present to cover his picture in positive varnish, the reality is that Rupp was a racist from endline to endline." - by Ron Yengich, Salt Lake Weekly, "The Ghost of Adolph Rupp," May 22, 1997.
"Rupp resisted integration of basketball with a virulent racist fervor far in excess of the commitment one would assume from a New York [sic] native." - by Ron Yengich, Salt Lake Weekly, "The Ghost of Adolph Rupp," May 22, 1997.
"I heard one commentator say that [Tubby] Smith should worry about the ghost of Adolph Rupp sitting on top of the backboards and swatting away Kentucky's players' shots. As a theological proposition, I disagree. Because if there is a higher authority, Adolph Rupp is far too busy shoveling coal to be concerned about goal tending." - by Ron Yengich, Salt Lake Weekly, "The Ghost of Adolph Rupp," May 22, 1997.
"There is a hue and cry in Lexington, Ky., about hiring a black coach. A lady in the local paper urged Tubby to turn the job down because of the school's history of racism, dating back to Adolph Rupp, the former coach, whose favorite color besides his traditional brown suit was a white Klan sheet." - by Paul Finebaum, Birmingham Post-Herald, "In Perfect World, UK Would Lose," March 31, 1998.
Poor Journalism: Example V
One alarming trend I've begun to notice is the use of Adolph Rupp's name in the same context as Adolf Hitler. To date, the only evidence presented to support this charge is that his given birth name is similar. I'm not even going to dignify such an outrageous and shameless remark with a response other than to remind the reader that Rupp had a number of Jewish players on his teams, starting with Bernard Opper in the 1930s, despite the fact that his main recruiting areas (Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana) did not have a high Jewish population density. A few other tidbits include 1.) Rupp made his way from Kansas to New York City where he earned a master's degree at Columbia University 2.) Rupp took his team to Tel Aviv Israel for the World Universities Tournament in the summer of 1966 and 3.) One of Rupp's players Sid Cohen won the Van Raalte Cup in 1959 for being the nation's most outstanding Jewish athlete. Critics should probably explain these apparent discrepancies before carrying on with this baseless charge.
"They also have the Kentucky 'tude, which means they think they have a divine right to win the national championship. This was instilled in Kentucky players and fans by Adolph Rupp, considered history's second-nastiest Adolph. Rupp was a racist; Tubby Smith is black." - by Michael Ventre, MSNBC, "And then . . .there were four," March 1998.
"Adolph Rupp, Adolfff Rupp, shortly after World War II. Adolph Rupp was coming into town. And coming into a town filled with Jews, and was about to play a basketball team filled with Jews. And Nat Holman, a Jew, aware of all of this and being very smart and playing psychology, said to the team before that game, "You know, I think it would be a very good thing if you guys just tried to shake their hands.... before..... yeah, just kinda sportsmanlike. I watched as Floyd Lane put his hand out and this tall, blonde, gorgeous giant turned away from Floyd, which is exactly what Holman wanted...... to get Floyd very upset..... to get all of the other players upset. And Floyd hissed out at the guy, 'You gonna be picking cotton in the morning, man!'" - Marvin Kalb, CCNY 1951, HBO Original (Black Canyon Productions), "City Dump, the Story of the 1951 CCNY Basketball Scandal," 1998.
JPS Note - Maybe someday, Holman's tactic of playing up racial/ethnic differences to inspire his team for a basketball game will itself be considered racist rather than being applauded by the likes of HBO (and Sports Illustrated with regards to the pre-game comments by Don Haskins). I can't comment on the hand-shaking incident as Kalb was not very specific in describing the event but it might be instructive to view the 1949 and 1951 Kentucky team pictures (I don't have a 1950 team picture) to see just how many "blond giants" were actually on those teams. Another interesting tidbit is that when Bernard Opper decided he wanted to leave New York City to play basketball for Rupp at Kentucky, he wrote Rupp a letter in which he included letters of recommendation from Clair Bee of LIU and none other than Nat Holman of CCNY. (Russell Rice, The Cats Pause, "Rupp Nixed Idea of Players Taking Collection to Keep Star," June 1998.) Opper had an outstanding career at Kentucky where he was named All-American in 1939.
Rupp was asked about some of the "all-time" coaches he's competed against in the past by the New York press and Rupp mentioned that many (included in the list were Nat Holman, Joe Lapchick and Clair Bee) from New York. "Most of them worked with Jewish ballplayers in those days," he said. "They were all very smart ball-handlers, the best I've ever seen. Now the game's complexion has changed, and I'm not talking in terms of color. I mean in style. We have all the smart coaches in Ohio and Indiana and Kentucky now." (The New York Times, "Kentucky's Baron Still Holding Court," by Gerald Eskenazi, March 14, 1976)
Rupp was asked about some of the "all-time" coaches he's competed against in the past by the New York press and Rupp mentioned that many (included in the list were Nat Holman, Joe Lapchick and Clair Bee) from New York. "Most of them worked with Jewish ballplayers in those days," he said. "They were all very smart ball-handlers, the best I've ever seen. Now the game's complexion has changed, and I'm not talking in terms of color. I mean in style. We have all the smart coaches in Ohio and Indiana and Kentucky now." (The New York Times, "Kentucky's Baron Still Holding Court," by Gerald Eskenazi, March 14, 1976)
The HBO special is so one-sided and the claims by the CCNY players so fantastic (ie "Ed Warner was the Michael Jordan of his generation") and romanticized that it is difficult to take seriously much of what they say. An impartial reviewer of the HBO documentary noticed this too, mentioning that some of the narrative was "gaudier than a Dennis Rodman dye job." Kalb's narrative was specifically mentioned by the reviewer along with the Hitler comparison noted "Kalb is still eager to express his manifest distaste for Rupp, spitting out his name as though he were Adolf Hitler," but beyond that, Kalb's screen time was described as "Marvin Kalb, a 1951 City College of New York grad, is not generally known for dynamism. But he's Damon Runyon on a coffee jag when talking about CCNY's storied 1949-50 team." - (Quotes by Ed Bark, Knight Ridder News Service, reprinted in The Wichita Eagle, "HBO Shoots, Scores with Documentaries on College Hoops," March 24, 1998.)
BTW, while I haven't had the pleasure to see films from that era, according to Charley Rosen in his book Scandals of '51, Warner wasn't even the best player in the city at the time, much less his generation. That distinction belonged to LIU's Sherman White.
Poor Journalism: Example VI
Another trend among unthinking journalists is to indict Rupp's former players and suggest that they are racist, simply because they played under him. The players from the 66 title game are very much alive and are more than capable of refuting such nonsense.
"There were no racial issues on our team, not with the players. The Adolph situation, there's a lot of conjecturing because he didn't recruit black athletes. If he had a problem, no one knows. Was he racist or just ignorant of the world ? I don't know." - Tommy Kron, by Jo-Ann Barnas, Detroit Free Press, "They Changed the Game, Texas Western," March 29, 1996.
Already there are signs to suggest that the seeds are being sown that somehow Rupp's players were racist. Of course, much like Rupp himself, I wouldn't expect any type of strong accusation by a clueless reporter until after they are long dead and can no longer defend themselves. Some early signs that this will occur include the below examples:
Cameron Mills, a white player from Lexington, made two monster three-pointers Monday night [in the 1998 National Championship]. Mills' father, Terry, once played basketball for Rupp. The weirdness of this didn't mean anything to Cameron Mills, and you know what ? That's a good thing. "Coach [Tubby] Smith is the best, nothing but the best," he said. "When my dad played, it was another time. He loves Coach Smith, too. Who wouldn't ?" - by Diane Pucin, Philadelphia Inquirer, "Kentucky Buries Bigotry of the Past," April 1, 1998.
JPS Note Pucin attempts to praise Cameron Mills in this instance but in doing so, she reveals her own prejudices, not any on the part of Cameron or his father Terry. She assumes that because Terry played for Rupp that somehow he might not support the current Kentucky coach because he is black. This is a ridiculously low level of thought on the part of Pucin.
"While Kentucky had not won a championship since 1958, it was still the monarch of Southern basketball. And Rupp, known as The Baron, had declared that he would never let a black player wear Kentucky blue [sic]. UCLA had begun its dynasty run, and Maryland had begun to integrate the Atlantic Coast Conference by signing Bill Jones in 1964. But in '66, Rupp's Runts, featuring Pat Riley, Louie Dampier and Larry Conley - were top-ranked and primed to set things right." - by John Smallwood, Philadelphia Daily News, "Texas Western Win Grows with Years," February 7, 1997.
JPS Note This piece is valid if Smallwood means by setting things right in the Kentucky player's minds that Kentucky regain the national title. But with all the racial overtones of the text, it almost seems like the author is implying that setting things right means that an all-white team wins the championship.
Poor Journalism: Example VII
A troubling example of inept journalism comes from the otherwise solid writer and basketball researcher Mike Douchant, author of Inside Sports: College Basketball. He claims in his section on the 1951-52 season an outright fallacy concerning Rupp with respect to a game played between St. Johns and Kentucky in December. A black player, Solly Walker played in the game and this was the first occurance of a black player travelling to a traditionally white southern state school to play an official basketball game. Douchant first claims that Rupp protested the playing of Walker. While there is some confusion surrounding the issue, it is the opposite of how Rupp reacted once the St. Johns coach was made aware of the gravity of the situation. Douchant goes on to assert that Walker "played only a few minutes before he took a hit sidelining him for three weeks." This is completely incorrect although there were some rough plays during the game. Douchant might be surprised to learn that not only did Walker play a majority of the game with no mention of an injury in either the Lexington or New York press, but Walker started in the next contest (December 22) against Vanderbilt, scoring five points to help the Redmen defeat a tough and undefeated Commodore squad in the Garden.
JPS Note Looking at Walker's career statistics (as listed in the St. Johns media guide), he only missed one game his entire career. By no means three weeks as Douchant suggests. I also checked the UK-St. John's NCAA tournament game on the chance that Douchant was actually talking about that game, howver that did not happen either. Walker played the following game against Illinois. The level of false detail attributed to Rupp in an apparent on-going effort to villify the man is in this case very ugly (and pathetic since Douchant apparently attempted to demonstrate some type of causal relationship between the two false occurances) indeed. The assault by Douchant is even more interesting because his 1994 version of the same book did not mention this aspect at all. I've been told that his 1997 version does have it however. An appropriate question to ask would seem to be what motivated Douchant to feel it was so vital between the years of 1994 and 1997 to edit a narrative on the 1951-52 season, adding outright lies (and apparently flushing his journalistic integrity down the drain.) I have been able to contact and question Douchant on this discrepancy in his book. He is currently 'looking into it' although he has yet to admit it was even a mistake. It will be interesting to see how the next edition of this book reads.
More Bad Journalism
There are many other examples of poor journalism where a sportswriter disparages Rupp without any detail, references, or evidence to support their claim. Despite the lack of support, some of these claims may be true. Likewise, they may have been made up. Whatever the case, they are irresponsible as provided and should require more substantial backing.
Rick Cantu reports in his story about Don Haskins that "The Wildcats were coached by the legendary Adolph Rupp, who once declared he would never let a black player wear Kentucky blue." (Rick Cantu, New York Times News Service (Reprinted in Wichita Eagle), "Breaking College Basketball's Color Barrier; Haskins' Squad Changed Race Relations in '66 Title Game," March 9, 1997.)
This charge was also mentioned in an article by John Smallwood, "And Rupp, known as The Baron, had declared that he would never let a black player wear Kentucky Blue." (John Smallwood, Philadelphia Inquirer, "Texas Western Win Grows with Years," February 7, 1997.)
The charge was repeated in 1999 by Bruce Jenkins when describing the New York City basketball scene in the late 1940's, "At a time when Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp publicly announced that he wanted no black players, CCNY had two blacks and three Jewish players in its 1950 starting lineup." - by Bruce Jenkins, A Good Man: The Pete Newell Story, Frog, Ltd., 1999 pg. 29.
JPS Note: Mr. Jenkins was contacted and asked the source of this claim. Jenkins admitted he did not have an original reference backing up the claim, and provided no other source. Instead he cited 'common knowledge.'
Two examples where opposing players repeated this charge appear over a 40-year time span.
"Adolph Rupp, the coach of Kentucky who had said publicly he would never have a black player on his team. (He) Represented the southern tradition, the all-white tradition." - Maury Allen, CCNY '53, HBO Original (Black Canyon Productions), "City Dump, the Story of the 1951 CCNY Basketball Scandal," 1998.
This assertion was repeated by Chris Webber for an interview on Kentucky's hiring of Orlando Smith. (Roy Firestone, ESPN, November 1997.)
JPS Note: Although this charge has been repeated often, I have yet to find any evidence to substantiate it. It does make for a good sound bite and thus may have stuck to Rupp simply because it's memorable. (Or it's possible that a similar remark which Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant once uttered during a television interview was mistakenly attributed to Rupp.) As a Kentucky fan, it would be useful to find out where Webber learned of his belief. That is, did he learn of it on his own, from the media, from his general manager with the Washington Wizards Wes Unseld, or perhaps from a rival to Kentucky during the recruiting process. Kentucky was desperately recruiting Webber out of high school, with Deron Feldhaus even volunteering to give up his scholarship in order to sign the big man from Michigan. Webber had agreed to visit Kentucky a few times, only to renege at the last moment each time. Webber never visited Lexington and later signed with the University of Michigan. Kentucky later met Michigan in the Final Four where the overachieving UK squad lost to the Webber-led Wolverines. Webber and Michigan went on to lose the national championship to North Carolina.
A variation of this accusation was also repeated in an article that dealt with Mississippi State's history of not attending NCAA tournaments because of the possibility of playing integrated teams. Rupp jumped at the chance to take the place of SEC teams that decided not to participate. Instead of praise for this, however, Rupp received the following treatment:
"Kentucky's legendary but racist coach, Adolph Rupp, once vowed that he'd never have a black player, but he wasn't stupid enough to let his bigotry keep the Wildcats from winning four national championships during the height of segregation in the South." - by John Smallwood, Philadelphia Daily News, "Bulldogs' Foes: UCLA, and Past Segregated '60s Haunt Miss. State," March 23, 1995.
"That night, Texas Western upset a Kentucky team coached by Adolph Rupp, who refused to call black players by anything but a slur you probably haven't heard in years." - by Skip Bayless, Chicago Tribune, "A Night for Irony -- And History," March 31, 1998.
JPS Note - This is pure speculation on the part of Bayless and doesn't stand up to the evidence presented in this page.
One charge often leveled at Rupp is that he said after the loss "at least we're the Number One white team in the country." This quotation was uttered by the sports editor of the Lexington Herald, Billy Thompson, at a post-season banquet, (by Billy Reed, Lexington Herald Leader, "30 Years Later, A Runt and a Miner Talk Hoops," January 19, 1996.) There is no evidence that Rupp himself ever said this. The statement did not go over so well with the crowd either as "the statement offended the sensibilities not only of anti-racists, but of UK followers who understood the lesson of the Texas Western game." (Billy Reed, Louisville Courier Journal, March 2, 1982.) In fact, Thompson was fired for the comment shortly after the banquet.
"The fact the writer used poor judgement in his comment has nothing to do with my father," Herky Rupp said. "My father was simply a spectator at the banquet just like everybody else." - by Rick Morrissey, Chicago Tribune, "New Face Leads Kentucky These Days," November 30, 1997.
Alexander Wolff tries to paint Rupp as a racist in his book Raw Recruits and comes up with an interesting example.
JPS Note - This is quite a bizarre spin on the facts. Wolff's claims that Rupp was interested in playing against black teams in order to show notions of white supremacy are off-the-wall and completely unsubstantiated. A more accurate spin is also a more simple one. Rupp's teams played in the NCAA tournament because Rupp was obsessed with winning basketball games. As a professional journalist, Wolff might at least have tried to back up his accusation with some type of facts or supporting evidence but he made no effort to do so.
Curry Kirkpatrick mentions that "Rupp usually was a charming p.r. rogue, brimming with diplomacy and psychology, regrettably, his politics leaned more toward the KKK." - (Curry Kirkpatrick, Sports Illustrated, April 1 1991.) There are no references to substantiate this claim.
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The Evidence Against Rupp
Many people claiming Rupp was racist are sportswriters with various loyalties and personal agendas. There are two published accounts which indicates that Rupp was prejudiced against blacks. In both instances, Rupp was talking to people in what he considered to be "in confidence." Also in both cases, Rupp was extremely agitated, in the first instance being threatened with losing a national championship game and the second, being threatened with losing his autonomy over the program which he spent a lifetime building. A third instance occurred when Rupp was drunk and in my mind, actually goes further in confirming a deep-seated prejudice because all the other complications found in the first two cases are not present.
1. Rupp allowed Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford to stand in the Wildcats' locker room at halftime. Deford said he was stunned by Rupp's racist halftime exhortations.
"He said, 'You've got to beat those coons, ' " Deford said. "He turned to (center) Thad Jaracz. 'You go after that big coon.' . . . He talked that way all the time. . . A chill went through me. I was standing in the back of the room, and I looked around at the players. They all kind of ducked their heads. They were embarrassed. This was clearly the type of thing that went over the line."
This exchange lends direct evidence that suggests Rupp was racist. It is still important to remember, however, the context under which the situation occurred. That is, during the halftime of the national championship game in which Rupp's team was being beaten. I personally don't take to heart what a person says during the heat of battle or in a time of crisis. Others mileage may vary.
This spectacle left a lasting impression on Deford. Deford seems to have used the incident to judge Rupp and the program in their entirety. "It was there that Deford first became aware of the virulent racism that still existed in the Kentucky program." (by Michael MacCambridge, The Franchise, Hyperion (1997) pg. 146.) Despite what Deford conceded was adverse reaction by the players and a feeling that this was not normal behavior on the part of Rupp, Deford saw fit to scorn Rupp as a person and the program as a whole for the outburst and view it as a natural part of Kentucky basketball.
"He hated black people," Deford said. "I mean, he was a virulent racist." - by Rick Morrissey, Chicago Tribune, "New Face Leads Kentucky These Days," November 30, 1997.
To my knowledge, Deford never wrote about the incident. The wrap-up of the championship weekend didn't even hint at any of this. It didn't even mention the fact that Texas Western was all-black (Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, "Go-Go With Bobby Joe,", March 28, 1966.) although the article the week before, mentioned the fact but tried to downplay it. (see above.)
Even as late as 1991, it seemed Deford was downplaying the effect of the game.
I don't know, I was always surprised at the significance placed on that game," [Frank] Deford said. The Loyola-Chicago team that won it a few years before was virtually all-black. That had been the big fuss. Not much was made of Texas Western being all-black at the time. It was sort of a discovery by the outside world that came a little bit late, as is often the case." - by John Clay, Lexington Herald Leader, "The Runts: Still Special After All These Years," February 9, 1991.
It is unfortunate that he didn't see fit to interview Rupp on the subject or to confront the issue in 1966 in order to support his contention that Rupp was "virulently racist." Deford claimed "he couldn't write about it at the time because he'd gained entry to the locker room for background purposes only, and then only in the event that Kentucky won." - by Michael MacCambridge, The Franchise, Hyperion (1997) pg. 146.
JPS Note: The excuse about not being able to write about the incident could have been easily side-stepped if Deford wanted to follow up and conduct a later interview with Rupp. (Deford, after all, is probably the most eloquent, socially conscious and respected sportswriter of his generation.) I don't know the reason Deford decided to leak his story the way he did [twenty-five years after the incident in a vague reference from Curry Kirkpatrick's piece and only after thirty years did he own up to hearing the tirade, all well after Rupp was already dead] than to confront the issue head-on which could possibly have brought integration more rapidly into collegiate athletics. At least Jack Olsen's piece (also in SI) in July of 1968 on UTEP and the black athlete had the courage and integrity to make criticisms at a time when the people had an opportunity to respond and even refute the evidence. The fact that Rupp made a deal with Deford beforehand hints that Rupp knew going into the game that he might have to resort to such a tactic if his team was playing poorly. That doesn't make the remark any less wrong, but it does cast doubt whether the things Rupp said were things which he really believed. Perhaps after Rupp died in 1977, Deford felt that since he would never be able to follow up on the story, he would rather leak the information than admit that he was revealing a conversation [a halftime talk] which almost any coach will readily admit is not the appropriate place to take down quotes. Perhaps Deford wasn't interested at the time [the 60's] to address such a vital topic, yet now wants to be portrayed as above the fray. Or perhaps Deford decided to make the accusation in 1997, at a time when people, such as sports columnist Dave Kindred and this web page, have begun to publicly question the conclusions determined by Sports Illustrated. Whatever the reason, the actions by Deford appear to me to be particularly gutless in this case.
The halftime talk was recounted differently in an interview of Thad Jaracz in 1996.
"A lot of other stuff has been piled on top of that game since then . . . Those kinds of issues and those kinds of discussions didn't take place in the locker rooms." - by Pat Forde, USA Today, "Legacy of Rupp Slow to Recede Repercussions of 1966 Title Game Still Echo in Many Ears," April 2, 1996.
In addition, the only two UK players Frank Fitzpatrick interviewed for his book And the Walls Came Tumbling Down (Larry Conley and Tommy Kron) both deny that Rupp said this during the halftime as does his son Herky, who was also present.
"I never heard it, but I know Frank Deford real well and Frank is honest. If he said it happened, it happened," said Kron. "[Rupp] said so many things that was banter. He was not in good health and he was a cantankerous old guy."
"Was he a bigoted or prejudiced man ? For a man in his sixties, perhaps he was," said Conley. "I will tell you this. I never heard him utter a derogatory word or a bigoted word in my presence. Never. I'm not going to say he didn't do it, but in my presence, never. Frank may remember that, I don't." - by Frank Fitzgerald, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg 214.
"In our locker room that night, race was the last thing on our minds. It never came up. All we were thinking about was how to win the game. All we wanted to do is win the national title. That's it. And if people ever portray us any differently, it's just wrong." - Larry Conley, by Mark Story, Lexington Herald Leader, "Winning, Not Race, on Mind of Runts in '66, Conley Says," August 29, 1999.
JPS Note: It's certainly possible that Jaracz, Conley and Kron are simply covering for his former coach. But the fact that everyone present who has been interviewed to date has refuted the incident does bring some questions. Added to that, Deford hasn't exactly helped his credibility by waiting over thirty years to come forward (if you can call it that since I have yet to see him actually write or say anything about it). It's hard to say exactly what happened and the blame for this current confusion IMO lays squarely on the shoulders of SI reporter Curry Kirkpatrick. In his 1991 article, Kirkpatrick introduced the claim but failed to attribute it to anyone at all. Kirkpatrick interviewed many players from both teams as well as Don Haskins. Although he seemed to spend most of his time interviewing the Texas Western players, it is known that he spent some extended time with [current Miami Heat coach and former UK guard] Pat Riley among other UK players. It's obvious to me that someone is not telling the complete story (or at least either hyping or repressing the atmosphere in the locker room) concerning the events during that halftime talk.
2. The second documented racial slur attributed to Rupp is found in a quote from Harry Lancaster, long-time assistant to Rupp, in his book Adolph Rupp As I Knew Him (Lexington Productions, 1979). Rupp said after a meeting with Dr. John Oswald, UK President at the time, "Harry, that son of a bitch is ordering me to get some niggers in here. What am I going to do ? He's the boss."
JPS Note - This quote does directly conflict with statements Rupp made early in the 60's concerning his willingness to recruit blacks (see below)
While the date of this encounter is not given, Rupp does describe a heated meeting (among many) with President Oswald on the subject, so perhaps this is what led to the quote.
Finally, it came time for another conference up there, at the president's office. And we went up there and we really had it. . . . the president [Oswald], I don't think liked it too well, but he said "We'll I'm just going to tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to demand that you get some colored boys," he says, "you're keeping us, and probably jeopardizing us from getting us all this federal help which amounts to some eleven million dollars" and he said, "if we don't get this through, it's because basketball is the last segregated department that we have here in the University." I says, "Well Doctor if you can help me any, suppose you help me go and recruit then." I said, "It's just that simple. I made an effort." I says "I brought you the list, and told you the times, and we made an effort to go get these boys and we haven't been able to get them." And I said, "I can't get them. I had Bernie Shively go with me and we couldn't get them." I said, "now if you and Bob Johnson can get them," I says "hop to it." I said "it's going to suit me fine." - Adolph Rupp, The Rupp Tape (Audiocassette), WHAS Productions, 1992.
Assuming that this remark sparked the initial comment, this description of the events leading up to the remark seem less damning. Certainly to use the word "nigger" under those circumstances indicates a racist person, however under the circumstances of the conference, it's no longer clear that Rupp was against signing black players. He certainly was against signing players with marginal basketball skills and once again, that only lends credence to the assertion that Rupp was first and foremost a basketball coach, not a politician.
JPS Note - If what Rupp says of the conference is true, ie that the president was only interested in putting a black player in uniform for political/financial reasons, Rupp's stand, excepting his prejudiced remark, is IMO laudable.
3.One story which does indeed demonstrate that Rupp was prejudiced against blacks is related by Ron Grinker in the book Loose Balls. This book, by Terry Pluto, attempts to harness the flavor of the ABA during its short-lived life. Grinker relates a story when he was escorting the aging college coach down to Memphis for a promotion of the local ABA franchise.
Once, I was on a flight with Rupp and sat with him in the first-class section. He had about six Kentucky bourbons in less than an hour and was about halfway to the wind. I told him that I was an attorney who represented some basketball players. Now, I had never met the man, and the first significant thing he said to me was, "The trouble with the ABA is that there are too many nigger boys in it now." I sat there just stunned. That just killed my image of Adolph Rupp the great coach. Maybe it was because he had too much to drink, but even so... - Loose Balls by Terry Pluto, Simon & Schuster, 1990, pg. 241.
JPS Note - This story confirms to me that Rupp was prejudiced against blacks deep in his heart and frankly, this is by no means surprising given the time period he grew up and lived. The fact remains, however, that it took a state of inebriation to bring these feelings out in the open. In regular life, Rupp suppressed these feelings and often rebuked them to assist blacks of all walks of life (as will be shown below). In my mind, the mere fact that these feelings are hidden deep within a person doesn't by themself make them worthy of criticism (society maybe), but how that person can overcome these beliefs and how they conduct themselves in their daily business is what is key. (In fact, I'm quite sure that many of the great social heroes had deep seated beliefs ingrained in them from an early age which they were able to overcome and this experience no doubt left them stronger in their convictions.) I anticipate that some Rupp critics will seize on this example to make their point, but I believe it is generally unfair to use such evidence (ie what someone says when drunk) on anyone.
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More Evidence Against Rupp
There are a handful of instances where Rupp reportedly disparged blacks, although their authenticity and relevance to this issue in some cases aren't clear. There are two instances from second-hand sources where he made negative comments about blacks. Added to that is the broad accusations that Rupp didn't recruit black players "hard enough" had a penchant for deriding these players by calling them "boys".
1. Rupp reportedly told Western coach Don Haskins before the game that he (Rupp) would not allow five black kids to beat him, which Haskins promptly informed his team of during the pregame (Bergen Record, March 3, 1996). Another version mentions that Haskins heard that Rupp had said "no five blacks are going to beat Kentucky" after which Haskins informed his team. (Curry Kirkpatrick, Sports Illustrated, April 1, 1991.) This is supported by an article which made it a point to say that Rupp did not tell Haskins directly. "He [Haskins] had heard before the game -- not directly from Rupp, though -- that Rupp had said something along the lines of, 'There's no way I'm going to let five black players beat my Kentucky team.' - (by Jo-Ann Barnas, Detroit Free Press, "They Changed the Game: Texas Western," March 29, 1996.)
Most recently, Frank Fitzpatrick retells the incident but claims the origin of the remark was a radio program which had been told to some in the Texas Western party who then informed Haskins. No evidence has yet been presented to support this claim of Rupp making the remark.
"Some in the Texas Western party had heard that Rupp had boasted on a Kentucky radio station that week that five blacks would never beat his Wildcats. Haskins, recognizing some potentially useful motivation, tucked the comment away. Earlier, just before the Miners left their locker room, he had called aside some of his black players and told them how the opposing coach felt. 'We felt it was just talk,' said Lattin." - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 205.
Despite this confusion about the origin of the purported remark by Rupp, recollections from the players indicate that Haskins most certainly used it in his pregame talk.
Before the Miners left their hotel for Cole Fieldhouse, Texas Western coach Don Haskins brought the black players together in the room of center David "Big Daddy D" Lattin. Haskins said Rupp had been telling people there was no way five blacks could beat five whites. . . . Recalled Lattin: "Haskins said, 'I heard him say it, and I couldn't believe he said it. It's up to you to do something about it.'" - by Pat Forde, USA Today, "Legacy of Rupp Slow to Recede Repercussions of 1966 Title Game Still Echo in Many Ears," April 2, 1996.
"The day of the game, Coach Haskins assembled the black players that were going to play in the game that night and told us that Coach Rupp had just mentioned in a press conference that five black players could not defeat five white players... Coach Haskins said, 'Hey it's up to you.' He walked out of the room." - Dave Lattin, "Glory in Black and White," CBS, April 2002.
"Coach Haskins before the game quoted Rupp ...that he had never played five black guys before and that five black guys would never beat his team," said Flournoy. "And we kind of thought that Coach Haskins was just trying to hype us up, you know. And we weren't sure if he said that or if it was just Coach Haskins talking." - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 205.
What can be surmised from the above jumble is that Haskins told his team that Rupp made the remark before the game. (According to Western players Orsten Artis and Harry Flournoy [Kirkpatrick, SI], Hill [Sanchez] and Lattin [Forde, USA Today, Fitzpatrick].) Another take on this may be that Haskins or someone in his group fabricated the remark to get his team psyched for the game. (What I know of Haskins now, I don't believe he would have done this, but it's possible at that stage of his career and under those circumstances, just as it's possible that Rupp said it to his players if he thought it would win the game.)
In Ray Sanchez's book on the game, he hints that what Haskins tells his players before games isn't always necessarily true.
In the dressing room prior to the game, Haskins told his players he'd heard Rupp had claimed no five blacks could beat Kentucky. "Otherwise, he told us the usual stuff," Hill says with a smile. "He told us we were playing the best team in the country and that there was no way we could stop them. We'd heard it all many times before." - by Ray Sanchez, Basketball's Biggest Upset, Mesa Publishing, 1991, pg. 127.
At least one journalist has considered this aspect.
"Whether he really heard Rupp say that [no five blacks could beat five whites] or just figured that he probably said it is unknown, but no coach ever lets facts get in the way of pregame motivation." - by Pat Forde, USA Today, "Legacy of Rupp Slow to Recede Repercussions of 1966 Title Game Still Echo in Many Ears," April 2, 1996.
JPS Note - No such consideration has been afforded Rupp by the media.
The effect of Haskin's speech seemed to energize the players.
"From that point on," [Harry] Flournoy says, "Kentucky had as much chance of winning that game as a snowball had of surviving in hell." - by B.J. Schecter, Sports Illustrated, "Catching Up With . . . Harry Flournoy, Texas Western forward," April 6, 1998.
Unfortunately, although Kirkpatrick and Sanchez reported the incident and cited Haskins telling his players in pregame, both failed to ask Haskins himself about the incident, even though Haskins was interviewed extensively for the respective pieces. To add to the confusion, a recent interview with Haskins seems to contradict the assertion that race was even an issue until after the game.
Haskins was oblivious [to race being an issue in the '66 title game] as well. "I might have been in a daze, but nobody from the media mentioned a thing about the color of anyone's skin," he said. "It wasn't until we got home, when the mail started to pile up in my office, that I realized what had truly happened." - by Rick Cantu, New York Times News Service (reprinted in Wichita Eagle), "Breaking College Basketball's Color Barrier, Haskins' Squad Changed Race Relations in '66 Title Game," March 9, 1997.
Again, these are basketball coaches in what is arguably the biggest game in either man's career, so it's not out of the question that they used every advantage they could. It should however, also be noted that the games were played on consecutive nights. Therefore, there was precious little time for a boast on the part of Rupp's to have been made and to have filtered through coaching circles to Haskins. If the remark was indeed made by Rupp to Haskins, it should be relatively easy to determine when and where the remark occurred, something which has not been attempted by any journalist or historian to my knowledge. To hold coaches to what they may or may not have said during pregame and halftime conversations with their teams, and then to equate it to a public pronouncement of their beliefs [ie calling Rupp the George Wallace [or Bull Connor] of basketball] as if they were civil servants, would seemingly stretch the limits of what even the most unscrupulous reporter should use to assess facts.
2. Alexander Wolff reported that Rupp called up a young sports reporter (Jimmy Breslin of the New York Journal-American) in New York in the early 60's and asked him to "kindly indicate 'colored' high school players with asterisks so Rupp would know where not to bother to send his recruiters." This was first mentioned in the book Raw Recruits, (Pocket Books, (1991) pg. 102-103) and subsequently has been repeated by Wolff virtually every time he writes about UK. This is a powerful quote but one which is highly dependent on the context of the time and way it was said. Again, stating that this proves Rupp was racist assumes that his remark was a nasty side effect of a racist attitude and not a matter of fact in his recruiting work. It also assumes that the decision to recruit blacks to the University was Rupp's sole decision. It doesn't take into account the influence of others (within the University or SEC offices) on whether the coach was allowed to sign black players. To assume any coach, even one as influential as Rupp, to have unconditional power over who receives a scholarship to the university, regardless of race, in the early 60's is being naive.
Edward R. Breathitt reinforces this idea that the providing of scholarships was not the sole responsibility of the basketball coach.
"In 1966, UK President John Oswald and Athletic Director Bernie Shively decided that our university should offer athletic scholarships to young men and women who were qualified, without consideration to race, religion or ethnic background . . .Many younger Kentuckians are not aware that this university did the right thing in 1966, and led the way for every other university in the Southeastern Conference to follow suit. I was chairman of the board, and I recall that the Athletic Board and the university and the Board of Trustees unanimously approved this move." - by Edward Breathitt, Letter to the Editor, Lexington Herald Leader, "New Coach Fits Well with Kentucky Goals and Legacy," May 13, 1997.
3. A common charge against Adolph Rupp was that he didn't recruit black players "hard enough" during the 60's. Kentucky generally recruited in the state of Kentucky and in border states such as Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. During the mid-60's there were a number of high profile black players in the state including Clem Haskins, Mike Redd, Dwight Smith, Butch Beard, Wes Unseld, Jim McDaniels etc. so it was a perfect time to integrate UK. Rupp, however, seemingly didn't feel the pressure to do so from the community, the league or the media. (Billy Reed, Lexington Herald Leader, "30 Years Later, A Runt and a Miner Talk Hoops,"January 19, 1996.) Probably the only source of pressure to integrate the team at the time came from Dr. John W. Oswald, the president of the University who took this position in 1962. (Billy Reed, Lexington Herald Leader, "Basketball's New Face Part of Runt's Legacy," February 15, 1991.) Rupp did recruit some of these players. Whether he was sincere or not seems irrelevant because he obviously failed to give the impression to these recruits that he was serious about them coming to play for the University.
One aspect that helped to reinforce the image was Rupp's insistence in only recruiting quality players. No doubt he could have taken a mid-level talent and put him on the bench, to play the role of a token black, but Rupp refused to do that.
He [Oswald] says "well get someone, I don't care if he sits on the bench". I says "I'm not going to do that". I said, "I'm not going to get someone and have him sit on the bench". I said "I don't recruit that way. When I recruit, I'm gonna get someone, that can play. The only way I'm going to offer anybody a scholarship is if they can play." - Adolph Rupp, The Rupp Tape (Audiocassette), WHAS Productions, 1992.
Rupp bristled when UK president John Oswald told him to recruit more black players. But that was only the reaction of a strong-minded man who "didn't do anything he didn't want to do," Herky [Rupp] says. "He wanted good players, black or white. He didn't give scholarships for political purposes." - by Robert Kaiser, Lexington Herald Leader, "Loyal ot the Legend Coach Adolph Rupp's Family Strive to Return Luster to His Reputation Legacy Fades with Memories of Fans," March 14, 1993.
Another problem Rupp had was that he was never intimately involved or interested in recruiting. This was a man who, before the NCAA outlawed the practice, used to hold a tryout of high school players during the summer where he would pick the cream of the crop for enrollment at the University, and send the other players throughout the rest of the South to find a roster spot. This was a man who had an All-American [James Jordan from North Carolina] approach him and ask to transfer to Kentucky, despite Rupp telling him he didn't think he was the kind of player suited to the fast-paced style of the Wildcats.
During the latter stages of his career, he had attained his stature within college basketball and wasn't used to having to go out and work for talent. Much of the recruiting work was delegated to his assistants and even his players at time. Rupp has been criticized subsequently by those who are intent on making Rupp's lack of effort in recruiting blacks during the latter stage of his career as evidence of his racist attitude. No doubt Rupp felt somewhat uncomfortable recruiting blacks who he had previously only had minimal contact with. But Rupp did make an effort to recruit. These critics, when studying his recruiting efforts of black athletes, fail to comprehend his recruiting practices of most all athletes.
"Let me assure you that even if you were white and 7 feet, 8 inches tall, and you came in to see Mr. Rupp, he would just sit there and look at you. You wouldn't get any feeling that, 'Boy, you're just terribly important to us.' And we were at a time when these young black athletes needed to be told, 'We want you more than anything else. Here's a sense of the kind of life you'll have on campus.' He just didn't have that." - Quote by Robert Johnson in book by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 146.
"My view of that is I do not subscribe to the group that thinks that Adolph was a racist. I believe that for two reasons. One, he wanted to win too much. And the other reason is Adolph had reached that point where he didn't recruit much of anyone. He was so used to potential All-America coming to him that he just didn't get off his duff to recruit." - Quote by Robert Johnson in book by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 148.
"That spring, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and even Kentucky were recruiting [Perry] Wallace, the valedictorian of his class of 441 and a high school All-America. No black ever had played basketball at these schools, but that didn't concern him nearly so much as how the representative of these schools chose to approach him. Tennessee's Ray Mears and Vanderbilt's Roy Skinner impressed him during visits to his home. Kentucky sent two assistants, Lancaster and Joe B. Hall. Rupp's absense, as it would for many other black players and their families, sent a clear, negative message." - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 234.
Another overlooked point is that schools such as Louisville and Western Kentucky were not that far ahead of Kentucky in starting to recruit black players. However, the early successes of these schools naturally led to more serious interest and attention from successive recruits. No doubt the coaches and boosters at these schools used the fact that Kentucky had yet to sign a black player to reinforce the stereotype that Kentucky was not interested in black recruits. (A tradition that continues to this day to an extent, BTW) Western was able to profit immensely in the sixties and Louisville through at least the mid-80's using this in their arsensal when recruiting against Kentucky.
"When I was being recruited, I visited [black stars] Wes Unseld and Butch Beard at Louisville," recalled Vanderbilt's Perry Wallace. "Whatever Louisville had been about in the past, it enthusiastically recruited those guys. All of a sudden they went from saying, 'We don't want you here' to 'We want to recruit you and we want to show you an enthusiastic face.' From a threshold matter, they were saying 'We want you to come here and we want you do well.'" - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 63.
"Once they [Louisville and Western Kentucky] opened their doors to blacks and the contrast with Rupp's white teams grew more stark, Kentucky's chances of landing minority players diminished enormously." - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 63.
There was so much misinformation going on back then, and it was easy to paint a picture of a program that had never had a black player as a program that didn't want a black player." - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 189.
4. A final accusation against Rupp was his use of the word "boy" when referring to black players. Rupp used this term apparently throughout his life to describe all players, regardless of them being white or black, and regardless of whether they were a recruit, a player on his team, an opponent or simply a student. If Rupp should be criticized for this at all, it probably should be because he failed to realize that the term was deemed by society (mainly one or two generations removed) to no longer be appropriate during his later years of life.
Below are some common or famous quotes by Rupp using the term (and all directed towards white players).
"Boy" he would scream at a bumbling Cat, "will you pass that ball to somebody who knows what to do with it ?"
Gamblers "couldn't touch my boys with a 10-foot pole"
"When we run up one of those 95- or 97- point totals against a team and there's still a couple of minutes left to play, I'm not going to pull my boys up and have them stand around midcourt and try to hold the score down so we don't humiliate anybody. We'll just keep playing our game right to the last second."
"The man [NCAA director Walter Byers] who said my boys couldn't play will someday have to hand me the NCAA championship trophy."
All quotes from article by William F. Reed, Sports Illustrated, "Legendary coach Adolph Rupp -- Loved by Some, Loathed by Others -- Turned Kentucky Basketball into a Dynasty," April 1996.
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Player Case Studies
| Clem Haskins | Wes Unseld | Butch Beard | Jim McDaniels | Tom Payne |
It may be useful at this point to consider some key recruits for Rupp during the 1960's. Signing and not signing these players played a pivotal role in this issue. Some may read the following and conclude that Rupp was not interested in recruiting blacks and was trying to keep them out, while others may conclude that Rupp was simply being honest and upfront about the issue, which would actually put him above a coach who lied to a recruit about the racial situation just to get him to come and win some games for the old University.
Clem "the Gem" Haskins was a pure shooting guard from Taylor County in 1963. He integrated the school when he transferred from the nearby Durham school, being the lone black student his junior year. He was not recruited by Kentucky at the time and went to Louisville, but soon became homesick and ended up at Western Kentucky [where he broke the basketball color barrier at that school along with Dwight Smith of Princeton Dotson]. Haskins had an outstanding college and pro career and is currently the head coach of the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Some reporters claim in their articles that Haskins would have crawled on his hands and knees to play for Kentucky, but Haskins himself denies this.
Haskins says he had no desire to go to Kentucky. "When I came up, you never thought about going for Kentucky," he said. "You never thought about attending a white instiution. That never passed through your mind. I was nonexistent." "It's like Oxford University in England," said Haskins' wife, Yevette. "You know it's there but you never think you'll go there." - by Jim Caple, St. Paul Pioneer Press, "A Powerful Voice," March 29, 1997.
"He [Rupp] might have won 100 more [games] if he had recruited only the great black players from his own state - players such as Clem Haskins, who would have cut off a limb to play for Kentucky." - by Diane Pucin, "Philadelphia Inquirer" "Remember Rupp ? No, Better to Remember Bighouse Gaines," March 15, 1997.
JPS Note: Pucin brings up a valid point in that Rupp would have benefitted greatly from having black players on his team. As a Kentucky fan, I have to wonder whether the great UCLA dynasty would have materialized if during the 1960s Rupp was fielding teams consisting of Haskins, Beard, Unseld and other black players who would have followed them to go along with white players such as Pat Riley, Louie Dampier and Dan Issel. But to suggest he would have won 100 more games when the Baron only lost a total of 190 in his entire career seems an exaggeration.
Although Rupp did not recruit Haskins which he should be criticized for, he did let him know that he would have liked him to be on the team.
[Taylor County coach Billy B.] Smith says he remembers that after Haskins was a standout at the annual Kentucky East-West high school All-Star Game, Rupp went up to the player and told him, "I'd like to see you at Kentucky." - by Jim Caple, St. Paul Pioneer Press, "A Powerful Voice," March 29, 1997.
To his credit, Haskins has moved past and put away those feelings. Despite the hard feelings, there must not have been a lingering rift between the Haskins family and UK as Merion did play for UK in the mid-seventies.
"He [Clem] could see it," Merion Haskins said. "Things had changed a lot ... He didn't have any problem with it [Merion coming to UK]. He could see that [Kentucky] was a great college for a young man to go to. In the '50s and '60s, that wasn't necessarily the case." - by Mark Bradley, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, "Haskins' Past in Perspective," March 29, 1997.
Another interesting bit of trivia which confirms that Haskins had matured past any anger is that when Haskins was coach of Western Kentucky in the middle-1980's he recruited Chip Rupp, Adolph Rupp's grandson.
In an article before the national semifinal Haskins was asked if playing against Kentucky brought back bad personal feelings. "I'd probably say that 25 or 30 years ago, yes, it would have made a lot of difference, but over the years I've matured enough, and the things happened back in those days, I'm completely over that and it doesn't really mean anything now." - Reprinted from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Raleigh News and Observer, March 28, 1997.
A few weeks later, the Kentucky coaching job became available when Rick Pitino left for the Celtics and Haskin's name appeared on the short list of possible replacements. Coach Haskins said, "I received a call from a prominent Kentucky alumnus asking me if I was interested. I hope to interview for the job." - Minneapolis Star-Tribune, May 7, 1997.
According to an article by Billy Reed (Lexington Herald Leader, February 16, 1999), Unseld conferred at the 1964 State Basketball Tournament in Memorial with "some of Kentucky's recruiting 'inner ring'," who tried to convince the player to come to Lexington.
But the article goes on to suggest that Unseld might not have felt completely comfortable in Lexington.
"I remember being booed," Unseld said in a 1980 interview, "but, at the time, I attributed that to the Breckinridge County people and not the UK fans."
"I also remember that I couldn't eat in the restaurant across the street from our hotel because they didn't serve black people. That sort of bothered me. That sort of thing might have been going on in Louisville at the same time, but I didn't know about it if it was." - by Billy Reed, Lexington Herald Leader, "Unseld, Beard Important in UK Lore," February 16, 1999. (The 1980 reference is not provided by Reed.)
Both Rupp and President Oswald made separate trips to the Unseld home to recruit the young star, but there seems to have been a misunderstanding during Rupp's visit. Unseld thought that Rupp was not interested in meeting him while Rupp thought the same of Unseld.
"I was speaking - - I'll never forget it -- at LaGrange Reformatory," Unseld said. "That was OK with them. They wanted to speak to my parents. Until the next day when somebody said I didn't have the courtesy to stay at the meeting." - by Jerry Tipton, Lexington Herald Leader, "Spurned by UK in '60s, Wes Unseld to Coach in House that Rupp Built," October 20 1992.
"At that time," said Unseld in a 1980 interview, "Kentucky really wasn't interested. They had to make the offer, I guess, but I never thought Kentucky was interested. Coach Rupp came to my house one time and talked to my parents. Of course he knew at the time that I wouldn't be there." - Lexington Herald Leader, "'63 Tourney Changed the Event Forever," March 16, 1988.
"We went down and tried to get ... ah ... this Wesley Unseld. We went into his home. We were treated fairly nice by he and his mother and by his father. He came in of course and stood around there for about, oh I'll say five or six minutes, and then his coach came and got him, and they went out to somewhere, I don't know where they went, but we had an appointment with him. But we talked to the mother and father and it didn't get anywhere and we never got anywhere at all with that situation." - Adolph Rupp, The Rupp Tape (Audiocassette), WHAS Productions, 1992.
JPS Note: - One thing to keep in mind is that it was not unusual for Rupp to spend time meeting exclusively with the parents of a recruit. While this likely wasn't the intention of that particular visit to Unseld's house, the fact that the recruit ended up not being present wouldn't necessarily affect Rupp's visit to the extent some might assume. There are examples in the past where Rupp visited a recruit's home and spent the time talking exclusively with the parents.
"I did, in my sophomore year, go down to Louisville to try to get Wes Unseld to come to Kentucky. Wes would have been an ideal guy to break the color line. He was such a class guy. A tremendous player. Wes just didn't want to be the first black player at Kentucky. I understood that." - Larry Conley in book And the Walls Came Tumbling Down by Frank Fitzpatrick, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 189.
"I recruited him . I really tried to get him to come. And he just said to me, he said 'I don't want to be the first one.'" - Larry Conley, "Glory in Black and White," CBS, April 2002.
There were threats made to Unseld to not attend UK but he claims that didn't influence his college choice. "When you're 17 or 18, 6 foot 8 and 230, not too many things frighten you," Unseld said. "Nowadays, it'd probably scare the hell out of me." - by Jerry Tipton, Lexington Herald Leader, "Spurned by UK in '60s, Wes Unseld to Coach in House that Rupp Built," October 20 1992.
Butch Beard was the 1965 Kentucky Mr. Basketball from Breckinridge County High School. He was a rabid Kentucky fan growing up. He was recruited by Rupp at his home and made a visit to the campus where he was escorted by UK player Pat Riley.(Riley was chosen because he was the only player not from the countryside and it was felt Beard would be more comfortable with him.) Beard also ended up going to Louisville (where he never had to play a collegiate game in the deep South) and has recently been a head coach in the NBA.
(Butch) Beard can still see Rupp, the so-called Baron, in his living room, sipping his mother Maybel's iced tea, bragging about how reviled he was in a Southeastern Conference sick of being dominated by his Wildcats.
"He told us how they cursed him in Tennessee and threw bottles at him in Alabama," Beard said. "At one point, my mother asked, 'If that happens to you, then what's going to happen to my son ?'"
Rupp, recalled Beard, smiled and said, none too reassuringly, or respectfully, "Miss Beard, A'hm gonna take real good care of yoah boy." - by Harvey Araton, New York Times News Service (reprinted in Lexington Herald Leader), "Before NBA Link, UK Connected Riley, Butch Beard," December 22, 1994.
In a more recent interview, Beard gives more information about his recruitment.
"He came for a home visit," said Beard, now an assistant coach with the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. "He mentioned what the university could do for me. It was a helluva compliment for him to recruit me when you consider that Kentucky was the No. 1 basketball school in the country."
"Rupp told me, 'Where we're going to play basketball, you'll be a pioneer,' " Beard said. "He said I'd probably have to stay in a separate hotel and eat at separate restaurants. I don't know if he wanted to scare me off or if he was just telling me the truth."
". . . Beard said his mother was frightened . . . Hell, that wasn't for me. I was 18, I didn't want to go through that." - by Dave Kindred, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, "Facts Belie Stereotype of Racist Rupp at UK," May 11, 1997.
"I said, 'Well if I'm going to be the first I need someone there with me. Can I take a teammate of mine along with me ?' They were willing to give a teammate of mine a scholarship so we would be together." - Butch Beard, "Glory in Black and White," CBS, April 2002.
"Rupp asked Kron to make a similar visit [as Conley did to Butch Beard] a year later to Butch Beard's home in Breckenridge County. It was typical recruiting strategy for the coach, who did not like to involve himself too personally in the process. The problem was, if blacks were going to be convinced to attend Kentucky, they were going to need a lot of personal persusasion from Rupp." - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 189.
However, despite the danger associated with becoming the first black player in the SEC, there were some in Beard's family who wanted him to take the step.
Beard's aunt, Mrs. William McCallum, wife of a Chicago minister and firm civil rights advocate, flew to the scene to advise her nephew. Possibly because she felt Kentucky was a better school academically for Butch, possibly because she would have been proud to see him break the SEC's color line, she soon found herself in the same camp as the longtime lily-white Kentucky athletic department. "Butch." she said, "has the maturity and the gracious manner to make himself acceptable anywhere. He is one of those youngsters, out of a great many others, who has the nature to make an outstanding record. He wouldn't be hard put to find a place at the University of Kentucky. He's going to have his problems racially, but there is no point in making him afraid or putting him on the defensive." - by Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, "The Negro Athlete is Invited Home," June 14, 1965, pp. 26-27.
The decision was still Beard's to make. Committing to Kentucky would have changed the entire landscape of college basketball in the South, a lot of pressure to put on a high school kid. "I know that a lot of the boosters wanted to see change." said Beard. (CNN/SI, "New Era in Lexington," October 30, 1997.) "The relentless pressures of recruiting confused him so much that his principal, R.F. Peters said that Butch 'appeared to be almost at the breaking point.' " (Sports Illustrated, "The Negro Athlete is Invited Home," June 14, 1965, pp. 26-27.) In the end Beard chose Louisville.
He talked it over with his parents. He consulted Unseld. Then he called Louisville coach Peck Hickman. "We decided that Rupp was under pressure to recruit a black player, but he didn't really want one," Beard said. How did they know ? "Believe me," he said, "you know." - by Harvey Araton, New York Times News Service (reprinted in Lexington Herald Leader), "Before NBA Link, UK Connected Riley, Butch Beard," December 22, 1994.
JPS Note: - Just a curious comment, but with Beard consulting the head coach of Louisville and a current player at Louisville [Unseld], is it any shock that Butch came to the conclusion he did ?
"We thought we had that boy [Beard]. I don't think ... I had some help here in town and I think these people will come out from their homes and from out of the bushes and tell you that they did everything that they could. This Beard boy wanted to come here. I'm positive he wanted to come here. He came here one day at a track meet, I was out here at the track with him and he told me that he had decided to come to the University of Kentucky and I says 'fine, let's shake hands on that.' We did. He did not come to the University of Kentucky and before the day was over had signed with the University of Louisiville." - Adolph Rupp, The Rupp Tape (Audiocassette), WHAS Productions, 1992.
Frank Deford wrote an article on Kentucky's recruitment of Beard in 1965 which seems to go beyond what Beard has mentioned in his interviews with regards to his choosing Louisville over Kentucky and also partially explains why Rupp felt so certain that Beard did indeed want to come to Kentucky but ended up not signing. According to Deford:
"Not until after Beard had signed a letter of intent to go to Louisville (a fact that he was keeping secret) did Rupp convince him that the school really wanted Negro athletes. This almost made him change his mind. . .In fact, Louisville could not have released Butch had it wanted to: only Missouri Valley Conference Commissioner Norvall Neve had that power, and Neve stood pat in defense of the letter-of-intent principle. 'If we don't stick by our guns in this case,' he said, 'we might as well throw the whole machinery on the scrap heap, because it will simply break down.' " - by Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, "The Negro Athlete is Invited Home," June 14, 1965, pp. 26-27.
After Kentucky hired Orlando "Tubby" Smith as head coach to replace Rick Pitino, this is what Beard had to say about the hiring.
"It's shown that it doesn't matter the color of your skin or the race. If you're qualified, you get an opportunity to prove yourself and I'm happy that he has the job."
JPS Note: - There are a number of Kentucky fans, this one included, who wish that Beard had seized his opportunity with UK when he had it.
Jim McDaniels was a 7-foot center from Scottsville KY. Although Kentucky recruited him, it was in reality a half-hearted attempt.
McDaniels chose to attend Western Kentucky in 1967 and seemed to have an very apparent dislike of Rupp and UK and the other way around. I have yet to find any documentation at this point as to what led to the hostility between Rupp and McDaniels but it surfaced later in a very public way during McDaniel's career at Western. Unsubstantiated rumors suggest that McDaniels was looking to receive more than just tuition and books for his services on the basketball court. Apparently what he was asking for was more than the Baron was willing to provide, if anything beyond what was legal, thus leading to McDaniels going elsewhere.
The Western team was largely made up of black players from the state, many of them bent on showing up the University of Kentucky and their still all-white teams. Along with McDaniels, this included Clarence Glover of Horse Cave, Jim Rose of Hazard and Jerome Perry of Louisville Manual. Jerry Dunn and Rex Bailey rounded out the other players to see considerable minutes. Western almost got their chance in 1966 with a team comprised of Clem Haskins, Dwight Smith and Greg Smith along with Wayne Chapman (Rex Chapman's father) and Steve Cunningham, but they fell short in the Mideast region against a strong Michigan team led by senior Cazzie Russell on a controversial call by the official.
"You're darned right we were as good as they were," Chapman said in a phone interview from Owensboro. "If we had played Kentucky, it would have been like playing ourselves in a mirror." - by Billy Reed, Lexington Herald Leader, "Basketball's New Face Part of Runts' Legacy," February 15, 1991.
A second great Western team was denied a shot at Kentucky by Jacksonville in 1970 and was not about to let a second chance slip away when their opportunity came in 1971. After the first game, a dejected McDaniels claimed that "pairing us against Jacksonville in the opposite bracket from Kentucky is just another way of helping Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament." To this, Rupp replied, "I don't doubt the young man said that. But I doubt that he has enough intelligence to comprehend how the NCAA brackets are made. You can quote me as saying that Mr. McDaniels isn't smart enough to know about things like that.". (Quotes from an article by Billy Reed, Lexington Herald Leader, "Hilltoppers Showed UK it was Time to Diversify," February 24, 1998.)
The following year, the Hilltoppers were again given the tough assignment of dispatching a tough Jacksonville team with their imposing center 7-2 Artis Gilmore. The Hilltoppers won 74-72 on a last-second basket by Glover and next faced Kentucky in Athens Georgia for the first time in school history. On paper, the teams looked competitive. But the Western team had years of pent-up frustration over the lack of proper respect accorded the teams in Bowling Green compared to the University of Kentucky along with the slow pace of integration by Rupp on their side. The game was a blow-out with Western winning 107-83. McDaniels led the effort with 35 points and 11 rebounds with Rose contributing 25 and Glover 18 and 17 rebounds. Kentucky was led by Tom Parker with 23 points and Tom Payne with 15. This game, even more than the 1966 Texas Western contest, reinforced the concept to all Kentucky fans that rapid integration was essential if Kentucky wanted to remain a basketball power.
After the game, a few Western players came to the Kentucky locker room to find a gracious losing host:
"C'mon in, boys," Kentucky Coach Adolph Rupp said. "this was your night. It wasn't ours. You had quite a game. Now don't let us down." Said assistant coach Joe B. Hall: "We'll be pulling for you." - by Rick Bailey, Lexington Herald Leader, "Thrashing of UK in '71 Was Top of the Hill," December 20, 1990.
As for Western, they went on to the Final Four where they lost a heartbreaker, 92-89 in double overtime to Villanova (who was also led by a former UK-recruit, Howard Porter). It was later found that McDaniels had signed with an agent before his senior season and subsequently, Western's NCAA run was erased from the record books. A two year probation, due to other problems in the program which included payoffs to McDaniels, also were handed down by the NCAA around the same time. The set-back provided a window of opportunity for Southeastern Conference and other teams to sign black athletes en masse instead of the trickle before. By the time Western was back on its feet, they now found themselves in an entirely new recruiting environment and never were able to recover and return back to the level they held during those years in the 1960's and early 1970's.
"We recruited black athletes before anybody in the Southeastern Conference did," [Western coach Johnny] Oldham said. "We pretty much had the pick of the good black athlete. Then Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Louisville all got into recruiting the black athlete. That made it much harder for us. I had good timing, really." - by Rick Bailey, Lexington Herald Leader, "Thrashing of UK in '71 Was Top of the Hill," December 20, 1990.
"Players we used to be able to get no longer came here. They went to UK and U of L. Times changed right in there." - Assistant coach Jim Richards, by Rick Bailey, Lexington Herald Leader, "Thrashing of UK in '71 Was Top of the Hill," December 20, 1990.
It's interesting to note that Rupp did eventually coach McDaniels, although it took some convincing to get McDaniels to agree.
"McDaniels thought so little of Rupp that he had refused to play for him in a charity game between Kentucky and Tennessee in late March. Then he changed his mind, deciding to play for the handicapped and retarded children who would benefit from the game." - by Russell Rice, Adolph Rupp As I Knew Him, Sagamore Publishers, 1994, pg. 196.
McDaniels was eventually convinced and the game went on at Freedom Hall, where he scored 25 points in a 108-94 win.
"McDaniels became the last of 10 Kentucky players to sign. His teammates will be UK's Jim Dinwiddie, Larry Steele and Mike Casey, Western players Clarence Glover and Jim Rose, Georgetown's Kenny Davis, Eastern Kentucky's Carl Greenfield, Morehead State's Jim Day and Bellarmine's John Linneman." - Louisville Courier Journal, "McDaniels will play for Rupp in charity game," March 18, 1971.
Rupp was asked about the Western players by Red Auerbach, then executive vice-president and general manager of the Boston Celtics, who was on-hand to scout for the upcoming NBA draft.
"How about Jim McDaniels ?" asked Auerbach. "I think McDaniels is the best basketball player in America today." said Rupp. "And Clarence Glover ?" persisted Auerbach. "Glover is the quickest 6-8 man in America," said Rupp. "For God's sake, take him (in the draft). When he gets under that basket, there is no one going to intimidate him. He's going to get that rebound. You guys can teach him how to score." "How good is Jim Rose ?" Auerbach wondered. "I put Rose on Jim England (in the Kentucky-Tennessee All-Star game)," said Rupp. "England was one of the best players in our conference, and Rose blanked him. The basket England got was made off somebody else. Some of those UCLA boys wouldn't have scored off Rose either. I think Rose is a great one out in front. Because of these three boys, Western would have beaten UCLA." - by Dean Eagle, Louisville Courier Journal, "Rupp Labels McDaniels Best Player in America," March 30, 1971.
JPS Note: - Rupp's words must have had a positive effect as the Celtics ended up drafting both Glover (in the 1st round) and Rose (in the second round) in the 1971 NBA draft.
A second game was staged April 4 in Nashville, but Western coach John Oldham was the coach. McDaniels scored 32 and former UK player Mike Casey scored 31 in Kentucky's 123-115 win.
JPS Note: - Many Kentucky fans express the wish that Rupp had signed the likes of Clem Haskins, Butch Beard and Wes Unseld. Jim McDaniels, however, is one they're glad got away.
Payne arrived at Kentucky heralded as, maybe, the next Alcindor. He was a high-school All-American, he was the tallest player ever at UK, he was the first Negro basketball player at UK. Last night, at times, he showed he may be worthy of all that chatter. - by Dave Kindred, Louisville Courier Journal, "UK Freshman Payne is Bigger, Better and Happier Than Ever," December 28, 1969.
Payne grew up in "a home where responsibility and academics were stressed. His father, now dead, attained the rank of master sergeant in the Army before retiring. His mother has a bachelor's degree in biology. Fourteen college degrees are spread among his eight siblings. He has two sisters in medical school and a brother in law school." - by Peter Kerasotis, Los Angeles Daily News (reprinted by Lexington Herald Leader), "Ex-Wildcat Payne's Troubles Perplexing to Some, April 3, 1986.
Despite a solid family background, Payne's adjustment to college was not a smooth one. His freshman year, rather than playing on the UK freshman team, Payne was academically ineligible due to a low entering test score and played for the local "Jerrys Restaurant" AAU team. The experience was probably more useful to Payne's development.
Payne is playing against tough competition -- "Guys 6-9 and 6-10 who collapse on me and it's helping me improve my moves tremendously." And he's getting more experience, too -- "The freshmen will play 20 or 22 games this season while I can play 45." said Payne. Anyway, his AAU team "runs abut the same plays that the UK varsity does." - by Dean Eagle, Louisville Courier Journal, "AAU Basketball Toughens Payne for UK Varsity Role," December 21, 1969.
Payne regained eligibility to play on the varsity his sophomore year (where he earned All-SEC honors while averaging 17 ppg and 10 rpg). Despite putting up impressive numbers during the season, there were signs of trouble.
"At Knoxville, Payne had flipped [Jim] Woodall head over heels in a battle for a rebound. Payne said it was unintentional, but he drew a flagrant technical foul ... In the rematch, officials against ejected Payne for flagrantly fouling Woodall. . . Payne had also been tossed from a game against Alabama in Lexington when he objected to an official's decision. Payne's temper and gestures were drawing criticism from some UK fans. He irritated them with his victory salute: he would clinch his fists and pump them up and down over his head after a particularly good play. Some fans thought he was giving the 'Black Power' sign. There were scuffles with teammates, especially Larry Stamper, but they were kept quiet. On the road, Payne was a lone warrior, hiding behind sunglasses and keeping his distance from the other players. His classwork was below par; summer school awaited." - by Russell Rice, Adolph Rupp As I Knew Him, Sagamore Publishers, 1994, pg. 196.
After the second Tennessee game, where Payne was ejected for fighting with Woodall, Rupp said,
"Payne claimed Kent Hollenbeck was his only friend on the team. The other players wouldn't throw him the ball." - by Russell Rice, Adolph Rupp As I Knew Him, Sagamore Publishers, 1994, pg. 197-198.
Despite these problems, Payne continued to improve over the season and began to dominate opponents. After scoring 34 points against Georgia and 39 points against Louisiana State, Joe Hall stated,
"That's two great ones back to back for Tom," Hall bubbled afterwards. "He doesn't know his own potential - none of us do - but he's come a long way and I think he's gonna continue to do so." - by Dick Fenlon, Louisville Courier Journal,
After Payne scored 30 points in a game against Auburn which clinched the Southeastern Conference regular season title, the future looked bright for the young star,
But the 7-foot-2 sophomore center is far from content with just one title. No, indeed, he's looking ahead to "winning five more games" this season and to winning more championships the next two years. "I know I'm just a sophomore and I'm not comparing myself to anybody," he said after scoring 30 points in UK's 102-83 victory over Auburn. "But UCLA did it three times in a row and I think we can do it, too." He slapped teammate Jim Andrews, the second tallest UK player, on the shoulder and added, "Jim and I will be back for two more years." - by Tev Laudeman, Louisville Courier, March 1, 1971.
As the summer rolled along, however, things didn't go any more smoothly and eventually Payne decided to foregoe his college eligilbility for the NBA.
"In August, a state policeman cited Tom Payne for speeding in his new Cadillac. There were other tickets on file, some more than a year old - citations for failing to dim lights, illegal parking, and operating a vehicle with a defective muffler. In September, Payne quit the university and joined thirteen other underclassmen in the National Basketball Association's first supplemental draft." - - by Russell Rice, Adolph Rupp As I Knew Him, Sagamore Publishers, 1994, pg. 197.
Payne was drafted in the first round of the NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks. His NBA career was short-lived however as Payne was convicted on two counts of rape and one count of aggravated sodomy in 1972 in Atlanta. In 1977, he was extradited to Kentucky where he was convicted of one count of rape and two counts of attempted rape which had occurred in 1971. After being paroled in 1983, he attemped a comeback in basketball with the CBA Louisville Catbirds but then moved to Hollywood and became an actor (once appearing in Night Court along with McDonalds commercials and music videos). The people who were familiar with him at the time felt he had an excellent future in the entertainment industry.
"In all honesty, he could have made a million dollars this year," said Payne's agent Lyle Baker, vice president of Joe Jackson Productions Inc.
"He was built like a champ - huge, handsome, gorgeous. women just went crazy over him." - Paul Jabara, writer and music producer.
"He's a black Arnold Schwarzenegger" said one detective while his partner described Payne as having "a million-dollar body. It's absolutely remarkable the muscle definition he has, especially for a man his height."
All quotes from article by Peter Kerasotis, Los Angeles Daily News (reprinted by Lexington Herald Leader), "Ex-Wildcat Payne's Troubles Perplexing to Some, April 3, 1986.
Yet, just like his early days with the Hawks, success and a promising future were fleeting for Payne as he self-destructed. On Valentines day of 1986, Payne was caught by Los Angeles Police Department raping a woman and again convicted, which also violated his parole in Kentucky.
Other than not being academically eligible his first year and the minor problems mentioned above, I have yet to find anything that indicates he was a complete failure while at UK and have found no evidence that any of his problems were caused by Rupp. He certainly has a major personal problem, as evidenced by his repeated convictions, but the accusation that Payne's problems were either caused by Rupp or were detected and actively sought out by Rupp prior to recruiting him, all in a scheme to demonstrate an unmentioned but assumed "white supremacy" belief on the part of the Baron is a real stretch IMO. The writers who mention it don't make a convincing argument and fail to provide any evidence to back up their beliefs. Any information about this or about Rupp's purported claims about this issue is appreciated.
"When he [Rupp] was finally forced to do so, it was widely reported that he said if he had to have 'them' come to play for him, he only wanted 'one' and would have to be 'a big one'. Indeed, Tom Payne, an inner-city seven-footer from Louisville, had trouble from the minute he arrived in Lexington because of Rupp's attitude. Payne left without graduating, but Rupp's attitude remained the standard in Lexington, which is and was 80 percent white." - by Ron Yengich, Salt Lake Weekly, "The Ghost of Adolph Rupp," May 22, 1997.
"Seven foot two Tom Payne played only one season before being imprisoned for eleven years on a rape conviction, and to this day there are Kentuckians who believe the Baron specifically picked out Payne as a pioneer so the coach could say, 'I told you so.' " - by Alexander Wolff and Armen Keteyian, Raw Recruits, Pocket Books, pg. 103.
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The Evidence Supporting Rupp
There have been a number of examples provided above to combat some of the accusations and criticisms directed against Rupp. Below are more examples of Rupp's actions with regard to race. The first few, I would appreciate if more details and references could be added. I'd like to express thanks to Dr. J(effrey) Neil Burch who was kind enough to dig up a number of these anecdotes for me (noted with a - JNB) along with others who have sent me information. A number of other references come from the archives of the Lexington Herald Leader Online Library, the NewsLibrary Search Engine, USA Today Archives and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Archives among others. Thanks - JPS
The long time manager of his farm was black. - JPS note, a reader commented to me that this is nothing more than saying this man was Rupp's farm hand. I tend to think that a manager of even a modest farm, much less a large operation, involves a high degree of responsibility, decision making latitude and supervisory roles. Rupp owned a number of farms including a 198 farm in Scott County, 240 acres in Harrison and when he died, a 500-acre farm in Bourbon County. The estimated worth of his land in the 1970's was approximately a quarter of a million dollars. Russell Rice describes the above facts and how when his farm manager died, Rupp did not have time to replace him very quickly and that led him to decide to spurn an offer from Duke University to coach the Blue Devils. (Russell Rice, Adolph Rupp As I Knew Him, Sagamore Publishers, 1994, pg. 202-203.)
Rupp coached black players on all-star teams. (by Rick Morrissey, Chicago Tribune, "New Faces Leads Kentucky These Days," November 30, 1997.)
Rupp supposedly sent a letter to the SEC in 1963 (or 1961) petitioning the league to allow him to sign black recruits. This led to criticism of him and death threats.
In the late 1920s, when Rupp coached high school basketball in Freeport, Ill. all three of his teams had a black player in a school with only six black students.- by David Perlmutt, Charlotte Observer "Rupp Family Wants His Honor In Tact," March 15, 1997.
JPS Note - While it is known that Rupp did coach at least one black player while at Freeport, it is not clear that he coached more than that. There were no other black players I saw on the other teams Rupp coached in the (incomplete) photocopies of yearbooks I received from the Freeport HS (basketball teams along with other sports). Supporting the claim that more than one was involved however was a photograph shown on the UK 100 Years DVD which shows a photograph from the Freeport years of a black player (a photograph which is different than the one shown later in this page) who may or may not be the same. Also, in an interview with Rupp (also reprinted later in this page) when asked about his coaching of black players, Rupp mentioned coaching black players (plural) while at Freeport.
1926-27 Freeport Illinois Basketball Team
Sitting: R. Dupree, J. Paul, R. Opel, R. Ruthe (Captain), T. Goetz, G. Ralston, H. Perry
Standing: Coach Zuelke, F. Bender, K. Fitchner, A. Steffen, W. Moseley, M. Goodrich, R. Criddle, K. Kerlin, Coach Rupp
"I never felt, at all, that negros should be barred. In fact, I had a negro on the first high school team that I ever coached when I was at Freeport Illinois. And he was a very capable athlete, he was on the first team, and all I ever thought that we needed was someone that could participate and do it the way that ... ah. it would meet with the approval of everybody that was a spectator. They liked it. And this boy could do it, and so we naturally played him." - Adolph Rupp, The Rupp Tape (Audiocassette), WHAS Productions, 1992.
|Newspaper Clipping from 1945|
Found in KSU archives
"Adolph used to hold clinics for black coaches in Lexington." - by David Perlmutt, Charlotte Observer "Rupp Family Wants His Honor In Tact," March 15, 1997.
"In 1938, Adolph Rupp brought his Kentucky Wildcats to KSU [black university Kentucky State University] for a basketball clinic. Among those attending was [former KSU graduate Newton] Thomas, who didn't know a thing about the game. But after the clinic and reading a couple of books, he decided to give coaching a try." - by Dick Burdette, Lexington Herald Leader, "Hall of Fame Inductees from Horse Cave Overcame Adversity on Way to Success," March 13, 1995.
JPS Note: Thomas went on to coach Horse Cave Colored School to a number of black state championships, along with coaching Clarence Wilson, who became captain of the Harlem Globetrotters in the 1950s.
The first black head coach of any major sport at a predominantly white university was Will Robinson at Illinois State in 1970. Robinson was helped during his career by Adolph Rupp, who held a coaching clinic which Robinson worked at Three Rivers Michigan in the late 1940s.
"Rupp was a great person to me," he said. "You hear certain things, and everybody has their likes and dislikes, but I really enjoyed him. He told good stories and jokes and he shared a lot of his coaching tips, which meant a lot to me since I was a young coach at that time." - by Chip Cosby, Lexington Herald Leader, "Pioneer Ways Robinson Blazed Trail for Black Hoops Coaches," July 18, 1997.
Alcorn State coaching legend Davey Whitney grew up in Midway Kentucky before attending Lexington's Dunbar High school and later Kentucky State before becoming a coach. "Legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp used to let Whitney and a friend watch the Cats practice in old Alumni Gym. At other times Whitney would sneak in to watch the Cats practice. 'That was back in the 1940s. We were half scared to death considering the circumstances back then, but I loved watching basketball,' said Whitney, who earned athletic letters at Kentucky State in basketball, track, baseball and football and was inducted into the school's hall of fame in 1979." - by Larry Vaught, Danville Advocate Messenger, "Whitney knows playing in rupp will be Special," January 3, 2003.
The two [Rupp and Lexington Dunbar coach Sanford T. Roach] met only once, when Rupp congratulated Roach for winning his five hundredth game. Later Rupp would open the UK gym for Dunbar to practice. "He did that out of the goodness of his heart," Roach admitted. "That allowed us to work out for the various tournament games that we played there." - by Russell Rice, Adolph Rupp, Kentucky's Basketball Baron pg 154.
JPS Note: Tucker would go on to become an All-American at Duquesne. After his senior season, he would participate in a 1954 exhibition game between the Kentucky and Indiana All-Stars alongside Kentucky greats Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey and Lou Tsioropoulos, Western Kentucky greats Tom Marshall, Jack Turner and Art Spoelstra among others on the Kentucky squad. This despite not playing collegiately in Kentucky. The coach of the Kentucky All-Star squad was Adolph Rupp. Later on Tucker would enter the NBA and team with Earl Lloyd to become the first African-American teammates to win an NBA championship, which they did as part of the Syracuse Nationals.
Julius Berry, an aide to Lexington's mayor, said Rupp helped him get a scholarship to Dayton. "We happened to be sitting in the same airport," Berry said. "He said to me that they'd love to have me but that colored boys couldn't play in the SEC. He sounded genuine when he said it. "When I chose Dayton, (coach Tom Blackburn) there said to me that Rupp had told him that if he didn't recruit me, he was crazy." - by Rick Morrissey, Chicago Tribune, "New Faces Leads Kentucky These Days," November 30, 1997.
Rupp spent much of his spare time reading Forbes magazine and Kipling, visiting the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children and handing out free passes to the Shriner's circus to inner-city children of all races. - by Robert Kaiser, Lexington Herald Leader, "Loyal to the Legend Coach Adolph Rupp's Family Strives to Return Luster to his Reputation Legacy Fades with Memories of Fans," March 13, 1993 pp. Page A1.
"My family and I went every summer to a black area of town called Pralltown. There, my grandfather would distribute Shrine Circus tickets to all the black children in the neighborhood." - by Carlyle Farren Rupp (granddaughter of Rupp), Lexington Herald Leader, January 23, 1992.
|This 50-bed satellite of Shriners Hospital was built in 1955 on Richmond Road in 1955. The Shriners was an institution set up to care for children up to 16 years old and was open to everyone regardless of race, color or creed. At the time, Adolph Rupp was one of the strongest advocates and fundraisers for the Shriners on a state and national level.|
The 1948 Olympics
In 1948, five starters from Rupp's Kentucky team, the Fabulous Five along with five starters from the AAU Phillip's Oilers were selected to represent the United States in the Olympic games in London. To that were added four other players from the college and AAU ranks. Among the four additional players were Don Barksdale, the first black to be named to a United States Olympic Basketball team. The selection process was decided on by the Olympic basketball committee, headed by Lou Wilke, before the qualifying tournament began. Originally, it was determined that seven players from the winning squad and seven players from the losing squad would represent the United States. However before the trials began, this was amended to take the top five players from each squad and then to name four at-large players from the rest of the field, two from the amateur ranks and the other two from the collegiate ranks.
It is not known how much if any say Browning and Rupp had in the selection of the at-large players, as the determination was designed beforehand to be in the hands of the basketball committee, which consisted of Chairman Lou Wilke, Vice-Chairman Eugene Lambert, Secretary Oswald Tower along with members Lew Andreas, J. Lyman Bingham, James Coogan, Willard Greim, Harry Henshel, Howard Hobson, Branch McCracken, Fred Maggiora, Norman Shepard and Albert Wheltle. Beyond that, the committee's selections were announced April 1, the day after the qualifying tournament was completed with the victory by the Oilers over the Wildcats. This left little time for the coaches to voice their opinion to a committee which had already been evaluating the entire field during the tournament.
Secretary Tower's comments, as found in Lou Wilke's report after the games were completed, stated "The work of the Committee was characterized by harmony and teamwork, and a desire for the selection of the best possible team to represent the United States and to raise more than its share of funds for the U.S.O.C. The general procedure establishes a pattern which can be followed with little modification in future Olympic years. Chairman Wilke's leadership was efficient, tactful, and in every way satisfactory." The idea of perfect harmony among the committee is disputed in Ron Thomas' book They Cleared the Lane: The NBA's Black Pioneers. Thomas claims that Oakland native Fred Maggiora had to lobby very hard to gain Barksdale an invitation.
Barksdale, who had been playing with the AAU's Oakland Bittners, was given an at-large berth from the independent bracket, but not without heavy lobbying by Fred Maggiora, a member of the Olympic Basketball Committee and a politician in Oakland, which was adjacent to Barksdale's hometown. About eight years later Maggiora told Barksdale that some committee members' responses to the idea of having a black Olympian was "Hell no, that will never happen." But Maggiora wouldn't let the committee bypass Barksdale.
"This guy fought, fought, and fought," Barksdale said, "and I think finally the coach of Phillips 66 [Omar Browning] had said, 'That son of a bitch is the best basketball player in the country outside of Bob Kurland, so I don't know how we can turn him down.' So they picked me, but Maggiora said he went through holy hell for it - closed-door meetings and begging."
The 6-foot-6 Barksdale had left college in 1947 (UCLA) but had not played professionally in the NBA (or BAA) due to an unwritten rule in the league against signing black players. Being the 1944 National AAU hop, skip and jump (triple jump) competition champion, he could have attempted to qualify for the US track team, however he chose to try out for the US basketball team, despite the fact that no black player had ever been named to the squad. Said Barksdale when questioned by a teammate why he chose that route, "You can't be a pro in hop, skip, and jump," he explained. "Watch it. When I make the team the rest of my life it will be 'ex-Olympic cager.'"
Barksdale was right in his assessment. He was interviewed about his experiences in the Olympics (among other things) in the early 80's, and was expressly asked about Rupp.
"[Rupp] turned out to be my closest friend," Barksdale said. "We went to London and won all 12 games and got the gold medal." But he had to brush off indignities just about every step of the way. . . Later, coach Rupp told Barksdale, "Son, I wish things weren't like that, but there's nothing you or I can do about it." Barksdale agreed. He lived by a very simple philosophy. He wasn't interested in protest; he was interested in playing basketball. He had faced prejudice before, and he knew that he would face it again. - by Charles Bricker, Knight-Ridder News Service, Philadelphia Inquirer, "Eventually, He Made it to the NBA," January 15, 1984.
Only three years later was the NBA ready to start signing black players. Walter Brown of the Celtics signed Chuck Cooper and was soon followed by Nat Clifton with the New York Knicks and Don Barksdale with the Baltimore Bullets. At the time, Barksdale was 29 years old and well past his prime. Despite that, he played four seasons (two with Baltimore, two with the Boston Celtics) in the NBA, being among the league's top scorers each year and becoming the first black player to make an NBA All-Star team.
Early Games Against Black Players
The first known occasion that the Kentucky Wildcats played against a black opponent was when they played against the rest of the 1948 Olympic team (which included Don Barksdale) in an exhibition to raise money for their trip to London. In a unique setting, they placed a basketball floor outside over the football stadium's Stoll Field and were able to draw 14,000 fans, far exceeding the capacity of Alumni Gymnasium. This was the largest crowd to see a basketball game in the state at the time.
Barksdale scored 13 points, 12 of which came in the second half as he led a 10-point comeback for the Oilers team, winning the game 56-50. There was a mention of the significance of the occasion.
"And Barksdale, incidentally, was the first Negro to play opposite a Kentucky athletic team in Lexington. He received a big ovation when he was introduced before the game and another one when he left after the tilt ended." - by Larry Boeck, Louisville Courier Journal, "Oilers, Behind 10 Points, Rally to Tip UK 56-50," July 10, 1948.
The first time Kentucky played an official game against a team with a black player was against CCNY March 14, 1950 in the NIT Tournament. Ed Warner scored 26 points to help CCNY crush Kentucky 89-50. (Floyd Lane also saw action in the game.) Later, during the 1950-51 season, Kentucky played against St. Johns and Solly Walker twice, winning the first contest in New York and the second 59-43 on the way to their third national championship.
The first black to play in Memorial Coliseum in Lexington was Solly Walker of St John's on Dec 17, 1951. UK won 81-40, but lost to the Redmen in the NCAAs 64-57 later that season. - by Russell Rice, Big Blue Machine, Strode Publishers, 1976.- JNB
Frank McGuire phoned Rupp, questioning whether the player would be safe in Memorial Coliseum. Rupp declared that any fan causing trouble would be ejected and denied future admission. - by John McGill, Lexington Herald Leader, "Kentucky a Leader in Integrating SEC Sports," March 31, 1990, pp. D14.
Earl Cox has a story. He used to be my boss as sports editor of the Courier-Journal. He knew Rupp long before I did, both as a student at UK and as a reporter at the Herald-Leader.
"When Frank McGuire brought his St. John's team to Lexington in the early '50s, he had a black player named Solly Walker. Walker would be the first black ever to play in Memorial Coliseum. And Adolph called Ed Ashford at the Herald office. I was there at the time. Adolph got Ed to write a column asking people to be tolerant and hospitable to Solly Walker. I can still see Ed typing the story with two fingers. and the St. John's game went just fine." - by Dave Kindred, Lexington Herald Leader, "Calling Rupp a Racist Just Doesn't Ring True," December 22, 1991, pp. F2.
"The Kentucky fans were wild for their team," McGuire said, "but they treated us with great respect." - Frank McGuire, commenting on the St. John's-UK game, the first time a black player competed against a state university in the South. - by John McGill, Lexington Herald Leader, "Kentucky a Leader in Integrating SEC Sports," March 31, 1990, pp. D14.
Frank McGuire does go into some more detail about the game in his biography Frank McGuire, The Life and Times of a Basketball Legend by Don Barton and Don Fulton, Summerhouse Press, 1995. The book tries to gently push the idea that Rupp was racist by mentioning a conversation between the Baron and McGuire the summer leading up to the game with Rupp saying, "Now Frank you know you can't bring that boy here." and "We don't try to change the way you say Mass in church, and you shouldn't come down here and try to change our ways either." The book is suggestive that this was a sign of prejudice on the part of Rupp. The book goes on to then admit that in the end Rupp went forward with the match despite offers from McGuire to cancel it. Similarly, the book claims that Rupp mentioned when the St. Johns team arrived that it might be best for McGuire to stay with Walker in the "freight yard" part of town. When McGuire stated his desire to keep the team together, Rupp agreed. Again, the book uses this to make its case against Rupp. It neglects an alternate idea that perhaps Rupp was simply, in his own clumsy and yes ignorant way, trying to avoid any perceived trouble for Walker and the rest of the St. John's team. The book then goes on to admit that Walker encountered no other off-the-court troubles during his stay in Lexington. It should also be noted that if McGuire believed there would be problems upon entering Lexington, he didn't seem to show it as the team arrived at the Lafayette hotel on the night of December 16 without McGuire, who was attending to business in Washington (per the Lexington Herald, December 17 1951).
While Mike Douchant completely overstated the effects of the rough play (Douchant claimed Walker was sidelined for three weeks when in actuality he played most of the game and started the next game), there is some evidence that the play was indeed rough.
The game started, and on the tip-off two Kentucky players sandwiched Solly and just about killed him. No foul ! but he managed to play the entire game, which we lost by about forty points ! Walker recalled that Kentucky was a great team with outstanding personnel, including Cliff Hagan, Bill Spivey and Frank Ramsey. "They were very aggressive -- played hard but there was no taunting or any bad comments. They gave a lot but they could also take it." Walker remembered. "In that game I hit a couple of shots and then I went to the middle and ended up in about the fifteenth row !" - Frank McGuire, The Life and Times of a Basketball Legend, by Don Barton and Don Fulton, Summerhouse Press, 1995.
After the game, Lexington Herald Sports Editor Ed Ashford wrote:
"I was proud of the crowd's reaction to the appearance of St. John's Solly Walker, the first Negro to play in Memorial Coliseum. Walker was treated as any other St. John's player - in fact, he got a bigger ovation than any other visitor. New York papers were watching this game with interest but if they expected anything untoward to arise out of the playing of Walker, they were disappointed. Gotham scribes had been predicting trouble and New York papers requested Bill Hudson of the Lexington Associated Press Bureau to file a 250-word story on the crowd's reaction. Hudson reported that Walker was subjected to no embarrassment here, not only while in the game but during his entire visit in Lexington with the St. John's team." - by Ed Ashford, Lexington Herald, December 19, 1951.
The New York Times had this to say after the game.
"The crowd treated Walker, the first Negro to play in the Coliseum, like any other player and he got a big hand when he went out for a rest in the second period." - New York Times, "Kentucky Routs St. John's in Lexington," December 18, 1951.
The Times also had an interesting comment in the pre-game article. Unless they are referring to the Olympic exhibition held in Lexington which included Don Barksdale, I'm not certain what the Times is referring to.
"The other starters are Jim Davis and Solly Walker, sophomores. Walker will be the first Negro to perform in Kentucky's Memorial Coliseum, but not the first to play on the Kentucky campus." - Associated Press, New York Times, "Kentucky, With Spivey Still Unable to Play, Faces St. John's Five at Lexington Tonight," December 17, 1951.
The appearance of a black player in the person of Solly Walker was quickly followed up nine days later when John Wooden brought his UCLA team to Memorial Coliseum where he played John Moore and Bobby Pounds. The Bruins lost the game 84-53.
Scheduling Integrated Teams
As mentioned numerous times on this page, Rupp was one of the first coaches in the nation to take his team out of its natural region on a regular basis to play against teams from all over the country. In today's world of airlines and national television, it may not seem like such a great leap forward to those who choose not to think about it, but it was a great step forward for Rupp to do this, where he played against the best competition, whether integrated or not. If he was a racist, he could just have as easily not scheduled these opponents, just as most of his contemporaries at other southern schools did at the time.
"[But] once Southern schools adjusted to the fact that Northern teams might include African-Americans, they sought to dodge such encounters through careful scheduling," wrote historian [Charles] Martin. "This technique usually proved successful but at the cost of avoiding intersectional play." - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 56-57.
This avoidance of playing integrated teams by his contemporaries even extended into postseason play.
"Kentucky's overwhelming success in SEC basketball - the Wildcats won either the conference's regular-season or tournament championship in fifteen of the NCAA tournament's first twenty years - had prevented race from becoming an issue in postseason basketball. The SEC's Deep South schools, who would have objected to integrated NCAA or NIT games, generally weren't good enough to confront that possibility." - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 48.
UK replaced Mississippi State twice (in 1959 and 1961) and Alabama once (in 1956) in the NCAA Tournament when their state legislatures would not approve their appearances, since they might have to play teams with black athletes. Rupp didn't mind playing the best teams, no matter what their racial composition. - by Russell Rice, Big Blue Machine, Strode Publishers, 1976.- JNB
JPS Note: - Alabama's decline of the NCAA bid in 1956 was at least partially, if not fully due to an eligibility issue regarding some of the 'Rocket 8' players participating on the varsity as freshmen in 1953. Mississippi State also declined a bid in 1962, although Kentucky was not in line to replace them.
Attitudes during the Fifties and early Sixties
Once when Temple came to Lexington, his son said, Rupp got a call from Temple officials complaining their black player was banned from the dining room. "He could only eat in the kitchen," Herky Rupp said. Rupp was irate. He stormed into the hotel and confronted the manager. That night, the player ate with the rest of the team. - by David Perlmutt, Charlotte Observer "Rupp Family Wants His Honor In Tact," March 15, 1997.
Rupp made a point of approaching the Grant High School star [Tom Thacker] after a 1959 all-star game at Memorial Coliseum. "I remember Rupp came out on the floor congratulating me on how high I could jump to be 6-2," recalled Thacker, who went on to play for two national champions at Cincinnati and make a few All-American teams. "He was saying, 'I wish we could take you at Kentucky, but we go down South and I don't think they'd like that,' Sure, I would have loved to go to Kentucky because I was a basketball player. It fascinated me. But the attitude was, we knew it wasn't highly possible. Everybody had that attitude about UK being racist. UK was South. It was a Southern school." - by Lonnie Wheeler, Blue Yonder, Orange Frazer Press, 1998, pg. 50-51.
When asked about a upset win over Kentucky and Rupp in the NCAA Tournament in 1957, Michigan State All-American Johnny Green said. "You just didn't beat Kentucky at Kentucky. Adolph Rupp's teams were dominant there. But long before they had any black players, he came up to me at a function and said, 'Gee, I wish I had you on my team.'" - A Century of Spartan Basketball, Sleeping Bear Press, 1998, pg. 16.
After Rupp hired Ron Murray as a trainer for the UK basketball squad in the late 1950's, he learned that Murray had been the trainer for the minor league baseball team, the Knoxville Smokies.
Despite the above supportive acts that Rupp was involved in, the rest of the SEC was in no mood for any type of integration.
"Several Deep South states, including Mississippi, responded to the possibility [of integration] with laws prohibiting, or aimed at prohibiting, interracial athletic competition. 'When negroes and whites meet on the athletic fields on a basis of complete equality, it is only natural that this sense of equality carries into the daily living of these people,' warned Georgia State Senator Leon Butts in 1957 after submitting a bill to ban such activities." - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 45.
John McGill reinforces the idea that the decision to sign blacks was a major milestone.
Tom Payne was not signed until 1970, but it was generally agreed that it would have been unwise, even dangerous, to have taken a basketball player into most of the SEC cities before then. In 1963, a prominent coach gave me this quote: "If and when the SEC requires participation against blacks, some member schools will withdraw and form a rebel conference. I hope this does not happen, but I do not think that the schools in Mississipi will ever accept the idea." - by John McGill, Lexington Herald Leader, "Kentucky a Leader in Integrating SEC Sports," March 31, 1990, Pg D14.
In a chapter on Louisville Coach John Dromo, he mentions an encounter with Rupp.
"Whenever a coaching job came open in the Southeastern Conference [Rupp] would recommend me," said Dromo. "He wanted to get me out of the state because we were recruiting some of the boys he wanted. I really like Adolph and his assistant, Harry Lancaster. We had some great times together. I'll never forget seeing Mr. Rupp at a clinic one year near the end of his career. His teams had gone down some and John Wooden was stealing his thunder, winning the NCAA almost every year. Mr. Rupp said, 'John, where did I go wrong ?' 'Coach,' I said, 'you made a mistake by not recruiting some black kids. You thought it was a fad that would pass, but you were wrong.' Dromo said Rupp had tears in his eyes. He just looked at me and said, 'John, if we had recruited blacks they would have burned a cross in my front yard.' It was sad." - interview with John Dromo by Gary Tuell, "Above the Rim: The History of Basketball at the University of Louisville, " University of Louisville Athletic Association, 1988, pp. 21-22.
Testing the Waters
As the fifties came to a close, it became a legitimate question of when the University of Kentucky would integrate its basketball team. Rupp did start dropping small hints that he would like to recruit black players but his did not go far enough to satisfy those looking to him to take the first step.
"In fact, a national magazine article on Oscar Robertson sparked criticism of Rupp in Lexington when it mentioned that the coach had considered recruiting the black star. The coach felt obligated to deny the report publicly. 'How absurd can you get,' he sniffed." - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 103)
Adolph Rupp was once asked if he would have liked to have had Wilt Chamberlain, the Philadelphia sensation who played for Kansas in the late 1950s. "Sure," Rupp said, "but could I take him to Atlanta and New Orleans or Starkville ?" - by Chip Alexander, Raleigh News and Observer, "Remembering Rupp," 1997.
Rupp announced in 1961 [JNB note - 5 years before the game against UTEP] that he would sign and play black athletes. SEC schools which did not want to play UK would have to forfeit the games. When he learned that Mississippi State Coach Babe McCarthy secretly snuck his team out of the state in order to attend the NCAA Tournament, against state regulations, Rupp said, "That took some nerve on his part. Maybe that will wise those people up down there." - Adolph Rupp, Kentucky's Basketball Baron, - JNB"We met with the full board of the SEC, at one of the annual meetings, and indicated that we would like to integrate the basketball team. When the other teams notified us that they would not play the University if we had any members of the black race, we had to hold off for a little while on it." - Frank Dickey (former University of Kentucky president), "Glory in Black and White," CBS, April 2002.
Georgia Tech, Tulane Ease Racial Ban - Mississippi State Qualifies Reply
LOUISVILLE, April 12 (AP) - Officials of two Southeastern Conference schools said today, in replies to questionnaires, that their athletic teams would be permitted to play against Negroes at home or away.
Mississippi State, also a conference member, said it would not play against Negroes at home. It had no comment whether it would play against integrated teams on the road, although the Maroons' basketball team broke tradition this year and met integrated Loyola of Chicago in the National Collegiate tournament.
Separate questionnaires were sent to all conference schools by the University of Kentucky, which is considering integration in athletics, and by the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Georgia Tech and Tulane said they would play against integrated teams at home or away and would continue to schedule Kentucky if it desegregated athletically. Negroes have attended Kentucky for several years.
Direct Answer Avoided
Chancellor Alexander Heard of Vanderbilt would not answer the questions directly but said:
"It is public knowledge that in recent years Vanderbilt has played against integrated teams."
Howell Hollis, the acting athletic director at Georgia, said the questionnaires were referred to A.C. Aderholt, the university president, who was out of town. However, the State Board of Regents governs both Georgia and Georgia Tech, and Georgia's reply is expected to be the same as Tech's.
Dr. Wayne Reitz, the president of the University of Florida, said, "It is impossible to comment on speculation about possible changes in policy." However, Florida played an integrated Penn State team in the Gator Bowl last season, winning 17-7.
Officials at Louisiana State and Tennessee declined comment. No answers were received from Alabama, Auburn or Mississippi.
Kentucky's questionnaire, which Athletic Director Bernie Shively said he ordered, asked:
1. Does your school play racially integrated schools on your campus ? and
The Courier-Journal's questionnaire asked:
1. Would your school have objections to playing against integrated Kentucky teams at Lexington ?
One Question Unanswered
Mississippi State had no comment on the newspaper's hird question. The school's basketball team was eligible for N.C.A.A. tournament play three times before this year as the confernece champion but was kept home.
This year, Dr. D.W. Colvard, the Mississippi State president, and the State Board of Atheltics allowed the Maroons to compete against Loyola, which started four Negroes, despite opposition from Gov. Ross Barnett and other state officials. Loyola beat Mississippi State and went on to win the N.C.A.A. championship.
Negroes have competed in all major football bowls in the South, although the Sugar Bowl at New Orleans is now segregated. There is no Southeastern Conference rule against integrated athletics.
The issue of athletic integration at Kentucky came up after an editorial in the Kentucky Kernal, the student newspaper, advocated a change. The university's athletic board has been directed by the board of trustees to study the matter and has scheduled a meeting for April 29.
(The New York Times, April 13, 1963.)
LEXINGTON, Ky., April 29 (UPI) - Directors of the University of Kentucky Athletics Association today issued a formal statement saying they favored integration of athletics, but within the framework of the school's Southeastern Conference membership and obligations.
Kentucky has had Negro students since 1954, in relatively small numbers, but none ever has competed in athletics.
The statement issued by the board, after a meeting of more than three hours, contained these points:
* The board favors equal opportunity for all students to take part in University of Kentucky athletics as a matter of principle and policy.
* The board believes that the university, in implementing this policy, should make every effort possible to preserve its membership in the Southeastern Conference
* The board believes integration of University of Kentucky teams can and should occur at the earliest possible time, taking into account her conference obligations.
No interpretation was offered of such phrases as "every effort possible to preserve its membership in the Southeastern Conference," or "integration .. should occur at the earliest possible time, taking into account her conference obligations."
The director of athletics, Bernie Shively, in recent weeks has been surveying the other 11 conference members to determine what attitude they would make toward integrated Kentucky teams. Results of this survey have not been disclosed.
Several conference schools, including Georgia Tech, indicated publicly, however, they would not object to playing against Negro athletes. Others, including Mississippi and Mississippi State, were regarded as certin to have objections.
(The New York Times, April 30, 1963.)
ACTION FOLLOWS POLL OF LEAGUE
Georgia Tech and Tulane of Southeastern Conference Offer No Opposition
LEXINGTON, Ky., May 29 (AP) - The University of Kentucky today became the first school in the Southeastern Conference to open its athletic program to all races.
The school's athletic board saids its athletic teams immediately "will be open to any student, regardless of race."
Kentucky's student body has been integrated for a number of years, but no Negro ever has played on a S.E.C. team.
Bernie Shively, Kentucky's athletic director said "that any student enrolled in school who wants to come out for an athletic team can come out."
Kentucky's athletic scholarships already are committed, and it cannot recruit again under S.E.C. rules at least until next December.
The board's announcement came after a three-hour meeting at which Dr. Frank G. Dickey, the university president, reported on his discussions with presidents of other conference schools.
Last month, the board asked Dickey to poll other conference schools about integration of athletics.
One board member said the announcement amount to "no change in university policy."
It is our feeling that the Supreme court decision called for integration of all facilities and ours have been open, in effect, all the time."
School Paper's Stand
The question of integrated athletics was raised two months ago by The Kernal, Kentucky's student newspaper, which called on the university to desegregate its athletic teams, even if it meant withdrawing from the conference.
The other conference schools are Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi, Louisiana State, Tulane, Florida, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, Alabama and Auburn.
In questionnaires sent out last month by Kentucky and a Louisville newspaper, officials of Georgia Tech and Tulane said they would play against integrated teams at home or away.
Mississippi State said would not play against Negroes on the Mississippi campus and had no comment about road games.
Kentucky officials indicated they had received replies from other schools but declined to give their contents.
(The New York Times, May 30, 1963.)
"One of the oddest incidents concerning Rupp and integration occurred early in 1961 when he told the Atlanta Journal that the two best black high school players in Kentucky would be joining his team the following year. The stunning comment shook the segregated SEC. Rupp, who once claimed he'd "say anything for a column," at first denied making it, then said he merely had been testing the waters." - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 133.
In the fall of 1963, an Associated Press article (published in the Lexington Herald) mentioned that Rupp was looking at recent events in the Southwest Conference as further support for recruiting black players. While he was evasive and seemed to backtrack when asked about particulars, he obviously didn't have to say anything about promoting the signing of black players if he was against it as his critics claim. It's also noteworthy that this article was an Associated Press, not just a local Lexington story. So the story could potentially have been picked up nationwide, certainly where other schools in the South could see it.
By Kelso Sturgeon
The decision of several Southwest Conference schools to integrate their athletic programs will make it much easier for Kentucky to begin recruiting Negro athletes, basketball coach Adolph Rupp said yesterday.
Kentucky announced last May that it was opening its athletic teams to persons of all races but has taken a wait-and-see attitude to determine the reaction of other Southeastern Conference schools.
Kentucky is one of the strongest members of the SEC, which is rigidly segregated. The conference includes such Deep South schools as Alabama, Auburn, Louisiana State, Mississippi and Mississippi State.
Rupp said the decision by Texas, Baylor, Southern Methodist and Houston, an independent, could pave the way for Kentucky to recruit its first Negro athletes in the near future.
"We'll just watch the things in Texas and see if they really follow through with this," Rupp said in an exclusive interview.
Rupp, who built Kentucky into one of the nation's basketball powers, explained that he felt there is strength in numbers, regardless of how few.
It's Rupp's belief that the southwest schools' decisions will lead other members of that conference to follow suit.
He feels that because of the strong athletic ties between the two conferences that the few schools which have staunchly segregated athletic programs will have to give in -- possibly not to play Negroes, but to compete regularly against schools which do.
Rupp's admission that he is interested in recruiting Negroes comes as somewhat of a surprise to many of his closest observers. Basically it's a matter of Rupp getting tired of seeing the state's fine crop of Negro basketball players go out of state and lead some other college to a championship.
"If we can't win with these white boys, then we're going after the Negro athletes," Rupp said. "It's just as simple as that. We want somebody who can get the job done."
When asked if he had any specific Negro athletes in mind, Rupp gave an evasive, "How do I know whether I'm interested in any right now. I don't know whether I could use them if I got them."
When a reporter asked about the possibility of Westley Unseld, a 6-foot-7 (1/2) inch Negro basketball star at Louisville Seneca, being the first of his race to play at Kentucky and in the SEC, Rupp said, "I told you I don't know."
But the Baron left the impression that Unseld, brother of George Unseld, presently starring at Kansas University, would be a good place to start.
Unseld, who was instrumental in leading Seneca to the Kentucky State High School Championship last year, is one of the finest cagers the basketball-strong state has produced in some time.
JPS Note: A photocopy of this article was sent to me out of a scrapbook. Unfortunately the actual date is not provided, however it should be sometime before Kentucky's first game of the 1963-64 season which was November 30, 1963 versus Virginia. If anyone can verify the exact date, I'd appreciate it.
In an article published in Sports Illustrated in early 1964 (The Urbane Baron Concocts Another Surprise, February 17, 1964) Rupp was asked about the signing of black players. He was critical of other Southern schools, and is described them as "silly people" who "hide behind segregation." The article also confirms that Rupp was looking to set a precedent by signing a black athlete to a scholarship.
Attempts at signing Players
Kentucky was the first team in the SEC to sign black track and football players. Vanderbilt quickly followed suit, as did Florida and Tennessee later. UK attempted to sign Wes Unseld as its 1st black basketball player, but he committed to Louisville, saying, "There was much pressure brought to bear from the black community to do it [JNB note - sign with UK], but there was also pressure brought from many other people that I better not do it." Butch Beard also signed with UK, but he had earlier signed with Louisville and was held to his earliest commitment. - Adolph Rupp, Kentucky's Basketball Baron.- JNB
"He (Coach Rupp) made more trips to visit Wesley Unseld, and tried to convince him to come to the University of Kentucky, than he had any ballplayer prior to that time." - Herky Rupp, "Glory in Black and White," CBS, April 2002.
Former UK sports information director Russell Rice said Rupp was concerned about taking black players on the road in the SEC. He worried that he wouldn't be able to find a place where they would be allowed to eat or sleep. - by Robert Kaiser, Lexington Herald Leader, "Loyal to the Legend Coach Adolph Rupp's Family Strives to Return Luster to his Reputation Legacy Fades with Memories of Fans," March 13, 1993 pp. Page A1.
"I've had them [black recruits] tell me, not once, not twice, but many times that they did not want to be the first to go into Mississippi and play basketball, and be right there confined in a small area, because at that time, at Mississippi State we were having plenty of trouble, and we were all white." - Adolph Rupp, The Rupp Tape (Audiocassette), WHAS Productions, 1992.
"I discussed it [integration] with him on a number of occasions. Always, his major concern was, what would we done in the South if we had black players ? It was a legitimate concern at the time. You look at the Deep South states, would have been an issue. It was more of an issue of his time and the league he played in." - C.M. Newton by Paul McMullen, Baltimore Sun, "History in Black, White -- and Gray," December 10, 1999.
"Rupp tried to sign Sarasota Booker star, Howard Porter the next [1966-67] season. Porter also chose not to become Kentucky's first black player. He became an All-America player at Villanova." - by Mike Mersch, Bradenton Herald, "With Luck, Rupp Would Have Been a Pioneer," March 16, 1997.
Rice said Rupp told him in 1967 that Felix Thruston of Owensboro was coming to Kentucky. But Rupp warned Rice "not to let the word out in case something happened" to change Thruston's mind". Something did happen, although Rice is not sure what. "He signed but ended up going out west. I don't know what happened to him." - by Robert Kaiser, Lexington Herald Leader, "Loyal to the Legend Coach Adolph Rupp's Family Strives to Return Luster to his Reputation Legacy Fades with Memories of Fans," March 13, 1993 pp. Page A1.
"We signed a boy [Thruston] from Owensboro Kentucky, and this boy agreed to come here but before ... ah... we ... as soon as they found out that we had signed him, a school from out of state came and got him. Took him out of the state and didn't bring him back into the state until after he had been at that school and enrolled in school and attended classes. So it was impossible to for us to get him to come here to the University, but that's exactly what happened." - Adolph Rupp, The Rupp Tape (Audiocassette), WHAS Productions, 1992.
"We had another boy [Jim Rose] that wanted to come here from Hazard Kentucky. I do know that he made a trip to Texas to visit a school, he came back to Louisville on a plane and called for the mayor of Hazard to come and get him. The mayor of Hazard went down there and got him, brought him into my office, he sat in here and agreed to come to the University of Kentucky. The mayor was the happiest man that you've ever seen. The next morning, the mayor called me and was beside himself, the boy had signed to go to Western Kentucky. Now tell me that I didn't make an effort to get these boys, we did. We made every effort that we could." - Adolph Rupp, The Rupp Tape (Audiocassette), WHAS Productions, 1992.
"Rupp also tried to recruit Wes Unseld and Ron Thomas of Louisville and Jim McDaniels of Allen County, but all declined to become the traditionally white university's first black player." - by Merlene Davis, Lexington Herald Leader, "Herky Rupp is Still Attracted to the Game His Father Loved," March 29, 1985.
When describing the events surrounding the post-season banquet after the Texas Western game where Lexington sports editor Billy Thompson made his unfortunate remark (mentiond previous on this page), Russell Rice mentioned "People applauded but not the administration, not Dr. Oswald, he was at the head table. And Rupp said to me later, 'By Gawd why'd he have to say that. I'm trying to recruit these boys.'" - Russell Rice, "Glory in Black and White," CBS, April 2002.
|Joe Hall with Regis star Cozel Walker|
"I recruited black players every year I was at Kentucky," said (UK coach Joe) Hall, who joined Rupp's staff in 1965. "The coaches were trying before I came here. We had failed on three of their (Western Kentucky's) players. Timing was the big thing. Something people don't realize is that most of our schedule was in the South, and that impeded our progress in recruiting black players. It was no lack of effort on our part. More than anything, the South eventually became ready for the black athlete. But it was a very gradual thing." - by Rick Bailey, Lexington Herald Leader, "Thrashing of UK in '71 was Top of the Hill," December 20, 1990.
"The racist tag on Coach Rupp is unfair," said Joe B. Hall, who came on board as an assistant in 1965 and succeeded Rupp in 1972. "I don't know what transpired in the past with him [Rupp], but when I got there in '65, we wanted to recruit black players." - by Paul McMullen, Baltimore Sun, "History in Black, White -- and Gray," December 10, 1999.
Exhibition Games with Black Players
Rupp throughout his career held many clinics and coached all-star exhibitions often. He travelled to Europe and the Far East and truly was an international ambassador of basketball. After World War II, one of his roles was to hold basketball exhibitions and clinics with the occupying troops in the newly-liberated Europe. There are likely many instances and opportunities for Rupp to have coached, worked with, competed against and instructed people of all colors. However because these were unofficial and do not show up in the record books, locating this type of information is difficult to find if not impossible.
As mentioned previously, it has been verified that Adolph Rupp coached Jim Tucker of Duquesne in a 1954 exhibition between the state of Kentucky and the state of Indiana collegiate all-stars. This despite Tucker not playing collegiately in the state of Kentucky, a technicality which could easily have been used if one was intent on preventing blacks from participating. Rupp also coached Jim McDaniels and other black stars in at least one exhibition game held between the state of Kentucky and the state of Tennessee collegiate all-stars. That game was in March of 1971.
It is also known that Rupp coached in the 1967 Kentucky-Indiana collegiate all-star series. In those games (one held in Louisville on April 8th and the other in Indianapolis April 15th), Rupp coached black players in Western Kentucky's Dwight Smith, Kentucky Wesleyan's Sam Smith and the University of Louisville's Dave Gilbert. Western's Clem Haskins was also named to the team but could not compete due to an injury.
|1967 KY-IN All-Star Roster|
Rupp coached the East squad in the 1973 NABC East-West All-Star game, which was played on March 31 in Dayton (OH). On that team were black players Mike Bantom (St. Joseph's), Jim Brewer (Minnesota), Dwight (Bo) Lamar (Southwest Louisiana) and Kermit Washington (American) among others.
Although Rupp didn't coach the game , it is noteworthy that the 1966 NABC All-Star game was held at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington on March 26th, just a week after the National title game between UK and Texas Western was held. In that game were black stars Jerry Chambers (Utah), Dave Bing (Syracuse) and MVP Cazzie Russell (Michigan) among others. Kentucky seniors Larry Conley and Tommy Kron were also on the team. In fact, the NABC All-Star game was held in Lexington from 1963 until 1967, a time period when other campuses and gymnasiums still remained unintegrated. Below are lists of players who participated in the NABC event in Lexington during those years, many of whom were black stars of the day.
|1963||Harold Anderson (East)|
Cliff Wells (West)
|Willie Brown (Texas Western), Bruce Burton (Brigham Young), Ken Charlton (Colorado), Dave Downey (Illinois), Nolen Ellison (Kansas), Bill Green (Colorado State, Lyle Harger (Houston), Jerry Harkness (Loyola-Chicago), Art Heyman (Duke), Gary Hill (Oklahoma City), Layton Johns (Auburn), Jim King (Tulsa), Gordon Martin (Southern Cal), Jimmy Rayl (Indiana), Ken Siebel (Wisconsin), Dave Siegmund (Southern Methodist), W.D. Stroud (Mississippi State), Tom Thacker (Cincinnati), Rod Thorn (West Virginia), Nate Thurmond (Bowling Green)|
|1964||Jack Gardner (East)|
Slats Gill (West)
|Jim Barnes (Texas Western), Ron Bonham (Cincinnati), Bill Bradley (Princeton), Ray Bob Carey (Missouri), Mel Counts (Oregon State), Barry Cramer (NYU), Waynes Estes (Utah State), Fred Hetzel (Davidson), Wally Jones (Villanova), Bud Koper (Oklahoma City), Bennie Lenox (Texas A & M), Doug Moon (Utah), Jeff Mullins (Duke), Willie Murrell (Kansas State), Cotton Nash (Kentucky), Cazzie Russell (Michigan), Dave Stallworth (Wichita State), John Thompson (Providence)|
|1965||Joe Lapchick (East)|
Doggie Julian (West)
|Rick Barry (Miami, Fl), Bill Buntin (Michigan), Billy Cunningham (North Carolina), A.W. Davis (Tennessee), Harold Denny (Texas Tech), Keith Erickson (UCLA), John Fairchild (Brigham Young), Gail Goodrich (UCLA), Fred Hetzel (Davidson), Jim Jarvis (Oregon State), Ollie Johnson (San Francisco), Tony Kimball (Connecticut), Jim King (Oklahoma State), Ken McIntyre (St. Johns), Ron Reed (Notre Dame), Flynn Robinson (Wyoming), Jerry Sloan (Evansville), Dave Stallworth (Wichita State), Tom Van Arsdale (Indiana)|
|1966||Taps Gallagher (East)|
Forrest Twogood (West)
|Jim Barnett (Oregon), John Beasley (Texas A & M), Dave Bing (Syracuse), John Block (Southern Cal), Jerry Chambers (Utah), Larry Conley (Kentucky), Joe Ellis (San Francisco), Henry Finkel (Dayton), Carroll Hooser (Southern Methodist), Tommy Kron (Kentucky), John "Dub" Malasise (Texas Tech), Bob McIntyre (St. Johns), Bill Melchionni (Villanova), Dick Nemelka (Brigham Young), Cazzie Russell (Michigan), Dave Schellhase (Purdue), Dick Snyder (Davidson), Steve Vacendak (Duke), Walt Wesley (Kansas), Lonnie Wright (Colorado State)|
|1967||Ben Carnevale (East)
Everett Shelton (West)
|Charles Beasley (Southern Methodist), Jim Burns (Northwestern), Ron Coleman (Missouri), Louie Dampier (Kentucky), Mel Daniels (New Mexico), Sonny Dove (St. Johns), Mike Gervasoni (Santa Clara), Gary Gray (Oklahoma City), Gary Keller (Florida), Bob Lewis (North Carolina), Bob Lloyd (Rutgers), Craig Raymond (Brigham Young), Pat Riley (Kentucky), Keith Swagerty (Pacific), Jamie Thompson (Wichita State), Bob Verga (Duke), Ron Widby (Tennessee), Tom Workman (Seattle)|
JPS Note: Generally discovery of this type of information is by pure chance since exhibition dates and results are generally not well recorded. If anyone has any type of information such as this, I'd greatly appreciate if you let me know.
Darryl Bishop came to Kentucky in 1969 on a football scholarship. He played on the freshman basketball team where he started and on many occassions scored over 20 points a game. This technically makes him the first black Kentucky basketball player. His priority at UK was football although he was still interested in basketball.
Bishop says he has fun playing basketball: he calls it "more of a thrill" than football. And he's grateful for the reception he has received from coaches Rupp and Hall, and the freshman team. "The coaches have been real nice and coach Hall is always helping me," he says. "I really feel at home out here. The players have been helping me get the plays down." - by Tev Laudeman, Louisville Courier Journal, "Ex-Seneca Star Could realize Double Stardom," December 14, 1969.
Despite the emphasis on football, Bishop wanted to keep his options open.
"I don't even know if I will be out for basketball next season," he says. "It depends on how I do this year. Really, I just came here for football. I didn't know if I could play college basketball. I'm just trying to see how I make out." - by Tev Laudeman, Louisville Courier Journal, "Ex-Seneca Star Could realize Double Stardom," December 14, 1969.
Bishop was not able to return to play on the varsity until later in his career when he played briefly on Rupp's last squad. On the gridiron, he was named first-team All-SEC in 1973 as a defensive back and holds the UK career record for interceptions (14), three of which were returned for touchdowns.
Rupp signed his first black player on June 9, 1969, when 7' center Tom Payne of Shawnee High School in Louisville agreed to play for UK. Payne played 2 seasons at Kentucky (JPS Note - actually, his first was with a local AAU team while still attending UK), then made himself available for the hardship NBA draft and was taken by the Atlanta Hawks. - by Russell Rice, Big Blue Machine, Strode Publishers, 1976.- JNB
Tom Payne signs with Kentucky
Russell Rice describes the day that Payne was signed.
We arrived early at the home of retired Army Sergeant and Mrs. Thomas R. Payne Sr. Rupp told [Joe B.] Hall to drive around the block - he didn't want to seem overeager. Ten seconds before the appointed time, we knocked on the door. Members of the media were waiting, along with Mr. and Mrs. Payne, who were gracious hosts. Their son was shy, and Rupp glowed. ... Mr. Payne wanted the best for his son, and he was convinced that it didn't get any better than Rupp. While everybody else beamed, Tom showed no emotion. Over a pot of his mothers coffee, we sealed the bargain. "Yes sir, Tom is farther along than Bill Spivey was," Rupp said. "He will fit into our plans perfectly." - by Russell Rice, Adolph Rupp As I Knew Him, Sagamore Publishers, 1994, pg. 194.
As mentioned previously, Payne did not have the necessary entering test scores and could neither practice nor play on the freshman team. In fact, Kentucky could not offer a scholarship to him that year because of this. To Payne's credit, he enrolled anyway and paid his own way that first year, while at the same time getting the grades to gain eligibility the next season.
Coach Adolph Rupp has been getting good reports on Payne. "Wait until his grades come out and they'll shock some people," said Rupp. "We have a tutor with him and he's working hard. He's a fine boy." - by Dean Eagle, Louisville Courier-Journal, "AAU Basketball Toughens Payne for UK Varsity Role," December 21, 1969.
The question of how Payne felt about his situation that first year was posed to him by Dave Kindred.
"Yeh, they've [opposing coaches] been calling me, asking if I'm happy, if I'm sure I want to be the first Negro at Kentucky," Payne said. "I tell them all the same thing. Yes." - by Dave Kindred, Louisville Courier Journal, "UK Freshman Payne is Bigger, Better and Happier Than Ever," December 28, 1969.
As his sophomore season began, the New York Times ran an article marking the occasion.
By George Vecsey
LEXINGTON, Ky., Dec. 5 - When Tom Payne strides onto the basketball court, he attracts enough attention just by being 7 feet 2 inches tall.
However, millions of University of Kentucky fans are probably just as aware that the tall sophomore is the first black man ever to play varsity basketball for Kentucky.
The young man from Louisville wanted to play at Kentucky so badly that he paid his own way as a freshman, something very few high school heroes ever do in this basketball-crazy state. And he was willing to go thorugh the pressure of being a "first" in order to play for his state university.
Integration does not seem to be much of an issue these days in this northerly southern state. The schools were integrated after the war, most of them before the Supreme Court decision of 1954. Nobody seems to notice when a Negro sits down in most diners or fancy restaurants - at least not in the urban areas.
And integration may be a fading issue in the Southeastern Conference, too. Vanderbilt has already graduated a black basketball player, and at least three other schools have black players this year. Kentucky has had black football and track performers in the past.
For Whites Only
But in 67 seasons of basketball - 40 of them under Adolph Frederick Rupp himself - no black man had ever been part of the 25 conference titles, the four national championships, the 37 all-America awards and the 85 all-conference selections.
"I don't think there's any color angle to it," said a rather knowledgeable Lexington woman the other day, "Coach Rupp isn't a prejudiced man. He just goes for the best players. I can guarantee you that Tom Payne isn't on this team because of his color. He's on this team because he's the best damn player we could find."
The university "found" Payne at Louisville's Shawnee High, where he made the all-state team twice. the basketball department made overtures to him, as it had apparently done to several recent black high school superstars.
"Let's start by saying my parents wanted me to come here," Payne said. "This was a big college in the state. It was good academically. I didn't want to get lost in Los Angeles, so far from home. And Coach Rupp is such a hero around this state."
"Yes, I've got to admit it, I would have preferred at that time to go where there were a lot of brothers [blacks]. You always like to be around your own kind. And there was a lot of talk in the black community about why I should play for Kentucky when they never had a black player. But this was my decision."
The young man qualified to enter the university (as many Negroes do), but then the athletic department said it couldn't pay his way because he fell slightly below the academic level for a scholarship.
"That boy's mother sat in this office - in that chair, right next to you - and she took out her checkbook," Rupp recalled. "She asked how much one semester would cost."
"She was a bright woman, you could tell that. Heck they were an Army family. They lived all over the world, in Germany. Heck, those Germans make you smarter by being there."
Tom's father had been a career first sergeant, and the $2,000 for the first year was not an unsubstantial sum. But they paid it, and Tom worked on his grades, starred for an amateur team in Lexington, found time for his wife and baby daughter and tried to acclimate to the university.
"Most people have been fine," he said the other day. "But there's always some who just don't want me here."
Payne doesn't believe that Rupp doesn't want him here. The coach is 70 years old this season, eligible for retirement, but still looking for his fifth national championship. He hasn't won a national title since 1958, and John Wooden of the University of California, Los Angeles, won six in the last seven years.
Call Him Ahab
Many people expect Rupp to pursue that fifth title, like Ahab after the white whale, and there don't seem to be any Starbucks in the state willing to publicly advise the defied Old Man to set sail for a quiet port.
"I told Tom there was no black or white as far as I'm concerned," Rupp said. "I don't even know if God is black or white. Heck, I'll probably never find that out."
"Heck, I had colored players when I coached high school back in Freeport, Ill. I coached a black player, Don Barksdale, on the 1948 Olympic team. There's nothing unusual about me coaching a black player."
Rupp says he is not even conscious of Payne's color when he addresses him.
"I get mad at him and really let him have it," Rupp said. "But then I realize he didn't play much basketball before college and then he didn't get any freshman coaching here. Dammit, I can't expect him to know as much as these other boys, so I apologize to him and I think he understands."
Payne says he understands and says he is willing to accept the lectures because he is a raw sophomore. He also says he has not felt any racial pressure from Rupp and he says he appreciates Mike Casey and Kent Hollenbeck, two older teammates who have made him feel comfortable.
Payne may not yet feel that close to the entire student body or to the Bluegrass Country around Lexington, but he is glad to be playing only 90 minutes down the Pike from Louisville.
"This is my home state," he said. "I guess you could say that the University of Kentucky was my sentimental choice."
During Tom Payne's first game at Tennessee for the Cats, he was roundly booed by UT fans and one of them wrote a racial slur on the bulletin board in the visitor's locker room. By 1971-72, Auburn, Florida, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, UK, and Tennessee all had black basketball players on their roster. - by Russell Rice, Big Blue Machine, Strode Publishers, 1976.- JNB
At Tennessee, he had endured racial slurs on the blackboard and such vicious booing that Mike Casey and Larry Steele had told officials the Wildcats would walk of the court if it didn't stop. - by Russell Rice, Adolph Rupp As I Knew Him, Sagamore Publishing, 1994, pg. 197.
Mark Soderberg, a reserve center, quit the team during Payne's sophomore year at UK because he said Rupp was trying to bend over backwards to prove he was not prejudiced by playing Payne even when the substitutes could have expected playing time. - by Russell Rice, Big Blue Machine, Strode Publishers, 1976.- JNB
JPS Note - Soderberg also gave a number of other reasons for quitting including the criticism that "Rupp had very little rapport with the team; he was cold to his players, made no effort to get to know them, and regularly forgot their names" (by Russell Rice, Adolph Rupp As I Knew Him, Sagamore Publishers, 1994, pg. 195.)
"Rupp had been fair with him, Payne said - the coach, a counselor, and a lawyer were the only persons he could believe. No one else offered a helping hand without expecting something in return." - by Russell Rice, Adolph Rupp As I Knew Him, Sagamore Publishing, 1994, pg. 197.
The season after Payne had left the team for the NBA, Rupp was upset that he had lost his best center and didn't hesitate to let his team know they weren't as good. After getting beat by Michigan State, Rupp lamented to his team, "If we had Tom Payne, we'd be undefeated," he said. The pros don't care whether they destroy a good college team or not. They sure ruined us by drafting my center." - by Russell Rice, Big Blue Machine, Strode Publishers, 1976, pg. 350.
Walk-ons in the Final Season
Rupp left coaching in 1972 due to a rule mandating his retirement by the State. As mentioned, late in that season, Rupp coached two more black players, Darryl Bishop and Elmore Stephens who walked-on from the football team. The pair joined the team after back-to-back December losses to Indiana and Michigan State and made their first appearance later that month in a win against Notre Dame.
The 71-72 Kentucky squad had lost many of their starters from the year before and were riddled with injuries early in the season. When Tom Parker was sidelined with a severely sprained ankle in the Indiana game, this left Kentucky with no starters from the year before. Kent Hollenbeck had not yet played due to injury and Stan Key had also been injured in the Indiana game. Before the Michigan State game, Rupp lamented, "I'm just almost afraid to look ahead. Where can I turn ? Where should I go ? Why, I can scarcely get enough players together for practice." (by Dick Fenlon, Louisville Courier Journal, "Just About Out of Players," December 13, 1971)
Rupp's mood didn't get any more cheerful. After the loss, "he threatened afterward to go out and recruit some junior-college players for the second semester. ... The forwards ? 'What'd we get out of [Dan] Perry ? No points. And out of [Rick] Drewitz ? Three points. We finally had to move guard [Stan] Key, up there and he didn't want to do it because he didn't know how to play forward and didn't want to be criticized.' The center ? 'There's nothing I can do about the center situation.' said Rupp. 'I just don't have anyone else I wonder if all the people around here still think Andrews is better than Payne after watching tonight ?'" - by Dick Fenlon, Louisville Courier Journal, "Michigan State's 'mini-guys' hand UK 2nd Big Ten loss in a row 91-85," December 14, 1971
As mentioned, some help did arrive in the persons of two walk-ons from the football team. This was not unheard of as Rupp had many players who were football players also, although most of these two-sports atheltes played earlier in Rupp's coaching career. The most recent example had been Bob Windsor from the 1965-66 team. Before the Notre Dame game, Rupp was interviewed during practice at Freedom Hall and mentioned Stephens.
"If this kid makes up his mind to play (he pointed to Elmore Stephens, a football linebacker) he can help us a lot." - by Dean Eagle, Louisville Courier Journal, 'If We Had Tom Payne, We'd be Unbeaten,' Moans Rupp," December 29, 1971
Rupp had run short of players, and Stephens, a black football player jumped at the opportunity to play basketball for the Wildcats. "People thought he was racist," Stephens said. "But playing under him, I can't really say he was a racist. He was hard, but he was fair. He treated all his players the same when I was there." - by Rick Morrissey, Chicago Tribune, "New Face Leads Kentucky These Days," November 30, 1997.
In a critical game against Louisiana State, Stephens was inserted into the lineup to guard Al Sanders who was dominating the boards.
The crowd cheered wildly as Stephens, who had seen only seven minutes of playing time in three previous games, trotted onto the court with a big smile on his face. UK led 50-43 at the time [15:13] and when the high-jumping Stephens left with 6:09 to go, the advantage had inceased to 75-57. "I've got confidence in that boy," Rupp said of Stephens. "He's a big, strong boy and I knew he wouldn't be afraid to mix it up with Sanders. When he (Stephens) was in there, Sanders got damn little done." - by Jim Bolus, Louisville Courier Journal, "UK Cuffs LSU as Stephens Slows Sanders," January 30, 1972.
Rupp bids Farewell to the fans at Memorial Coliseum
After the season, Joe B. Hall became head coach and immediately began signing black players with regularity. Reggie Warford in 72/73, guards Larry Johnson and Merion Haskins in 73/74, forwards Jack Givens and James Lee in 74/75 and guards Dwane Casey and Truman Claytor in 75/76. During this time and up until his death in 1977, Rupp was very vocal about wanting to continue coaching the team, something that would seem contradictory if Rupp was the racist some people believe.
JPS Note - On February 23 1979 (thirteen years after the 1966 championship game), Kentucky dressed an all-black starting lineup when Dwane Casey was inserted instead of All-American Kyle Macy for senior day.
JPS Note - A appropriate example of a coach who possibly escaped the stigma due to being able to coach in both periods is Alabama legend [and former Kentucky football coach] Paul "Bear" Bryant. Much like basketball programs looked to Rupp for guidance, "the Deep Southern schools awaited a sign from the chieftain, Paul William 'Bear' Bryant of the University of Alabama. Bryant's powerful Crimson Tide teams had begun to play intersectional games more often than the sister schools of the SEC. There, the lily-whiteness of the Tide became more obvious to the nation. Sportswriter Jim Murray of the Los Angeles Times began a steady barrage of columns blasting Bryant. In the fall of 1970, in Birmingham, Southern Cal routed Alabama on the strength of three touchdowns scored by black Trojan fullback Sam Cunningham."
Bryant later found out from John McKay, the coach of the Trojans, that they [USC] were recruiting a Junior College player, John Mitchell, who was originally from Alabama. Bryant got the name of the recruit and set out to sign him himself, which he did. Not until 1971 did a black player step on the gridiron in an Alabama uniform [Mitchell] and was followed the next year by sophomore running back Wilbur Jackson.
(All above quotes from article by Ed Hinton, Atlanta Journal and Constitution, "Run for Respect," September 7, 1986.)
There is little doubt, however that in each era, someone comes along and takes basketball to a higher level. Some of the advances are so fascinating because of the historical extremes they connect. One occurred in the early 1970s when Julius Erving was playing in the ABA. After a typically brilliant high-flying performance, Erving, who was born in 1950, encountered legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp in a hallway near the locker room. Rupp, who was born in 1901, was the essence of basketball conservatism and the flamboyant Erving was the polar opposite of wht Rupp wanted, and what he taught.
That, however, was before Ruppp watched Erving play a game in Louisville. After the game, Rupp told Erving, "You made me realize that there's something I've been teaching all these years that I need to re-think. And that's that a player cannot leave his feet and not have his mind made up. I have always coached that any time you leave your feet, know exactly what you're going to do. But I have to re-think that."
Erving still smiles at the memory. "That left him open to thinking about leaving your feet and letting things happen," Erving said, and then added proudly: "That's changing a purist."
(The Official NBA Encyclopedia 3rd Edition, 2000 pg. 14.)
It's very wrong to put that burden on Adolph Rupp. Adolph Rupp was not responsible for discrimination. Our society was responsible for creating an environment which was conducive to accept that. - John Thompson, "Glory in Black and White," CBS, April 2002.
"I knew him (Rupp) for a long time and nothing he ever did or said made me think this guy was prejudiced." - Cawood Ledford, by David Perlmutt, Charlotte Observer, "Rupp Family Wants His Honor In Tact," March 15, 1997.
"In conversations professional and personal from our introduction in 1966 until his death in 1977, I never heard him say a racist word. The late University of Kentucky basketball coach needs no defense by a sportswriter who knew him only in his last years. His decades of fund-raising work for the Shriners Children's Hospital is all the evidence anyone needs of his good-heartedness. But the race thing keeps coming up, and it bothers me because it doesn't ring true. Not the Rupp I knew." - by Dave Kindred, Lexington Herald Leader, "Calling Rupp a Racist Just Doesn't Ring True," December 22, 1991.
"I think he would look at me and say, 'You've hired a heck of a basketball coach.' There are a lot of misunderstandings about Coach Rupp. The one thing I know about Coach Rupp is that he was not a racist. That is one thing I know. Coach Rupp was a man of his times, he was a product of his times. But I know for a fact and I know him as well as anyone." - C.M. Newton, questioned by Curry Kirkpatrick on Rupp's reaction to Kentucky hiring Orlando Smith as head coach at UK in 1997. ESPN cover story "Mr. Smith Goes to Lexington," May 12, 1997.
"The kids in the community would surround us, and he'd hand out tickets to the circus," said Farren Rupp-Hill, who was 9 when Rupp died in 1977 of cancer. "And near the end, even when he was sick, he'd get out of bed and go see a kid who he promised he'd visit before an operation. He had a big heart. That's the man I remember." - by David Perlmutt, Charlotte Observer, "Rupp Family Wants His Honor In Tact," March 15, 1997.
The Final Word
Rupp's all-time all-opponent squad includes six black players. - Lexington Herald Leader, "Kentucky a Leader in Integrating SEC Sports," March 31, 1990, Pg D14.
P.S. For those interested in current issues concerning race at the University of Kentucky, please check out the AWARE Homepage. For those interested in finding out who the first black basketball players at various major universities were can check the chapter "Pioneers of the Game" in the book Inside Sports: College Basketball (1998 Edition) by Mike Douchant. Also look for a bibliography in the near future.
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Return to Kentucky Wildcat Basketball Page.Jon Scott