Picture of RuppAdolph 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.

The Facts

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.

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.

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.

Important 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.

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.

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."

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.

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 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.

Rupp was also obsessed with not only winning but with perfection from his teams.

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.

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.

Harry Lancaster relates one of Rupp's favorite jokes about himself.

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Early Pioneers


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.

Wallace considered going to a northern school but was disappointed in what he saw.

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.

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.)

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.

The fate of many of these pioneers was tragic.

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.

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

The transition to college for the black player was not as harsh as it was for the SEC pioneers, although there were still obstacles.

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).

Claiborne still encountered racial problems during his stay at Duke, both on and off the court.

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.

SchoolSeasonPlayerCareer #
Houston65-66Don Chaney
Elvin Hayes
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.
Maryland65-66Billy JonesAveraged 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.
Duke66-67C.B. ClaiborneAveraged 4.1 ppg in three seasons
Texas Christian66-67James CashAveraged 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.
Baylor67-68Tommy BowmanLed 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 Carolina67-68Charlie ScottAveraged 22.1 ppg and 7.1 rpg in three seasons. He was a consensus second-team All-America choice in his last two years.
Vanderbilt67-68Perry WallaceAveraged 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 Forest67-68Norwood TodmannAveraged 10.5 ppg and 4.1 rpg in three seasons, including 13.3 ppg as a sophomore.
Arkansas68-69Thomas JohnsonAveraged 15.5 ppg for 1967-68 freshman squad
North Carolina State68-69Al HeartleyAveraged 4.8 ppg in three seasons.
Texas68-69Sam BradleyAveraged 6.5 ppg in his only varsity season.
Auburn69-70Henry HarrisAveraged 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.
Rice69-70Leroy MarionAveraged 5.6 ppg and 3.3 rpg in a three-year varsity career marred by a knee injury.
Texas Tech69-70Gene Knolle
Greg Lowery
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).
Alabama70-71Wendell HudsonAveraged 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.
Clemson70-71Craig MobleyPlayed sparingly in his only season.
Georgia70-71Ronnie HogueFinished 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.
Kentucky70-71Tom PayneLed 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 Carolina70-71Casey ManningAveraged 2.6 ppg and 1.8 rpg in three seasons.
Florida71-72Malcolm Weeks
Steve Williams
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 Tech71-72Karl BinnsHe was the leading rebounder (6.5 rpg) and fourth-leading scorer (8.8 ppg) in his only season with the Yellow Jackets.
Louisiana State71-72Collis TempleAveraged 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.
Mississippi71-72Coolidge BallTwo-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.
Tennessee71-72Larry RobinsonAveraged 10.9 ppg and 8.8 rpg in two seasons. Led the Volunteers in rebounding and field-goal shooting both years.
Texas A & M71-72Mario BrownAveraged 13 ppg and 4.3 apg in two seasons, leading the team in assists both years.
Virginia71-72Al DrummondAveraged 5.2 ppg in three varsity seasons.
Mississippi State72-73Larry Fry
Jerry Jenkins
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.
Data excerpted from Inside Sports College Basketball by Mike Douchant

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.

Kentucky Gives Scholarship to Negro Athlete First Time

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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.

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The Game

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.

Bobby Joe Hill
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,

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.

Kentucky vs. Texas Western

- 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 ]
Louie Dampier4071855941619
Tommy Kron33360072356
Larry Conley354922851010
Pat Riley4082234441219
Thad Jaracz28381255027
Cliff Berger12230000004
Gary Gamble2000001000
Jim LeMaster3010001000
Bob Tallent7030001010

Texas Western - 72 (Head Coach: Don Haskins) - [Final Rank 3rd by AP and 3rd by UPI]
Bobby Joe Hill4071769333620
Orsten Artis4051355810115
Nevil Shed12111131023
David Lattin3251066940016
Willie Cager30136763038
Harry Flournoy6110020002
Willie Worsley40244640168

Halftime Score: Texas Western 34, Kentucky 31
Officials: Steve Honzo and Thornton Jenkins
Attendance: 14,253
References: The Classic and Jazzy J

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.

The players themselves were concentrating on the game at hand.

One contradiction to the above was given by Harry Flournoy

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.

Looking back, there is no denying that it was a watershed event in the history of the game and race relations in the country as a whole when a team with all-black starters beats an all-white team for the national championship. The first and most likely last time in history this has occurred in college basketball. "It was one of the most significant games ever played," Pat Riley, player on the '66 UK team, said, "because it dispelled the absurd illusions that too many people in this country held to be true." (that five black starters could not win a championship) "It was one of the worst nights of my life, but I'm still proud to be part of something that changed the lives of so many people." - Bergen Record, March 3,1996.

No doubt that the 66 title game underscored the important emergence of the black athlete in college basketball."

Picture of Rupp and Rupps Runts
Rupp and his "Runts"
(Larry Conley, Coach Rupp, Tommy Kron, Thad Jaracz, Pat Riley, Louie Dampier)

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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.

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."

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.

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.

Don Haskins
A legion of racists began a hate-letter campaign against Haskins. "We filled up trash baskets with those letters," Haskins recalled. "People from all over were calling my players names that started with the little letter 'n'. White people were saying I used them to win games. Black people said I had exploited the players. If I could have changed things, I would hope we'd come in second place." - 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.

"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.

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,

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Twenty years later, Sports Illustrated again tried to assume the moral high ground, but this time against Kentucky.

Perhaps if SI is so intent to look back on the period, they might want to consider their own actions and policies.

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."

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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Poor Journalism

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

Poor Journalism: Example II

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

The Runts at the 25 Year Reunion: Conley, Dampier, Jaracz, Kron and Riley

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.

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:

"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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

At least one journalist has considered this aspect.

The effect of Haskin's speech seemed to energize the players.

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.

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.

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.

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.

"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.

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).

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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 Haskins

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.

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.

Clem Haskins
Unfortunately, Rupp never followed through with a scholarship. Based on the above statements about not considering going to Kentucky when he grew up, along with the statments concerning his later anger at UK, it is certain that a change in perception of UK by Haskins occurred, but it is not clear when this anger developed. Rupp's above statement, trying to console the young high school player may have actually inadvertantly awakened Haskins to the realization that he WAS good enough and indeed deserved to play for UK, which would no doubt have eventually led to a feeling of being abandoned. [It's been reported also that UK player Pat Riley once told Haskins that he was the best player in the state. - (Michelle Kaufman, The Miami Herald, March 29, 1997.] Haskins spent a portion of his life resenting Kentucky and their snub of him which he has freely admitted to in recent interviews.

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.

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.

Wes Unseld

Westley Unseld
Wes Unseld was the 1964 Kentucky Mr. Basketball from Louisville Seneca High. Unseld was the first black player that Kentucky tried to recruit. Unseld ended up going to Louisville to become a consensus All-American and on to a great NBA career which placed him in the Hall of Fame. He is currently the general manager of the NBA Washington Wizards.

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.

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 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

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.

In a more recent interview, Beard gives more information about his recruitment.

"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.

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.

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:

After Kentucky hired Orlando "Tubby" Smith as head coach to replace Rick Pitino, this is what Beard had to say about the hiring.

Jim McDaniels

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.

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:

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.

It's interesting to note that Rupp did eventually coach McDaniels, although it took some convincing to get McDaniels to agree.

McDaniels was eventually convinced and the game went on at Freedom Hall, where he scored 25 points in a 108-94 win.

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.

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.

Tom Payne

Tom Payne
A handful of writers claim that Rupp only recruited Tom Payne because he knew he would be a failure at Kentucky and thus confirm Rupp's assumed beliefs about blacks. I have seen no hard evidence to support this claim and what evidence there is at the time he was recruited clearly indicates the opposite. Payne was a star center on his high school team and was one of the nation's most sought-after players with Kentucky and UCLA trying to recruit him. Despite incredible physical skills, he was new to the game of basketball, only playing in an organized setting starting with his sophomore year in high school. He signed with Kentucky on June 9, 1969.

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.

1969 UK Recruits: Steve Penhorwood, Larry Stamper, Dan Perry, Jim Andrews and Tom Payne

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.

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,

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,

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.

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.

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.

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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.

Early Years

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.

Freeport Illinois 1926-27 Basketball Team

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

Helping Hand

Text of Newspaper Clipping: Rupp to Conduct Cage Clinic at Kentucky State - Frankfort KY., Nov. 10 - A basketball coaching school conducted by Adolph Rupp of the University of Kentucky will be held November 16-17 at Kentucky State College for Negroes, J.B. Brown, basketball mentor at the school, said today.  Rupp will conduct classes at three sessions and will bring a team from the university for the final class.  Brown said the clinic would become an annual affair.  A meeting of the Kentucky High School Athletic League will be held in connection with the coaching school.
Newspaper Clipping from 1945
Found in KSU archives
Even though Rupp did not actively recruit black players at UK before Wes Unseld in 1964, he was known to help black players and coaches in their profession long before then.

"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.

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.

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.

Jim Tucker
In 1950, Rupp helped a young black player, Jim Tucker, receive a scholarship to Duquesne University, where he later became an All American. - by Carlyle Farren Rupp (granddaughter of Rupp), Lexington Herald Leader, January 23, 1992.

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.

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.

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.

Don Barksdale
It was known that the Olympics that year would be open to black athletes, as the N.A.I.B. (small college) tournament made a decision in early March of 1948 to break its long-standing ban against inviting integrated teams, in order to meet the Olympic committee's requirements for participation in the post-season qualifying trials. The choices for the 14-man team were made by the committee and announced April 1 1948, the day after Kentucky had lost to the Oilers in a tremendous game. According to the rules as drawn up prior to the qualifying trials, Omar 'Bud' Browning, head coach of the champion Phillips 66 team, was named as the head coach of the Olympic team and Adolph Rupp was named the assistant.

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.

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.

1948 Olympic Team en route to London England

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.

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.

"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.

Solly Walker drives on Lou Tsioropoulos as Frank Ramsey looks on.

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.

After the game, Lexington Herald Sports Editor Ed Ashford wrote:

The New York Times had this to say after the game.

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 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.

This avoidance of playing integrated teams by his contemporaries even extended into postseason play.

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 and Temple coach Harry Litwack shake down the opposing team's star Guy Rogers and Johnny Cox respectively before the 1958 NCAA tournament national semifinal game in 1958.

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.

"When we came to Lexington to play in the East-West All-Star game in High School. Coach Rupp came in our dressing room. His comments were 'I wish I could recruit you fellows here at the University of Kentucky, but the Southeastern Conference is not ready for that.'" - Louis Stout (Commissioner, Kentucky High School Athletic Association), "Glory in Black and White," CBS, April 2002.

Despite the above supportive acts that Rupp was involved in, the rest of the SEC was in no mood for any type of integration.

John McGill reinforces the idea that the decision to sign blacks was a major milestone.

In a chapter on Louisville Coach John Dromo, he mentions an encounter with Rupp.

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.

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
2. does your school play racially integrated schools away from your campus ?

The Courier-Journal's questionnaire asked:

1. Would your school have objections to playing against integrated Kentucky teams at Lexington ?
2. Would your school object to integrated Kentucky teams competing against your teams at your arenas ?
3. If Kentucky teams integrate, would your school continue to schedule Kentucky ?

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.)

Kentucky Becomes First School in Its Conference to Desegregate Athletics


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."

He added:

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.)

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.

SWC Integration Plans May Pave Rupp's Path to Sign Negro Cagers

By Kelso Sturgeon
Associated Press Sports Writer

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.

"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.

"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
In 1965, former Kentucky player Joe Hall returned to Lexington as assistant coach under Rupp. He had previously been head coach at small Regis College in Denver where he built the program into a giant-killer of sorts and gained national prestige for the school before they decided to deemphasize the sport. Hall then coached one season for Central Missouri State College before accepting the assistant position at Kentucky. He shared duties with the other coaches, however it a major expectation for Hall was to boost UK's recruiting efforts, in particular Kentucky's recruitment of black players, as he had been successful at recruiting black players while at Regis.

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.

1963Harold 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)
1964Jack 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)
1965Joe 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)
1966Taps 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)
1967Ben 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

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.

Despite the emphasis on football, Bishop wanted to keep his options open.

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.

Tom Payne

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

Tom Payne signs with Kentucky

Russell Rice describes the day that Payne was signed.

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.

The question of how Payne felt about his situation that first year was posed to him by Dave Kindred.

As his sophomore season began, the New York Times ran an article marking the occasion.

7-2 black Players Joins Kentucky Five

By George Vecsey
Special to the New York Times

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.)

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)

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.

In a critical game against Louisiana State, Stephens was inserted into the lineup to guard Al Sanders who was dominating the boards.


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.

Rupp tosses the ball to start a Junior Pro game. (Designed for kids 7 to 14, Junior Pro was established and supported by Rupp in the early 1970s)
Unfortunately for Rupp, he retired at a time when these dramatic changes were sweeping through collegiate basketball. Coaches who retired in eras preceding him may have coached all-white teams their entire career but didn't fall under public scrutiny because it wasn't realistic that they could sign black players, even if they wanted to. Coaches who coached in both eras were immune even though their early teams may have been exclusively all-white. If Rupp had retired early, had coached a few years longer, had been less successful, or had not been part of such a memorable game in 1966 (Duke, the team UK beat in the semifinals was also all-white), perhaps these charges might never have surfaced and propagated as they have.

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.)

Personal Reflections

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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Jon Scott