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 occurrence 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, Jamal Mashburn and Tayshaun Prince.


| 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

Please note that the page itself contains links to numerous other pages, photographs, reprints of newspaper articles etc. There are a few companion pieces to this page that are referred to on this page and which are linked directly below.

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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 preeminent 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.

Criticism of Rupp is nothing new. Article published January 18, 1952 (Lexington Herald)
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


Sidebar: The Kentucky Day Law

The Kentucky Day Law was proposed by state Representative Carl Day of Breathitt County. It was signed into law March 1904, and took effect in July 1904. The intention of the law was to prohibit black and white students from attending the same school. In addition, black students were not allowed to attend schools located less than 25-miles from a whites-only school.

This law was aimed directly at Berea College, which had begun to co-educate blacks and whites together. The law's passing resulted in a lawsuit between Berea and the Commonwealth of Kentucky that made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1908, the Justices upheld the Law when they determined to extend the 1896 opinion of Plessy versus Ferguson to include state institutions of higher learning.

This was later overturned as part of the Brown versus Board of Education, Topeka ruling in 1954.

Article from the Kentucky Evening Gazette (February 2, 1909) detailing the travails of Miss Nelly Bright, who due to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the state of Kentucky's Day Law, was thrown out of her schooling at Berea College. She made her way to Wheaton College in Illinois where she received less than a warm welcome from the 'enlightened' North.

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.

Lyman Johnson
Federal Judge H. Church ruled that UK must admit blacks as graduate students, as no graduate school with comparable classes was available to black students in the state, in particular at Kentucky State University in Frankfort. At the time, the Kentucky state Day Law (originally enacted in 1904 and aimed directly at Berea College) was still in effect which prohibited coeducation of white and black students in the same classroom by state funded schools. After integration of the school, 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.) This occurred after the United State Supreme Court in June 1954 struck down the Day Law as part of the famous "Brown vs. Board of Education" ruling and mandated that integration occur "with all deliberate speed." The decision was met with approval from Kentucky's governor, Lawrence Wetherby, state senators Earle Clements and John Sherman Cooper, all of whom expressed their support of the ruling.

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.)

Civil Rights Act

One important factor that should not be overlooked when considering integration of athletics in the South was the timing of passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which president Lyndon Johnson signed in law on July 2, 1964.

The heart of the law dealt with public accommodations, saying that blacks no longer could be excluded from restaurants, hotels and other public facilities. For an integrated athletic team travelling in the South, these were exactly the types of accommodations relied upon during such a road trip. This law didn't change practices in the South overnight, but it did give those who were willing to defy segregation the power of courts and in theory the federal government behind them. Prior to this time, defying segregation was an extremely dangerous proposition (not that it wasn't even after the law went into effect.) This reality is one which some critics in the past have either underestimated or overlooked completely.

Martin Luther King Jr. and others watch as President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964

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.

Perry Wallace
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.) (JPS Note: Here is an article which interviews Wallace during his freshman year.)

1966-67 Vanderbilt freshmen (l to r): Perry Wallace, Art Welhoelter, Godfrey Dillard, Alex Beavers, Dan Due, Pat Tommay.

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. (Note that his teammate Julius "Pete" Johnson was in his same class but redshirted his sophomore season.) Jones 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.

Claudius Claiborne
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.

PlayerCareer Summary
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 seasons, 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.

* - Note that during this era freshmen were ineligible for varsity. This table only lists the first black player at the respective schools to play varsity. There were some cases where black players participated on freshmen teams but did not end up playing varsity, for various reasons, and subsequently are not listed above. In addition in not all cases did these players receive a scholarship from the school.

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.

Greg Page
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.)

Nat Northington
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 (Daviess County) 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 (Lester McClain).]

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.

Article from Danville (Va) Bee, March 26, 1964. Click here for the complete article. A more detailed article is here
JPS Note - Going back even further, Kentucky was the first SEC to have a black player try-out or participate in off-season drills with a team. This was Steve Matthews in the Spring of 1964 with the Wildcat football squad. Matthews was a transfer student from the University of Detroit. He had attempted to walk-on with the Titan football squad but didn't make the team.

Steve Matthews
Matthews tried out for the Kentucky football team after the school announced in 1963 that effective immediately all of its sports were open to anyone, regardless of race. Football coach Charlie Bradshaw pledged in interviews that he would give Matthews the same opportunity as any other player.

Reaction by some coaches included Georgia Tech football coach Bobby Dodd who said "I am not surprised. Since it has been rumored that Kentucky will have a Negro basketball player soon. I am not surprised that they have a Negro player out for football." Said Vanderbilt football coach Jack Green: "That's their business. If they bring him down here we'll play them. We'll go up there and play them. We've played schols in the past with Negro athletes. If a school wants to play a Negro athlete that's their business. We have no objections." (quotes from "Negro is Among 71 UK Hopefuls," by Billy Thompson, Lexington Herald, late March 1964.)

JPS Note - The article did not interview football coaches from less urban schools like those in Alabama and Mississippi.

Matthews, who was fifth on the depth chart at fullback knew that he faced long odds at making the squad, especially since he admitted at the outset that he was not in great shape at the start of the training camp. He did not end up making the team, but he did achieve a Southeastern Conference milestone for his efforts.

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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. Over 94% of the Miners' scoring for that year came from those seven players.

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.

JPS Note - Although many writers have portrayed Rupp as downbeat immediately after the game [some have suggested that he didn't shake hands with Texas Western coach Don Haskins, a claim which will be discussed in detail and debunked later in this article], it is interesting to contrast that with an actual audio clip from an interview after the game. (Link). In the audio, Rupp does appear concerned about the free throw differential (later in his life, Rupp wondered why UK was called for so many fouls when they were playing a zone while Texas Western was playing an aggressive man-to-man) but overall, he seems upbeat and even has the presence of mind to start talking about the upcoming summer, and joking with interviewer Claude Sullivan about helping him broadcast baseball games (Sullivan was also an announcer for the Cincinnati Reds).

Beyond that, not everyone claimed Rupp was downbeat at all. Bob Ingram, sports editor of the El Paso Herald-Post described Rupp in an article after the game as "relaxed, agreeable, jovial and seemingly happy although just a few minutes before the Kentucky team he was reported to have more affection for than any of the teams he ever coached was beaten for the national title."

In addition, I have yet to see any of the national writers acknowledge what Bob Ingram mentioned in an column (March 26, 1966 - El Paso Herald-Post) that Rupp sent Haskins and Texas Western George McCarty a letter stating: "Your boys played a truly championship game and deserved to win."

Despite evidence to the contrary immediately after the game, most national sportswriters in later years ignored that and told the story of a beaten, regretful man.

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 stubbornness 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.

Adding fuel to the fire, 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 occasions 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.

Harvey Yavener article in Trentonian, published March 21, 1966. For the full article check this link.
JPS Note - Before I go into detail about this, I do think it's noteworthy that almost immediately after the game, New Jersey Trentonian sports columnist Harvey Yavener wrote an article (published March 21, 1966) which discussed the importance of race in the National Championship game which had just been played. Interestingly, he started off the story by stating "No one has tried to pin the 'die-hard segregationist' rap on Baron Adolph Rupp" and then going on to dismiss it out of hand by noting that "Rupp, years ago saw the significant change the ever-increasing number of Negroes in college basketball were bringing about and for some time has sought approval of his university's administration to integrate his quintet." Yavener goes on to note that UK already was integrating its sports programs. He also talked about the state of race in sports at the time, including discussing prejudices and quota issues within the professional ranks, including in the North.

Yavener's article was not only a useful reality check of race relations in the sports world circa 1966, it was nearly prescient in terms of recognizing that those who aren't familiar with the facts might fall into the trap of making simple-minded and incorrect accusations against Rupp.

I would argue that since Yavener's column was published two days after the national final was completed on Saturday night (The Trentonian didn't have a Sunday edition), that over the course of nearly 50 years, media coverage of this game and in particular its comprehension of the issues and the facts have gone downhill since that time. Maybe someday we (collectively) as a society will get back to the same level of knowledge and understanding that Yavener exhibited in March of 1966, but frankly there's a long way to go and we're not very close. This is largely due to the ignorance and various agendas of those in the media, who have consistently undervalued the full set of facts and failed to provide their readers with fair and comprehensive coverage of this issue. If anything, they've moved knowledge of the issues in the wrong direction.

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.

"But the game was about more than just the obvious. Today, in fact,it's easy to make the argument that it has become more about changes in the media than changes in college basketball or society. The 1960s columnists and commentators who supported segregation or treated it with benign neglect have been replaced by self-appointed moral authorities who are, in their own way, just as narrowminded and prejudiced." - by Billy Reed, "The Revising of Rupp," Basketball Times Vol. 25, No. 5, January 2003.

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 vilification 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 predilections 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

Nevil Shed by his own words passed up chances to speak with and confront Rupp with his concerns, instead Shed chose to wait until the man had died and could not address his claims
Adolph Rupp's body had barely been put into the ground before a negative media report surfaced about him. In a story published in the Milwaukee Journal (December, 13, 1977), former Texas Western player during the 1966 game and then assistant basketball coach at the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin, Nevil Shed, was quoted as saying:

This is a very important charge, because it was the start of what has become a very long and public demeaning of Rupp's name in the public, a process which has continued today by some in the media along with others. But it's also important because it illustrates how baseless and factually inaccurate claims can take a life of their own.

There were two charges made. First that Rupp 'didn't shake any of our hands' after the game. This is easily refuted by the game video.

After the horn sounded, Texas Western supporters flooded onto the court. The Texas Western players were preoccupied celebrating the victory with cheerleaders and others in the corner near their bench. Rupp immediately got up and walked to center court and waited outside the mob to shake hands. The video shows Texas Western coach Don Haskins initially celebrating with the team, but then after a short delay he noticed Rupp and did come out to shake the Baron's hand.

Don Haskins himself confirmed the handshake when he noted in a 2005 interview with Stephen A. Smith on ESPN's 'Quite Frankly' show: "One thing I want to say is that the Kentucky players could not have been more gracious after the game. Rupp, well I don't know ... but I do know he shook hands."
Rupp and Haskins shake hands after game

JPS Note - Based on the evidence at hand, Rupp was clearly willing and able, and did indeed shake hands with the one Texas Western representative who came out to meet him, which was Don Haskins. The other Texas Western players and representatives had the opportunity but were preoccupied in their celebration, which is understandable. It's not clear what happened subsequently as the video coverage did not include that part, although the video coverage available along with photographic evidence suggests that the Kentucky players remained on their bench waiting for the awards ceremony, in which both the Texas Western and Kentucky teams were award a trophy, so there could have been additional opportunities for congratulations.

If Shed and other Texas Western players want to claim that Rupp or the Kentucky players refused to shake hands, they should probably be more specific as to exactly when and how this is supposed to have occurred, or even that the Texas Western players themselves made an effort to shake hands, which they failed to do immediately after the game was completed.

BTW, a similar claim has sometimes been made that Rupp didn't visit the winner's lockerroom to offer congratulations. While it is generally customary for opposing teams and coaches to shake hands after a game (something based on the video evidence only Rupp was actually attempting to do after the gaem), I don't know if it is customary or even expected for the teams to greet each other in the winner locker room after the game. I know it's happened before but I doubt that it is expected. Regardless, it has been reported that some of the Kentucky players went to the Texas Westen locker room to congratulate the winning team. Also, George Vecsey of the New York Times was at the Final Four that year and distinctly remembers Rupp going to the Texas Western locker room after the game. Said Vecsey in a 1985 column, "Some people swear Rupp was furious about losing to a team from the border. I only remember an old gent in a brown suit working the Texas Western clubhouse afterward, shaking hands and putting his arm around sweaty kids and telling them they played a fine game." [New York Times, "A Tale of Two Homes," March 22, 1985.] Vecsey repeats this assertion a number of years later in another article. Vecsey writes, "Even the losing coaches leave memories. I saw Adolph Rupp, the gruff old baron of Kentucky, working the winning locker room in 1966, congratulating the eight black players from Texas Western." [New York Times, "The Coaches Makes Hoops So Special," March 18, 1992]

The second claim made by Shed immediately after Rupp's death, this is that Rupp supposedly said prior to the game something to the effect of 'no five blacks could beat my team'. Since then it's been repeated often, in particular around 1991 which marked the 25th anniversary and 1996 which marked the 30th anniversary of the game:

JPS Note - It is noteworthy that Rupp generally was not boastful about his team's chances prior to a game. He may have done this in a few instances but more generally he was extremely superstitious and usually tried to play up the abilities of teams they were to face, rather than minimize them. So saying this would be out of character to begin with.

The other interesting thing in these claims (of which only a few are noted above) is the wide variety of ways that Rupp is supposed to have made it. Some claim Haskins overheard it, some claim that Texas Western assistant overheard it, some claim is was mentioned by Rupp in a radio interview, some suggest that Rupp had made the claim during the pre-game press conference etc.

The fact of the matter is that while numerous journalists have repeated this claim, none have actually provided any evidence whatsoever that Rupp actually ever said it in the first place.

One thing does seem apparent, is that Haskins did try to use the claim to his advantage:

From left Duke coach Vic Bubas, Utah coach Jack Gardner and Texas Western Coach Don Haskins congratulate Adolph Rupp for winning the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association "Coach of the Year" award. This was held in Washington D.C., on March 18, 1966, the day of the semi-final games. Between this and the press conference prior to the Final Four, no mention was made in the press of any boasting by Rupp of his teams not being able to be beaten.

More recently, Haskins in his book with Dan Wetzel (Glory Road, Hyperion, 2006) seems to back off Lattin's claims about a press conference (note that although CBS, in their special on the game "Glory in Black and White", went to the trouble to show video clips of Rupp at a press conference, however there was no audio with the clips and there has been no evidence whatsoever (reported at the time by the news media or first-hand claims of someone hearing it) that Rupp ever said these things, at a press conference or otherwise.) Haskins also doesn't repeat Fitzpatrick's claim about a radio program.

What Haskins does reveal is this: "I also have to admit that I may have used race as a motivating factor. By this point the media was talking about it anyway and there was no way it hadn't entered my guys' thinking. Beside I was told Rupp had told some people privately that there was no way a black team would beat him. It got back to me that he was tellin' a joke, 'What does TWC stand for ? Two white coaches.' I was a little pissed off about that. I didn't know if that was true, but during one of my meetings with the team on the afternoon of the day of the championship game, I mentioned to the players I had heard some rumors that Rupp had said that he 'ain't losin' to a team of black players.' I was trying to fire up their asses."

JPS Note - What can be surmised from the above jumble of stories is that Haskins, by his own admission, told his team that Rupp made the remark before the game, even if the details of exactly how Rupp was supposed to have made the remark varies widely and Haskins himself admits he didn't hear it first-hand.

Another take on this may be (and what Haskins leaves open with his comments is) 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 something to his players if he thought it would fire them up 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 Haskins' speech seemed to energize the players.

Unfortunately, although Kirkpatrick, Sanchez and Fitzpatrick etc. reported the incident decades later and cited Haskins telling his players in pregame, all of them failed to get Haskins himself on the record about the incident, even though Haskins was interviewed extensively for the respective pieces.

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, 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.

Poor Journalism: Example II

Poor Journalism: Example III

Poor Journalism: Example IV

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." With the exception of a small few, Kentucky was regularly 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 V

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 VI

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.

Update (April 28, 2013)

Marvin Kalb - Struggles with providing basic evidence
Fifteen years after the above comments were made, Marvin Kalb was at it again when he wrote for The Atlantic an article about CCNY and the impending scandal titled "The College Basketball Victory That Seemed Too Good to Be True - and Was" (April 25, 2013)

In his article, Kalb repeated the claim about the Kentucky players not shaking hands but gave some slightly different details:

Beyond the handshake claim, Kalb goes beyond that to make a further and incendiary claim against Rupp:

Poor Journalism: Example VII

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 VIII

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. John's and Kentucky in December. A black player, Solly Walker played in the game and this was one of the first occurrences 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 (which as demonstrated later on in this page is incorrect. The Associated Press ran a story where Rupp specifically discussed Walker's appearance in Lexington, and mentioned that Kentucky had already set up accommodations for the entire team.)

Mike Douchant. . . Apparently still 'looking into it'
Douchant goes on to assert that Walker "played only a few minutes before he took a hit sidelining him for three weeks." This claim is completely bogus, 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 (5 days later on 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. John's 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 later that season on the chance that Douchant was actually talking about that game, however that did not happen either. Walker played in the NCAA game against Kentucky and afterwards played the following game against Illinois.

The level of false detail attributed to Rupp in an apparent on-going effort to vilify the man is pretty pathetic in this case. The claims by Douchant are even more odd because his 1994 version of the same book did not mention this issue 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. After a number of years, he is still currently 'looking into it' although he has yet to admit it was even a mistake and certainly didn't say on what basis he made the claim. It will be interesting to see how the next edition of this book reads.

Poor Journalism: Example IX

During the 2009-10 NCAA Tournament, Kentucky faced Cornell in the Sweet 16 in Syracuse, NY. The clash brought about great media interest, due to the differences in the two programs.

Action from the game. Cornell's Walter Esdaile grabs a rebound
It was noted by a few that Kentucky had actually played Cornell once before, in a game in December 1966 in which Cornell beat Kentucky on their home floor, 92-77. (this was considered a huge upset at the time, although in retrospect it wasn't quite so much given that the 1966-67 Kentucky team ended up with a 13-13 record, which was Rupp's worst (and only non-winning) record.

A few sportswriters took the opportunity to track down some of the former Cornell players and interviewed them about the game. They decided to include a few barbs at Kentucky and Rupp, even though the players admitted they didn't experience any racism at the time.

Poor Journalism: Example X

Another claim concering Rupp came from Spencer Haywood, who came out of Detroit Pershing High School in 1967. Haywood was heavily recruited, reportedly by over 200 colleges, when he signed a letter of intent with the University of Tennessee in May, 1967. By signing with the Vols, Haywood would become that school's first black signee.

Tennessee brought him down to Knoxville during the summer where they set him up with a no-work job, a complimentary car and plenty of cash for clothes and spending money. According to Haywood's book (Spencer Haywood: Rise, Fall, and Recovery (Turtleback Books, 1994)): "A big selling point for Tennessee was that unlike most of the schools that recruited me, Tennessee said it wouldn't be necessary for me to attend junior college for a year. I didn't pass Tennessee's entrance exam, but I was told that was no problem. The school would bring Wiley Davis and me to Knoxville for the summer, get us nice jobs, and set me up with tutors to prep me for another shot at the test."

Haywood failed to become academically eligible. He left Knoxville shortly thereafter. Article published in The Knoxville Journal, August 29, 1967.
When it came time for the fall semester to begin, however, it became apparent that Haywood did not have the academic scores to be enrolled in the school. Tennessee recommended that Haywood enroll in the nearby Knoxville College to take a college prepartory classes.

Instead, Haywood chose to leave Knoxville in the dead of night. With the help of his high school coach, Will Robinson, Haywood soon ended up at Trinidad Junior College in Colorado and eventually returned to Detroit to star for the University of Detroit Titans.

In Haywood's autobiogaphy published in 1972, below is how Haywood described the decision to leave Tennessee:

"I finally decided to go to Tennessee. That sounds crazy, I know, and [Will] Robinson was dead against it. He figured they just wanted to use me, and he was probably right. But I had met a chick in Knoxville when they brought me to the campus for a visit and I really dug this sister; and even though there sure weren't many blacks in school, there were a lot of them in town, and a lot of sisters I thought I could deal with in the black part of town, and I thought I'd have fun there. It's just a chancy thing, you know, why a guy makes up his mind that he likes this place or that place or wants to go here or there, and a sympathetic sister is as good a reason as any. Ray Mears, the coach, seemed like a nice man. And there was a lot of talk of me breaking the black barrier, blazing a trail in basketball for blacks to follow me in that school and all southern schools. I liked the idea of being a pioneer. So I enrolled. But when I took the entrance exam, I flunked it. I did my best, but I wasn't ready for it and I didn't make it. And the NCAA ruled I couldn't play ball there because of that. So I dropped out."

"Robinson had wanted me to go to New Mexico, where he'd sent Mel Daniels and Ira Harge and had a good arrangement, or Detroit, where he hoped he'd be the next coach. Because of flunking the Tennessee test, I guess, I couldn't get right into a college, but had to go to a junior college first. Bob King, the New Mexico coach, gave me a pretty good rush and arranged for me to prep at Trinidad Junior College in Colorado, and I gave in to him. He sneaked me out by plane in a helluva hurry, as though guys were on my tail, and I guess the recruiters were coming round, and I found myself at good old Trinidad JC."

(Stand Up for Something: The Spencer Haywood story by Bill Libby and Spencer Haywood, Grosset & Dunlap, 1972, pg. 36-37.)

Spencer Haywood
"I felt even more alienated when Coach Mears informed me I would have to go to a junior college in Chattanooga (sic, actually Knoxville) for a year. Apparently Mears was encountering opposition to my enrollment. If I were a normal superstar recruit, Tennessee could slip me in even if my grades were low and I flunked the entrance exam. But I wasn't normal; I was Black and large and well-known. The rumor was that Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp wasn't happy about Tennessee's having landed me and vowed that if I wouldn't play for him, I wouldn't play for anyone in the SEC. The NCAA's attention was focused on me and Tennessee."

It seemed to me that Tennessee was reneging. The people in town and at the school, for the most part, had been very nice to us. Coach Mears seemed like an honest man. But they had made it sound so easy, and now there was a major kink in the original plan. I wanted to call off the whole deal, try out one of the other 338 schools that had recruited me, but the Tennessee people told me that would not be possible.

"We've invested a lot of time and money in you, Spencer," they told me. "You can't leave us now."

I figured I could. Wiley and I called UTEP to see if those people were still interested in me,and naturally they were. When Robinson found out about that plan, he phoned us and really ripped into us.

"Oh, now you're negotiating deals for Spencer, eh?" Will said to Wiley. "Look, I warned you about Tennessee, and if you guys want out of there, I'll find a place for you."

. . .

The hard part would be getting out of Knoxville. I knew the Tennessee people would not be happy to see their new superstar splitting town, so Wiley and I figured it would be best if they didn't see us splitting town. We knew there might be trouble, angry confrontations, and who knows what else. Threats? Intimidation? When you're raised in the South, your imagination can really take off on stuff like this." We were afraid that if we tried to reason or negotiate our way out of town, we might not get out.

We plotted our escape. Coach King arranged a midnight flight from Knoxville to Denver. He wanted to get us to Trinidad as quickly as possible, ahead of the rival recruiters who would be circling like buzzards once word got out that I was fleeing Tennessee.

Late one night Wiley and I jammed our luggage in the trunk of the yellow Cutlass I was driving at the time and headed for the airport. But we ran out of gas on the way, so we left the keys in the car, grabbed our bags, and ran the last two miles to the airport, looking over our shoulders all the way. We were scared as hell until the plane got into the air, and then we laughed like little kids. We imagined the newscasts.

"Spencer Haywood has disappeared! Police found his car abandoned airport, and there are no clues to his whereabouts."

We were relieved to be leaving the South, but all we knew about our next destination was that it was somewhere in the West. Trinidad. Sounded exotic, like something in the Caribbean.

(Spencer Haywood's Rise, Fall and Recovery by Spencer Haywood and Scott Ostler, Turtleback Books, 1994, pg. 70.)

As the years went on, the narrative became more streamlined. Instead of the issue being Haywood and his own inability to make a minimal academic standard, it was blamed on Rupp exclusively.

Unfortunately, a few gullible sportswriters were naive enough to actually repeat Haywood's claims as fact. In a 2006 article on Haywood, Dan Raley of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer interviewed Haywood and wrote: "A Misssissippi native raised as a teen in Detroit, Haywood accepted a scholarship offer from Tennessee, supposedly making him the Southeastern Conference's first black basketball player. When Kentucky's Adolph Rupp interceded, suggesting his program would decide when and where the league became integrated, Haywood fled to Trinidad State Junior College near the Colorado-New Mexico border, where he averaged 28.2 points and 22.1 rebounds." ("Where Are They Now? Spencer Haywood, the Stylish Star" by Dan Raley, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 22, 2006.)

Poor Journalism: Example XI

In late September of 2009, a particularly damaging claim against Rupp was made in the New York Times, a claim which seemingly came out of nowhere.

The article interviewed former Georgia and pro basketball player Tim Bassett, who currently works as the general manager of a Manhattan bar, and was reportedly working on a book about his life. Bassett was interviewed about his times as a former player, in particular his travails as a racial pioneer, given that he and teammate Ronnie Hogue were the first black players to suit up for the Georgia Bulldogs. (Hogue had started playing varsity in 1970-71 season while Bassett came to Athens a year later, as a junior college transfer).

In the article Bassett makes two strong claims against Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp. Wrote the New York Times author, Chris Hine:

JPS Response: These claims are very damaging to Rupp, if true. It is correct that Bassett had a great game against the Wildcats in Athens, which was the first time Georgia had beaten UK at home since 1967 (and only the eighth time ever, home or away). And it is true that Rupp was not happy with the loss (he never was) and in particular the efforts of his All-SEC center Jim Andrews, who was primarily matched against Bassett in the game.

After the game, Bassett bragged about how he dominated Andrews, who had been held to eight-points. Boasted Bassett "I knew I could take Andrews to the basket. That was our plan . . . he's slow and he's not a good defensive player. He hurts them on defense." (Atlanta Journal, February 22, 1972).

The veracity of the initial claim about Rupp having more than a few-second discussion with Bassett after the game seems odd, but who's to disagree, since presumably this was a conversation between two people, one of whom is dead.

I should note that if this conversation indeed happened, it's not a given that Rupp was referring to Bassett's race, as much as his academic standing. I don't know the state of Bassett's academic standing at the time but the mere fact he took a JUCO route to Georgia suggests it probably wasn't stellar. If someone wants to claim it was based on race, then that makes very little sense, given that SEC varsity basketball had been integrated since Vanderbilt's Perry Wallace in 1967-68 and subsequently many SEC programs had already integrated their varsity programs (including Kentucky and Georgia the year previously to go along with Vanderbilt, Alabama and Auburn and that season Florida, LSU, Mississippi & Tennessee). In other words by the time this conversation is supposed to have occurred nearly the entire SEC was already integrated. Beyond that, if the comment was race related it would be even more bizarre because at the very time Rupp was supposed to be saying this to Bassett, Kentucky was integrated as black players Darryl Bishop and Elmore Stephens were on the Wildcat team.

It is true that Rupp did prepare his team the second time around for the Bulldogs, an opponent which Rupp claimed was the best Georgia team he could remember. In particular Andrews, who had an outstanding game in Lexington scoring 32 points in the return game while holding Bassett to 17 points, as part of a 24-point Kentucky victory. Said Rupp "We had Andrews primed for this one. . . When you start riding a guy about his defense, that usually wakes him up." [JPS Note: Although it's not clear if Rupp was referring to himself or to Bassett's quotes who had ridden Andrews about his defense.]

Where Bassett's story falls apart, however, is in the description of the 'effigy' that he claims was hung 'from the ceiling.' For starters, the ceiling in Memorial Coliseum is suspended so high off the floor that there is no realistic way that someone could hang something from it, without the use of a high-reach or in a few spots a large ladder. Neither is it clear how an effigy would be hung, given that the ceiling of Memorial is flat (i.e. there's no accessible rafters etc. to hang something from.)

JPS Note: I think it's noteworthy that although Memorial Coliseum was considered one of the better gymnasiums in the South at the time, it wasn't THAT large. For example there's no second deck to speak of and all parts of the arena are readily accessible from the floor. If there was something amiss anywhere inside the arena, it wouldn't take more than a half-a-minute to investigate.

Memorial Coliseum has a very open design with a flat ceiling.

The other critical problem is that there is absolutely no record or recollection of this incident happening from anyone else.

For the record, I did talk with Mr. Bassett himself about his claim. He did still maintain that he saw 'something', albeit for a brief time. But he didn't provide any specific details as to what it was, where specifically it was located within Memorial Coliseum or why he thought Rupp was behind it.

Beyond talking with Mr. Bassett, I questioned administrators and support staff who were at the University of Kentucky at the time, including then-sports information director Russell Rice, and they all completely deny that such an event happened. In fact they were offended that the claim was even made and annoyed it was taken seriously by others.

University of Georgia officials, who were also at the school during that time period, also don't recall such an event occurring. Numerous players and support personnel for both teams were questioned about this and none recall this incident. More critically, of a handful of Bassett's own teammates, not only don't they remember seeing an effigy, but none remember something as memorable as offering to sit out a game to support their teammates over what would seem such a controversial event.

Beyond all of this, looking back through the newspaper articles which covered the games (including the The Atlanta Journal, The Atlanta Constitution and UGa's student newspaper The Red and Black), none mention or even hint that something had been amiss before, during or after the game. One would think that if an incident had indeed occurred that someone would have mentioned it somewhere ?

Or surely at least the coach of Georgia would know about it and be incensed? But again there's no hint of animosity. It is noteworthy that by all indications UGa Coach Ken Rosemond and Rupp were on good terms prior to these games. More germane to the issue at hand, soon after these two UK-UGa games in 1972, Rosemond wrote to Rupp asking for a letter of recommendation to be considered for the head coaching position at Duke; so it appears that Rosemond and Rupp stayed on a good terms. [JPS Note: Unfortunately, Ken Rosemond died in 1993 and thus is not available for comment on these particular claims.]

So where does this leave us ? Frankly a lot more questions than answers at this point. For example, even if such a thing happened, what makes Bassett so sure that Rupp was even aware of it, much less condoned it? For that matter, what exactly was hung, and where, and when ? (important questions since the claim made in the New York Times that it hung from the ceiling, while probably not physically impossible, would be very difficult and conspicuous for one to hang given the architecture of Memorial Coliseum.) And most importantly, why can't anyone verify such a memorable incident occurred, and why is there no hint or mention of it in the record of the day?

Strangely, the year before this article appeared, the book Across the Line by Barry Jacobs was published about the struggles that black basketball pioneers in the ACC and SEC experienced. Both Bassett and Hogue were interviewed extensively for this book. A complete 23-page chapter was devoted to their time at the University of Georgia and covered a number of racial incidents and topics, yet this particular incident wasn't mentioned at all. Maybe someday Bassett's own book will solve this mystery ?

As far as The New York Times, this is where things actually get interesting. After talking directly with the author of the article (Chris Hine), the sports editor (Tom Jolly) and the managing editor at the paper, it was clear that this particular claim in the article should never have been published in the first place.

According to Hine, who was an intern and had since left the paper to take a more permanent position in Chicago, he had many of the same questions about Bassett's story as I did. Hine claimed he left the passage in the story as a draft with the intention of verifying it with a second source (or failing that removing it completely) at a later time, which he was never able to do. Apparently, the newspaper went ahead and published the draft version without his knowledge or consent, and more importantly proceeded to publish without ever verifying what were very serious claims with any substantiation or second source. (Journalism 101!)

When I brought the issue up to the editor, Tom Jolly, he refused to make a retraction until he could 'find the truth', although Jolly struggled to make any headway on his own. After providing him as much help as I could, including providing direct contact information to sources, he never got back to me and presumably was as ineffective as Hine and myself were at independently verifying any of these claims.

Postscript: Later on, Jolly was reassigned to another section of the paper, in large part due to the way the New York Times sports department, under his direction at the time, mishandled the Duke Lacrosse story, among other issues which revealed a serious lack of journalistic integrity and professionalism at the paper.

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 three 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 in the midst of 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 put a lot of stock into 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, who apparently has 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 first-hand 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.) Instead, Deford's version of events were leaked twenty-five years after the incident in a vague reference from Curry Kirkpatrick's piece and only after thirty years did he confirm hearing the tirade, all well after Rupp was already dead. This instead of confronting 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, and at a time when Olsen's criticisms had a real chance of effecting change.

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 amplify the severity of the accusation (such as 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 want to call it that) with any type of first-hand account.

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)

President Oswald greets Rupp during a happier time
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, i.e. 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.

As for Oswald, while some have given Oswald high marks for attempting to integrate UK athleties, it's not clear exactly what the basis of that is. Per Oswald's own words, while he was supportive of integration, he didn't go out of his way to push integration on the academic side. In a 1987 oral history interview he doesn't remember ever making a public statement in favor of integration during his time at UK (unlike Frank Dickey) and didn't seem to know when UK's faculty was integrated. (When Sociology professor Joseph Scott's name was provided by interviewer Terry Birdwhistell, Oswald could only remark that the name 'rings a bell'. But in the interview Oswald does seem to take great pride in his efforts on the athletic side, which apparently involved two home visits to black recruits early on in his career at UK. Oswald claimed that he went with Harry Lancaster (or Bernie Shively, he couldn't remember for sure) to help recruit Wes Unseld at his home in 1964. Although this apparently wasn't reported in the newspapers. Bizarrely, in the same interview Oswald falsely claimed Rupp never visited a black player's home, when in fact Rupp had visited Wes Unseld in his home in a highly publicized visit which must have occurred around the same time as Oswald's visit. Oswald didn't remember where Unseld ended up going to school and could barely remember that UK recruited Butch Beard the following year. Oswald seems to have taken great pride in his helping the football coaches recruit UK's first black player, Nat Northington, but then later he couldn't remember what happened to Northington after the Greg Page tragedy.

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

Byond the instance already discussed concerning the second-hand claim that Rupp had said 'no five blacks could beat my team' prior to the 1966 Championship game, there are other instances where Rupp reportedly disparaged blacks, although their authenticity and relevance to this issue in some cases aren't clear. The following is from yet another second-hand source where he reportedly 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".

4. 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.

5. 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 to the Legend Coach Adolph Rupp's Family Strive to Return Luster to His Reputation Legacy Fades with Memories of Fans," March 14, 1993.

"I might have the reputation of being mean, but I'm not THAT mean," Rupp told [UK team academic advisor Claude] Vaughan. "I'm not going to put some kid on the end of the bench and hurt his feelings and his parents' feeling just so we can have a token. I'm going to recruit a black kid, and I'm going to recruit one who can play." - article by Ben Roberts, "Adolph Rupp A Disputed Legacy," Kentucky Kernel, March 24, 2005.

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 absence, 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 arsenal when recruiting against Kentucky.

6. 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).

Return to top

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 went on to become the head coach at Western Kentucky and later the Minnesota Golden Gophers, where he faced Kentucky in the 1997 Final Four semifinal game.

Some reporters claim in their articles that while in High School, 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. In fact, Rupp couldn't do so at the time as the school hadn't given permission for its coaches to offer scholarships to black players. As described later in this page, that changed in late May 1963 when the University of Kentucky formally announced that their athletic programs were open to players of any race. This meant Adolph Rupp now had the official approval to pursue black recruits. Unfortunately for all parties, Clem Haskins had already announced his intention to attend the University of Louisville the previous month on April 28, 1963.

Based on the above statements about not considering going to Kentucky when he grew up, along with the statements 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 inadvertently 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 Haskins' 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

Article from Charleston (WV) Gazette, April 8, 1964
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.

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.

1964 Kentucky High School basketball All-Tournament Team - Held in Memorial Coliseum.
Front row (l to r): Greg Smith (Caldwell County), Jim LeMaster (Bourbon County), Leonard Poole (Breckinridge County), Jimmy Rose (Hazard), Norman Weaver (Allen County)
Back Row: George Stone (Covington Grant), George Wilson (Lexington Dunbar), Joe Davis (Hazard), Butch Beard (Breckinridge County), Westley Unseld (Louisville Seneca)

Westley Unseld
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.

Article from Louisville Courier Journal, April 17, 1964 (JPS Note: The article provides interesting detail at the end concerning Kentucky making arrangements to play Mississippi and Mississippi State on an alternative court to avoid potential issues.)

Article from Lexington Herald April 29, 1964
In recent interviews, Unseld has stated that one factor which convinced him that UK was not interested in him was an article which questioned Unseld for not sticking around to visit with Rupp during his recruiting trip. "A day or two later it was in the paper, that I didn't have the courtesy to meet with him (Rupp). So I figured he didn't really want me there, and there was no sense in me kidding myself." - Wes Unseld in interview with Dick Gabriel, Adolph Rupp: Myth, Legend and Fact, WKYT, 2005.

JPS Note: - I have searched all the Louisville (Courier-Journal, Times and Defender) and Lexington papers (Herald and Leader) during that time period looking for this article which questioned Unseld, without any luck to date. I'd be interested to see what exactly it said and who wrote it. If anyone can locate the article in question, or let me know where it was published, I'd appreciate if you can let me know.

Another thing to know is that the in-home visit occurred on April 16. Within two weeks Rupp was back in Louisville at the Seneca team banquet awarding Unseld with a trophy for being named the top prep player in the nation, an honor which likely was at least in part due to the influence of Rupp himself. If there truly was an issue that Unseld was concerned about, he had the opportunity to discuss it with Rupp directly at the time.

The issue of race and integration was a major concern at the time, in particular how Unseld would be treated by rival fans on road trips to the deep south. It's noteworthy that at the time of Unseld's recruitment, the 1964 Civil Rights Act had not yet been passed (it would come into law later that summer). This law for the first time ensured (in theory) that hotels and restaurants would be open to blacks.

Article from Louisville Courier Journal, April 21, 1964
The fact that Kentucky and Rupp offered Unseld prior to enactment of the law underscores the difficulties they were courting. To their credit they did make the offer and went to the trouble of attempting to pave the way, again even before the US government determined to put the weight of law behind opening up accommodations.

In the article above (Louisville Courier Journal, April 17, 1964) it states that prior to Kentucky's formal scholarship offer to Unseld, they had contacted schools about securing sleeping and eating accommodations in the Deep South, and in addition had made arrangements with Mississippi and Mississippi State to play their 'home' games in the city of Memphis Tennessee, which would presumably afford an integrated UK team more favorable accommodation options and likely avoid the types of problems which could be expected in the small towns of Oxford and Starkville further to the South.

After Unseld signed with Louisville, the Sports Editor of the local black newspaper (Clarence L. Matthews of The Louisville Defender) wrote a recap of the decision and noted that there were concerns by Unseld's parents over travel, although it noted that Kentucky had tried to work these issues out.

Matthews also noted the work Kentucky had done the year previously (1963) when they polled league members concerning how they would react to an integrated Kentucky squad, prior to announcing their intentions to open UK's athletic programs to black athletes (despite not receiving universal acceptance from their SEC counterparts.)

The importance of Unseld signing for an SEC school was much bigger than just basketball; it would be an important milestone in the struggle for equal rights overall. This was not lost on many in the black community, many of whom lobbied Unseld and his parents to sign with Kentucky.

"Athletically, I was probably the top recruit in the country. So, there was pressure from the black community, and black civil rights leaders, for me to do this - to go to Kentucky, to be the first in the SEC. Most people don't know, but I was also first in the ACC being recruited too." - Wes Unseld in interview with Dick Gabriel, Adolph Rupp: Myth, Legend and Fact, WKYT, 2005.

JPS Note: - Unless Unseld is referring to another ACC school besides the University of South Carolina, he is incorrect about this. It is known that when South Carolina hired Frank McGuire in the spring of 1964, that McGuire expressed an interest in signing Wes Unseld. [McGuire had earlier integrated the St. John's basketball program in the early 1950's with Solly Walker and also coached black players in the pros.] However, McGuire was forced to abandon any interest in Unseld once boosters found out that Unseld was black. This was oddly similar to an earlier encounter in the mid-1950's when McGuire (who was then head coach at the University of North Carolina) had heard about the exploits of a high school player and mentioned how he wanted to sign him. That was until it was found out that the player in question was black and McGuire was forced to quickly drop the matter.

Included in the group of black leaders who wanted to see Unseld sign with UK was the editor of the state's black newspaper of record, The Louisville Defender, Frank Stanley Jr., who stated "We - the people of the community who have the interest of the University of Kentucky at heart and who have a great deal of admiration for Unseld - would like to see him go to Kentucky." (see article to right, Louisville Courier Journal, April 21, 1964.) Stanley was also the chairman of the Allied Organizations for Civil Rights in Kentucky.

Unseld entering the SEC was seen not only as a great step forward at UK but also as a potential break in the dam holding back integration in Southern athletics. Noted Matthews in the article above from the Louisville Defender, "Unseld was also ticketed to be the trailblazer in the S.E.C. Other school particularly in the northern section of the conference in Tennessee reportedly were waiting the results of Unseld's reception in the league to sign Negro players themselves. Some of these S.E.C. schools reportedly had already picked their prospective Negro recruits."

But the pressures which go along with being a trailblazer were high. There were threats made to Unseld to not attend UK but he claims that didn't influence his college choice.

But in the end, it was a burden that Unseld was not particularly looking to embrace.

In late May of 1964, Unseld ended any hopes Kentucky faithful may have held by signing with Louisville. This was a mild surprise to some, who had long considered Kansas to be the front-runner for Unseld's services. However closer to the date it became apparent that Unseld was interested in a college closer to home, and the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and local Bellarmine College were considered to be the contenders.

As it turned out after the news of his signing broke, Unseld reportedly signed a Missouri Valley Conference letter of intent nearly two weeks earlier, so while the media may have thought he was leaning or considering a wider range of schools, he himself likely had been focused much more narrowly. This early signing prevented other Missouri Valley Conference schools (other than Louisville) from recruiting Unseld. The latter signing of the interconference letter of intent prevented many other schools outside the Missouri Valley Conference (at least those who subscribed to the letter of intent system, which included Kentucky) from signing him .

Article from Great Bend (Kansas) Daily Tribune, May 21, 1964
From Louisville Courier Journal, May 21, 1964

By 1974, Unseld was in the midst of his professional NBA career and was interviewed by Pat Putnam for Sports Illustrated. Unseld admitted that he probably wasn't cut out to be a social pioneer.

In subsequent years, Unseld has suggested that Kentucky did not seriously recruit him and was convinced that they didn't really want him. This in contrast to the information at the time along with claims by those close to Kentucky which state that he was an important recruit.

The difference of opinion over Unseld's recruitment by Kentucky is an interesting contrast in perceptions. While some in the media at the time may have thought Kentucky had a legitimate chance at the big man, it seems that those close to the situation (i.e. Rupp and Unseld) thought the chances remote. It's also clear that there was a wide gulf in the perception of how hard Rupp and Kentucky recruited the player from Louisville.

JPS Note: - Unseld in his comments was not apparently aware that technically Rupp was not allowed to recruit black players prior to him. UK opened their athletic programs to integration in May of 1963. At the time, Rupp had already filled his allotted scholarships for the upcoming 1963-64 season, but targeted Unseld for recruitment the following spring.

Also, one thing that is perhaps not well known about Rupp is that he was a very poor recruiter in terms of actively engaging and trying to convince a recruit to come to the University of Kentucky to play basketball. Rupp rarely travelled to recruit players, recruits typically came to him. In Rupp's view, if a recruit wasn't able to recognize the benefits of playing basketball for what he considered to be the greatest program and greatest coach in the country, then the player wasn't smart enough to play for him anyway. Given Rupp's achievements at the time, it's understandable why he thought this way, although it did handicap him later in his career as other programs put a greater emphasis into basketball recruiting and successfully steered recruits away from Lexington.

It is interesting to contrast the difference of opinion in terms of Rupp's recruiting activities between Unseld (who now claims he wasn't seriously recruited) and Rupp's son (along with others who were there at the time) who claim Rupp put more effort into Unseld's recruitment than any other player. This difference presaged much of Rupp's problems in recruiting late in his career (for both black and white players).

Butch Beard

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 signed a letter of intent with the Missouri Valley Conference to attend the University of Louisville. (letter of intents during those days were signed with the conference, not the school) As will be discussed in detail below, soon thereafter Beard had a change of heart and decided to attend Kentucky instead, however the Missouri Valley Conference and the University of Louisville would not release him. The family even hired an attorney to find a way to allow him to attend UK but was unsuccessful.

In the end, Beard honored his earlier commitment and ended up going to the University of Louisville where he became an All-American. After a successful NBA career, he went on to become a head coach, including spending some time coaching in the NBA.

After Rupp visited Beard in his home, he invited Butch to Lexington to for an all-day visit. Beard's high school coach, Don Morris, accompanied him on the recruiting trip which included another recruit, Alvin Ratliff, an all-state player who played at Meade Memorial.

The two recruits viewed the UK football team practice and the campus. Included in the visit were discussions with the Governor of the state, Edward T. Breathitt, former Governor Lawrence Wetherby, Coach Rupp, football coach Charlie Bradshaw, UK President John W. Oswald, UK student congress president (and future governor of the state) Steve Beshear among others.

Beard and Ratliff ate lunch with UK players and also talked with former UK players Alex Groza and Frank Ramsey.

Said Rupp about the visit: "We showed them everything on campus. . . We wanted them to know about the other facets of the University, besides our basketball program, should they decide to cast their fortunes with us."

According to an article in The Lexington Leader: "Beard listed three qualities he hopes the school he selects will possess: (1) good educational opportunities, (2) a good coach, (3) a good campus environment. How does UK stand up? 'I liked the campus life,' Beard said, 'and it is one of the best universities around. My opinion was upped considerably.'"

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.

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.

Published in Louisville Courier-Journal, April 6, 1965
"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 persuasion from Rupp." - by Frank Fitzpatrick, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Simon & Schuster, 1999, pg. 189.

Players weren't the only ones called in to assist with Beard's recruitment. Democratic Governor of Kentucky Edward T. Breathitt (UK class of 1948) was sworn into office December 10, 1963 and made efforts to assist his alma mater to attend UK, and other state schools. For the University of Kenucky this included encouraging basektball star Wes Unseld to attend in 1964 and football star Garnett Phelps (see article to right) although neither was successful.

Breathitt was present on the day that Beard visited the UK campus (on April 7, 1965) for "Governor's Day" and encouraged him to attend the school. This support prompted the University of Louisville Student Council to issue a resolution denouncing the governor for helping UK. In an editorial by the Louisville Courier Journal (published April 24, 1965) it was noted the criticism from all sides that the governor encounters no matter what he did. Wrote the editors:

Despite the potential for violence and despite the outside pressures, 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.

Beard went on to have a stellar career at Louisville, where he became the third-leading scorer in school history and earned All-American honors at Louisville.

A Fateful Spring Day Changes Everything

JPS Note:The above outlines a recruitment in many ways similar to that of Wes Unseld. Kentucky attempted to recruit Butch Beard but could not convince him that they truly wanted him and couldn't allay the fears of travelling in the Deep South. But Beard's recruitment did take an unforeseen turn which suggests that Butch was significantly closer to wanting to attend Kentucky than Unseld ever was, as described below.

Unfortunately for Kentucky, the change of heart didn't occur until literally the day Beard is said to have signed with Louisville, which was the first day an interconference Letter of Intent could be signed. This day, May 20 1965, saw Beard reportedly sign the Letter of Intent at 8:01 AM in the morning in the city of Louisville. The time is important because the document clearly states that it cannot be signed prior to 8:00 AM local time on that day.

Soon after that morning, Beard and his teammates at Breckinridge County were picked up at their homes in Hardinsburg by one of his high school coaches, Ginger Wilson, and transported to Lexington for the state track meet. It was there that Beard talked personally with Rupp and apparently had a change of heart.

After the track meet, Beard remained on campus in Lexington and was hosted by assistant coach Neil Reed among others. That evening, Reed accompanied Beard to dinner along with many notables and thought he had finally convinced the youngster to come to Kentucky, and he likely did. However the following morning Beard revealed a problem which hit Reed like a bombshell.

On the first day recruits could sign a national letter of intent, UK hosted Beard and his high school coach, Don Morris, on campus. He was the guest at a dinner at Spindle Top Hall attended by boosters, former UK players and five living governors. He met the Kentucky football and basketball players. The coaches were certain they had their man.

"Saturday I dropped him off at the Phoenix Hotel and I said, 'Well I think you know now that Mr. Rupp and the people of the University, the people of the Commonwealth want you here Butch.' Cause he did have a question, I'm sure, he came from west ....but.... and he started crying and I thought it was tears of joy. I thought it was just tears tears of joy. And he said, 'Coach I signed at Louisville yesterday morning.' And I was in shock." - (former UK assistant Neil Reed to Dick Gabriel, Adolph Rupp: Myth, Legend and Fact, WKYT, 2005.).

For it's part, Louisville had planned on holding a news conference the following Wednesday evening (May 26) to announce the signing of Beard. However early in the day Beard called to cancel the event. Although Beard gave no explanation for the cancellation of the press conference, according to John Dromo (then U of L assistant coach who was responsible for Beard's recruitment) in a later article about Beard, it appeared that Beard "suddenly lost interest in UL" after attending the track meet in Lexington. ("Beard Switches, Will Attend UK", Louisville Courier Journal, May 30, 1965.)

Header of Billy Thompson's Friday (May 29) article which first suggested issues with Beard decision. Read the entire article here.
Indications that something was brewing with Beard became public that Friday in an article by Lexington Herald sports editor Billy Thompson (Lexington Herald, May 29, 1965). According to the article, Louisville had planned a media release that Wednesday night and gave advance copies to the press with instructions to run it at 7:55 pm unless otherwise contacted. As it turned out, Louisville officials did call to cancel the announcement but a wire service didn't get the message and the news reportedly ran in some papers.

According to Thompson's article "Thursday night (May 27), one or more University of Louisville representatives, reportedly visited Beard's home in Hardinsburg. They were met at the door by Beard's father, who reportedly refused them admittance."

The article continues, "Word comes from Hardinsburg that Beard and his father are 'sold' on the University of Kentucky. They both have visited the campus. Beard's mother, though, is worried about her son's safety in the segregated Southeastern Conference. She has not visited the UK campus, but is scheduled to visit it soon - perhaps she will be on the campus with Butch today."

"Some UK basketball players have stated they would be glad to room with Beard if he comes to Kentucky. Homer Gray, a 5-9 guard on Breckinridge's team, reportedly would accompany Beard to school at Kentucky and be his roommate. Beard's parents would prefer that their son not be the only Negro on the team."

The next few days were bedlam at the Beard homestead. "You have no idea what we have gone through the last 48 hours," Beard reportedly said to Louisville Courier Journal Sports Editor Earl Ruby. "Calls, letters, people all over town talking to me. People coming from Lexington and Louisville. I knew it would be bad but I had no idea of anything like this." (from "Ruby's Report", Louisville Courier Journal, May 30, 1965.)

The deliberations brought much interest to the Beard house, from all sides. Kentucky and Louisville officials were on-hand with their lawyers. His aunt, Mrs. W. H. McCallum, had flown in from Chicago to help with the decision. Said Beard about his aunt to Ruby, "I am really glad about one person who is coming. That's my aunt from Chicago. She is real smart. She has a doctor's degree and has been a missionary in Africa. I don't want to make any decisions on where I will got to college until I talk with her."

Beard's family had enlisted the services of an attorney, Robert C. Jackson, and by the end of the weekend he had announced Beard's intention to attend the University of Kentucky.

Published in the Louisville Courier Journal, May 30, 1965. See part two of the article.

According to his attorney's statement, "The boys choice all along has been the University of Kentucky, and I assure you, he will take proper steps to enter that school as soon as this (his letter of intent with the Missouri Valley Conference) is cleared up."

Bernie Shively, Kentucky athletic director said, "This comes as a complete surprise to me. I am glad Butch wants to attend Kentucky. When he is free to sign we will be delighted to welcome him here."

However Louisville assistant coach John Dromo claimed that the letter of intent was binding and there was nothing he could do about it. "We couldn't do that (release Beard) if we wanted to. The paper is on file with the conference. Nobody can void it but the commissioner Norvell Neve," he explained.

Even the governor of the state, Edward T. Breathitt, was dragged into the mess, as rumors suggested he was trying to exert pressure on U of L to release Beard to Kentucky. In response, the governor made a statement that "The only time I encouraged him [Beard] (to go to UK) was when I met him on the UK campus last spring. I'm pleased he has decided to go to school in Kentucky, and I'm pleased he'll go to the University of Kentucky. But I would have been pleased if he had gone to the University of Louisville."

(Note all quotes above from the article, "Beard Switches, Will Attend UK", Louisville Courier Journal, May 30, 1965.)

Illustrative of the debate within the black community, while many within the black community supported UK's efforts, there were others who not only opposed it but went to lengths to erect barriers.

One noteworthy example being that of Lyman T. Johnson, who as mentioned earlier had played an important role in desegregating schools within the state of Kentucky. By 1965, Johnson was the president of the Louisville branch of the National Association for the Advance of Colored People (NAACP), but instead of supporting Beard's desire to attend UK and break down racial barriers along the way, he actually threatened to sue Kentucky preventing it. According to Clarence Matthews of the Louisville Defender: "The NAACP head said there may be a case against the U of K for tieing the boy up in knots. He intimated the Lexington university may have used undue influence on the youngster. He said the boy was probably so confused at this state that he did not know in what direction he was headed." (Louisville Defender, June 10, 1965).

In the end the issue boiled down to the Letter of Intent that Beard had signed. As noted above, Louisville fell back on this document which had been filed with the Commissioner of the Missouri Valley Conference, Norvell Neve. Kentucky, who subscribed to the Letter of Intent regulations (not all colleges and universities did) was on thin ice by continuing to recruit someone who had signed elsewhere. However UK supporters expressed doubt that the document was valid, suggesting that the document was signed prior to the 8:00 AM start date which would have made the document invalid.

As noted by Billy Thompson in his column on Saturday, May 30.

"The rule states that the national letter-of-intent had to be signed after 8 o'clock on Thursday morning, May 20.

"University of Louisville officials claim that Beard signed the "letter" at 8:01 a.m. (EST) that morning. Then he and his father drove to Hardinsburg. Ginger Wilson, assistant cage coach and head track mentor at Breckinridge County, picked up Beard at Butch's home at 7:50 a.m. (CST) that morning. And he signed a statement to that effect.

"This meant that 49 minutes elapsed between the time of the signing in a Louisville dentist's office and the time that Wilson picked up Beard to bring him to the State track meet at Lexington.

"A check of the same path apparently followed from the dentist's office to Hardinsburg was begun at 8:01 o'clock this morning, and the distance could not be covered in 49 minutes to Beard's home. It required over an hour to make the trip.

"If Beard actually signed the letter-of-intent at 8:01 a.m. on May 20, the University of Kentucky would have been 'trespassing' if it continued to recruit Beard."

(by Billy Thompson, "Attorney Says Beard to Enter UK But Louisville Has His Signature", Lexington Herald, May 30, 1965. See the entire article in the following links: Page 1, Page 2.)

Peck Hickman
For their part, Louisville stood by the claim that Beard signed the document at the prescribed time, although no one ever explained the apparent discrepancy with Beard being picked up from his home less than an hour later. Although not claimed in earlier accounts, U of L Assistant Coach John Dromo later claimed he was present during the morning signing. "I wanted to make certain that Butch knew both the time and date of his signing, so I asked both him and his dad to write the day and time beside their signature," he said.

Other witnesses to the signing reportedly were Dr. C.J. Reheman of Hardinsburg (the man who is said to have brought Beard and his father to Louisville the previous night) along with his son, Dr. Leo Reherman and daughter-in-law. (according to article by Dave Whitaker, "UL 'Stands On Contract", Louisville Courier Journal, May 31, 1965.)

Said U of L coach Bernard (Peck) Hickman about the Beard situation, "A lot of schools and conferences worked awfully hard to get this inter-conference letter of intent, which is the forerunner of a national letter of intent. We respect other schools' signings, under this letter, and we expect others to respect ours." (in article by Dave Whitaker, "UL 'Stands On Contract", Louisville Courier Journal, May 31, 1965.)

Eventually, the University of Louisville did finally release the signed documents to the media, which the Louisville Courier Journal reprinted in their Sunday (May 31) edition.

Butch Beard's Interconference Letter of Intent, the document at the center of the dispute.

Published in the Lexington Herald, June 1, 1965.
With release of the documents, it became apparent to UK that not only did the documents actually exist, but further that unless there was direct evidence that the May 20 document was illegal (or unless the Missouri Valley Conference and U of L officials agreed to release Beard) that there was little they could do. Beyond that they would be violating the letter of intent regulations if they continued their recruitment of Beard.

On Monday, June 1, the University announced that in light of the information at hand, they were ceasing recruiting efforts of Beard pending the resolution of these issues by Beard and his family. Said UK Athletic Director Bernie Shively:

The following day, June 2, the Editorial Board of the Lexington Herald weighed in on the issue, agreeing with the University of Kentucky's decision to suspend their recruitment of Beard, although recognizing that there were still a number of loose ends and unresolved issues to be dealt with.

Noted the paper, "Kentucky had every right to get into the case after Beard expressed a preference to play the University here. Athletic relations between the two state universities have been good in the past and nothing should be done to alter in any way that situation. However, it must be admitted that the Louisville institution did not come forth immediately with all the facts concerning the signing of Beard and only presented copies of the letters of intent after the matter had gone so far that Beard's family felt the need of engaging an attorney to represent the young man."

Continued the editorial board, "We believe that the next move is up to Beard himself and the members of his family. They might be able to clear up some conflicting stories that have been carried in the press."

. . . If Beard and his father say that they signed the letter of intent with UL representatives - and we have not seen in earlier stories that any members of the UL coaching staff were present -- on May 20, by 8 o'clock or thereafter, then that should end the whole matter. Some claims have been made that the letter actually was signed earlier than the 8 o'clock deadline and the Beards certainly are the ones to clarify this point."

(above quotes from lead editorial "UK Acts Properly in Beard Matter", Lexington Herald, June 2, 1965. (Link 1, Link 2))

Published in the Louisville Courier Journal, June 6, 1965.
Beard was left with few options. If he chose to disregard the Letter of Intent, he would incur penalties and have only two years of competition available to him, unless the Missouri Valley Conference agreed to void the documents.

But Commissioner Neve held tight, saying "If we don't stick by our guns in this case, we might as well throw the whole machinery on the scrap heap, because it will simply break down." - article by Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, "The Negro Athlete is Invited Home," June 14, 1965, pp. 26-27.

Said a still-bitter UK Assistant Coach Neil Reed about the situation when asked decades later, "Coach Rupp got on the phone to the Commissioner of the Missouri Valley. He just laughed in Coach Rupp's face and since Coach Rupp was not the most popular guy with the NCAA or anybody else he beat all the time, there was nobody helped him. Nobody helped him. He got no help from the SEC office." - (Adolph Rupp: Myth, Legend and Fact, WKYT, 2005).

As illustrated in the article to the left, the Beards held out hope through the rest of the week exploring options, but finally on June 6, he acquiesced to the original Letter of Intent and confirmed that he would enter Louisville in the fall.

According to an article by Earl Ruby ("Ruby's Report", Louisville Courier Journal, June 6, 1965) the Beard's attorney released a statement by phone. Said Jackson, "Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Beard Sr. have informed me that they do not want me to proceed further in my efforts to determine the validity of the inter-conference letter of intent. In view of this development I will do nothing further unless requested to do so by the family."

Said Beard in the same article, "I hope that will be the start of four good years in Louisville."


Sports Illustrated, June 14, 1965. Article by Frank Deford. To read the actual article, click for page 1 and page 2.
The Beard saga did not escape national notice. About a week later an article was published in Sports Illustrated by a young reporter by the name of Frank Deford who discussed Beard's story and commented on the larger significance of it.

Deford noted that while Beard's recruitment to Kentucky was ultimately unsuccessful, it was an important breakthrough in terms of progressing the cause of integration in the South.

Said Deford about the Southeastern Conference: "For decades the 12 schools of the Southeastern Conference have had a gentleman's agreement not to field Negro athletes. Kentucky's pursuit of Beard means that the SEC has a new gentleman's agreement to forget the old one, and thus the last major-conference color bar has quietly fallen. This does not mean that every southern school is out chasing Negro athletes. But the pressure on those that are holding out for sporting segregation is likely to become irresistible as soon as they are regularly whupped by their integrated neighbors."

". . . The consequences of all this will reach far beyond Dixie. No longer can northern recruiters, their carpetbags loaded with grants-in-aid, expect to hop on a big ole Delta jet and come right on back, you hear, with a Walter Bellamy, a Bobby Bell or a Dave Stallworth. In the future southern Negro youngsters are going to find it easy to stay close to home. Butch Beard never even considered any northern schools. His case is perhaps most significant because the SEC includes those symbolic bulwarks of the way that was, Alabama and Mississippi. These schools are now committed to a rotating SEC football schedule, which means effectively, a policy of playing all comers, white or black, and this will make it extremely difficult to argue against playing schools with Negroes outside their league."

Postscript to Beard's Recruitment

Article from early June, 1965
While Beard went on to a great career at Louisville, like his teammate Unseld he never did have to play in the Deep South and never became the "Jackie Robinson" of college basketball as many had hoped. And while each earned All-American honors and later were successful in the pros, neither made it to the NCAA Final Four with Louisville.

The onus to being a racial pioneer in the Southeastern Conference would be left to Perry Wallace of Vanderbilt and select others who followed.

One casualty of the recruitment appears to be UK assistant Neil Reed, who took the loss hard. He resigned after UK stopped their recruitment of Beard and soon was succeeded by Joe Hall, who would be charged with and ultimately (after much hard work and disappointments) was successful in recruiting a player who would integrate the Kentucky squad.

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

In 2020 speaking on the Jerry Eaves radio show Beard recounted a story he heard from his agent, Bruce Miller:

Jim McDaniels

Jim McDaniels was a 7-foot center from Scottsville KY. Kentucky recruited him but McDaniels considered it to be half-hearted attempt.

According to letters by Rupp, he felt that Kentucky was doing all they could to recruit the player from Scottsville and thought highly of him as a player. In fact when requested by Coach & Athlete to nominate players for a High School Prep All-American team, Rupp responded that "We have only one outstanding boy here in the state and he is Jim McDaniels of Allen County. He might be the most outstanding boy in the nation."

Concerning Kentucky recruiting efforts of the big man, Rupp wrote in a letter on February 16, 1967 that "We had McDaniel here the other evening for one of our games. He seemed to enjoy himself and made the statement that he would certainly consider the University of Kentucky. I hope that we can land one of these big boys because we certainly need them." The following month Rupp wrote another letter stating "I spent all day Wednesday with Jim McDaniel. He indicates that he is interested in Kentucky and wants to be the first colored boy to play basketball here. Don't worry about our efforts, we are doing everything."

Jim McDaniels
McDaniels chose to attend Western Kentucky in 1967 and seemed to have a very apparent dislike of Rupp and UK, and the other way around.

Although Rupp did not publicize it in the press, in private letters to fans Rupp indicated that the reason McDaniels and other black players from the state who did not attend Kentucky in favor of Western Kentucky was due to inadequate grades. A few weeks after the above letter where Rupp indicated UK was doing everything they could to recruit McDaniels, the tone turned pessimistic when writing a fan from Baltimore Maryland who had inquired about UK signing black players. Wrote Rupp: "I will make an agreement with you. I will have the boy from Allen County here any day that you can see fit to come to Lexington. I will meet you at the airport and take you to the Registrar's office. I am sure you can get him in. I have not been able to do so." In a letter on June 1, 1967, Rupp wrote "Western has signed three negroes who could not get in the University. By this, I mean they could not get a scholarship according to the Southeastern regulations. They could get in, but would be forced to provide their expenses otherwise." The following year Rupp wrote in another letter "Our negro ball players here who have gone to Western Kentucky and other schools could not qualify academically here at the University. That fact has been established."

Regardless of what led to the hostility between Rupp and McDaniels, it surfaced later in a very public way during McDaniel's career at Western.

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.

Jim McDaniels (#44) defends UK's Tom Payne (#54)
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 have tried to 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 (among reportedly hundreds of other schools) 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.

The day of his signing, Payne said there were two reasons he signed with Kentucky. "First of all the educational program, I think it was my best bet. I will be going to a big school, but I can get individual attention, I won't be just a number. And I felt Coach Rupp could develop my potential better than any other coach."

Regarding the question of race at UK, Payne did admit that he initially was skeptical, based on what he had been told, but later dismissed those fears based on his experience with the school. "I visited Kentucky three times," he said. "I found out that some of the stuff I had heard wasn't true. I liked what I saw at UK." - quotes in above two paragraphs from Lexington Herald, "Shawnee's Payne Casts Lot With Kentucky," June 10, 1969.

Payne mentioned in a subsequent interview that he didn't consider Louisville due to city rival Henry Bacon signing with the Cardinals and didn't consider Western Kentucky due to the presence of Jim McDaniels. "I wanted to make my own personal trail...I was trying to carve out my own identity." (by Brian Bennett, Louisville Courier Journal, April 4, 2001)

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 "Jerry's 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.

Tom Payne in Action against SEC rivals Tennessee and Ole Miss

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 it turned out, the season came to a screeching half when the Wildcat lost to Western Kentucky and fellow big man Jim McDaniels 107-83 in the NCAA Tournament. This had been the first time Western had ever faced Kentucky and the Hilltoppers were primed for the game. McDaniels outscored the younger Payne 35-15.

Said Kentucky great and pro player Dan Issel who was a spectator prior to the NCAA game versus Western Kentucky about Payne: "He's just beginning to scratch the surface with his talents. It's amazing the progress he has made in something like three months. He's just a different player now than when I saw him against Notre Dame back in December. Quite frankly, I think he could be the best big man ever developed at Kentucky. He's got such a good touch and some of the times he is just shooting down into the basket." - Quotes by Mickey McCarthy Atlanta Constitution, "Issel Sees Dogfight in Athens," March 15, 1971.

In the consolation game, UK lost to another rival, Marquette 91-74. Payne only scored one point before fouling out. It was the lowest output of his short career at Kentucky (only four games previously did he fail to score less than double-digits). After the game Rupp seemed not too surprised by the second drubbing in a row: "I knew this was going to happen....When we left the dressing room I just knew we weren't going to play much. Our kids' hearts just weren't in the game. I guess they were somewhere else." - (Philip Case "Rupp Not Surprised Kentucky Not 'Up' for Consolation" Lexington Herald-Leader, March 21, 1971.)

Tom Payne sits next to his coach Adolph Rupp in his final game as a Wildcat, as Rupp reacts to a Kentucky turnover against Marquette

With the season ending on a down-note, once the summer came things didn't go any more smoothly and eventually Payne decided to forego his college eligibility for the NBA.

What the above doesn't mention is that the car Payne was driving was a Cadillac registered to a Pennsylvania auto dealer. Speculation was that Payne was being courted by professional basketball teams in the NBA and ABA and that the car was a 'gift' from the Pittsburgh Condors of the ABA to apply for the draft. Beyond that, Payne had nine hours worth of incomplete grades that needed to be made up before he could return to school. Even if Payne had wanted to return to Kentucky for his junior season, it's unlikely he would have been eligible.

Payne was drafted in the first round of the NBA 'hard-ship' draft by the Atlanta Hawks. He played in 29 games as a rookie and averaged 4.1 points per game. Payne's NBA career came to a crashing halt in May of 1972, when police in Georgia arrested him after investigating a string of rapes in the Atlanta area. Soon after he was indicted in Kentucky in connection with three sexual assaults (two attempted rapes, one actual rape). Payne was convicted on two counts of rape and one count of aggravated sodomy in 1972 in Atlanta. He served his time in Georgia, which included two and a half years of solitary confinement for participating in a prison riot, but was paroled in 1977 after only five years in prison in Georgia.

Immediately after parole in 1977, Payne was extradited to Kentucky where he was convicted of one count of rape and two counts of attempted rape which had occurred earlier in 1971. After being paroled again in 1983, he attempted a comeback in basketball with the CBA Louisville Catbirds and participated in five boxing bouts in an attempt at a professional boxing career, but then moved to Hollywood and became an actor (once appearing in the TV sitcom 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.

After much legal maneuvering to get his sentence reduced in California, Payne was finally released in 2000, and intended to settle down in Cincinnati with his brother. But instead, Payne was immediately transferred to Kentucky where he faced an additional 15 years behind bars for violation of parole stemming from the 1971 charge. He and his family are still battling the system to have his sentence reduced yet again.

Other than not being academically eligible his first year and the minor problems while at UK 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. Payne 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.

Return to top

The Evidence Supporting Rupp

| Early Years | Helping Hand | The 1948 Olympics | Early Games Against Black Players | Scheduling Integrated Teams | Attitudes During the 50's and Early 60's | Testing the Waters | Opening Doors | Turning Point | Attempts at Signing Players | Support from Unexpected Places | Pushback from Unexpected Places | Exhibition Games with Black Players | Darryl Bishop | Tom Payne | Walk-ons During the Final Season | Aftermath | Retirement | Personal Reflections | The Final Word |

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. Some are well referenced while others could still use more research to find the original sources. If anyone can be of assistance in this matter, I appreciate the help. 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, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Archives and NewspaperArchive.com among others. Thanks - JPS

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.

Freeport Illinois 1926-27 Basketball Team

1926-27 Freeport Illinois Basketball Team
Sitting (l to r): R. Dupree, J. Paul, R. Opel, R. Ruthe (Captain), T. Goetz, G. Ralston, H. Perry
Standing (l to r): Assistant Coach Zuelke, F. Bender, K. Fitchner, A. Steffen, W. Moseley, M. Goodrich, R. Criddle, K. Kerlin, Head Coach Rupp

JPS Note - While it is known that Rupp did coach at least one black basketball player while at Freeport (William Moseley in 1927 and 1928), it is not clear that he coached more than that. The Freeport yearbooks from that era give no indication of any black players on his basketball teams in the 1929 or 1930 seasons. Although, 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. What Rupp may be referring to is the fact that in 1927 Rupp also coached with George Zuelke the track team (pictured below). On that teams was William Mosely along with another black athlete, David Lipscomb, who was a sophomore that year.

Freeport Illinois 1927 Track Team

1926-27 Freeport Illinois Track Team
Sitting (l to r): P. Keifer, W. Moore, D. Lipscomb, T. Goetz, F. Derby, I. Gitche, F. Bilker, B. Carlson, J. Thro, R. Minear, J. Taber, C. Rutter, J. Huss
Middle Row (l to r): Coach Zuelke, T. McClarnon, W. Seidel, W. Moseley, R. Ruthe, R. Snyder, L. Langfeldt, A. Rund, H. Smith, Coach Rupp
Back Row (l to r): H. Kratzer, A. Steffen, M. Steinestel, R. Rowley, J. Kerlin, C. Unzicker

William Moseley

The 1927 yearbook shows only three black students enrolled in school (out of approximately 800): Junior William Moseley and sophomores David Lipscomb(e) and Katherine Moseley (presumably William's younger sister).

The previous year (1926, prior to Rupp arriving) Moseley was also listed as a junior and Lipscomb was present as a freshman. (Katherine did not appear). Moseley did not play basketball on the 1926 Pretzel basketball team (which was coached by Glen Holmes and won the Illinois State championship) although Moseley did play intramural basketball after school and football. Neither he nor Lipscomb appear as being on the track team that year either.

Freeport Journal Standard, May 11, 1927
After the 1927 season, Rupp awarded letters to his basketball team and presented Moseley with his first letter won at the school. Rupp singled out Moseley for praise as an example of 'stick-to-itiveness' that Moseley exhibited by continuing to try out for the Freeport sports teams despite not succeeding immediately.

Moseley returned to school as a senior the follow year (1927-28) and once again played varsity basketball under Rupp. The 1928 yearbook mentions that senior Moseley went by the nickname of "Mose" and participated in Football (2-3-4) (lettered in senior year at halfback), Basketball (3-4) (lettered both junior and senior years), Track (2-3), Glee Club (3-4) and Latin Club (2-3). His senior quote was from Lord Byron "Tho' modest, on his unembarrassed brow nature had written -- 'Gentleman'."

No other black students were apparent in the 1928 yearbook, besides Moseley.

Freeport Illinois 1927-28 Basketball Team

1927-28 Freeport Illinois Basketball Team
Sitting (l to r): Fitchner, Auman, Cheeseman, Keith, Krehl
Middle Row: Cunningham, Moseley, Goetz, Dupee, Steffen (Captain), Sullivan, Brewer, Bolender
Back Row: Coach A.F. Rupp, Tracy, Ralston, Rund, Baker, Schmelzle

During the 1928 season, Freeport starting guard Art Steffen was injured during the first game and lost for the season. Moseley stepped in and assumed one of the starting jobs at guard, until early February when due to a rule prohibiting athletic participation past eight semesters, Moseley himself was sidelined.

Wrote the student newspaper (published in the Freeport Journal-Standard, February 4, 1928) discussing the loss of Moseley to the Pretzel team: "Bill has been out for football, basketball and track, but never has he had a chance to show his stuff like he has in the present basketball season. In the last few games his playing has been miraculous, and his speed and cleverness has always been an asset to the squad. The thing he wanted most to do was to cage at least one basket in the last game played and his wishes were granted, not because the opponents believed in charity, but because he outsmarted the other team."

After the season, Rupp awarded seven school letters to his principal players, including Moseley despite Moseley not playing the entire season. The remaining nine players on the varsity received monograms.

Some critics have tried to claim that Rupp was unfamiliar with the talent of black players until his team was beaten by Texas Western in 1966. This simply does not square with the facts. For example, they might be surprised to learn that Rupp was in attendance at the very first World Professional Basketball Tournament held in Chicago in 1939. Included in the field were two of the top professional black teams in the nation, the Harlem Globetrotters and the New York Renaissance (the eventual champions). Rupp was present to root along his former player Leroy Edwards who was the star for the Oshkosh All-Stars and met the Rens in the finals. In addition to the professional tournament, Rupp had also attended that week the Indiana State basketball championship in Indianapolis, the National Catholic High School tournament in Chicago and the inaugural NCAA Championship held in Evanston, IL.

Helping Hand

Below is a reference to a talk that Rupp gave at the Kentucky Negro Educational Association (KNEA) convention held in Louisville in April 1938. Per another document from the KNEA, Rupp was paid $20 for the speech. (Kentucky Negro Education Association Journal v. 9 n. 1-3 pg. 35)

Text of KNEA Annoucement:  ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT Friday April 15, 9:00 A.M.  Recreation Center, 920 W. Chestnut Street H.A. Kean, Chairman  Remarks ..... Chairman  Address .... Mr. Adolph Rupp, Basketball Coach, University of Louisville (sic), Lexington, Ky. Business --  Adjournment
Found in the Electronic Archives of the Kentucky Negro Educational Association. [Kentucky Negro Educational Association Journal v. 9 n. 3 (March-April 1938) pg. 24] (See complete page.)

Henry Kean
The convention brought together black educators from all over the state of Kentucky and according to the Lexington Leader, the convention in 1938 was their 62nd annual meeting with 1,300 teachers attending. According to the black-operated Louisville Leader (which was the only newspaper I've found that covered the proceedings in any detail), it was mentioned that in the Friday morning sessions, there were 16 speakers in sixteen different sections. The overriding theme of the conference, which was led by KNEA President Professor W.H. Fouse, was "Needs in the Education of Negro Youth in Kentucky". Henry A. Kean (who was a successful football coach at Kentucky State University and later at Tennessee State University) was the chairman of the session devoted to athletics.

Also in 1938 it is reported that Rupp held a basketball clinic on the campus of Kentucky State University, a historically black college in Frankfort KY. This was one of many clinics that Rupp held in the 1930's and 1940's for black coaches and athletes, although locating details of these types of events is difficult. At times, he was known to bring members of the Kentucky team with him as demonstrators.

Newton Thomas

    "In 1938, Adolph Rupp brought his Kentucky Wildcats to KSU [black university Kentucky State University] for a basketball clinic. Among those attending was [former KSU graduate Newton] Thomas, who didn't know a thing about the game. But after the clinic and reading a couple of books, he decided to give coaching a try." - by Dick Burdette, Lexington Herald Leader, "Hall of Fame Inductees from Horse Cave Overcame Adversity on Way to Success," March 13, 1995.

    JPS Note: Thomas went on to coach Horse Cave Colored School to a number of black state championships, along with coaching Clarence Wilson, who became captain of the Harlem Globetrotters in the 1950s.

    In this particular case, it may be that the above quote concerning a clinic at Kentucky State was reported incorrectly and what Thomas is referring to is actually the same clinic Rupp gave at the KNEA convention. Per the information on the right, it describes a two hour clinic that Rupp gave under the direction of chairman Henry A. Kean and held in the Recreation Center, which is consistent with the information at the top so it is likely that Rupp actually gave a clinic as opposed to a speech at the convention.

Text of Kentucky Negro Educational Association Minutes (1938) Vol 9 No. 1-2: Athletic Directors' Conference -  The Athletic Department met in the gymnasium of the Recreation Center with Mr. H.A. Kean acting as chairman.  Two hours were spent in listening to Mr. Adolph Rupp of the University of Kentucky, who with six of his players gave a discussion and demonstration of offensive and defensive tactics employed by the University of Kentucky basketball team. The demonstration was unanimously declared as the best that the department had had the pleasure of witnessing.
Kentucky Negro Educational Association Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1-2 (1938)

Text of Newspaper Clipping: Net Coaching Clinic To Be Held by Rupp - 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 Lexington Leader (November 10, 1945)

Regardless of whether there were two separate clinics (one held at the Kentucky State campus in Frankfort and the other at the KNEA Convention in Louisville) or only one in 1938, it is reported that Rupp did hold clinics for black coaches and players both at home and on the road, including at Kentucky State which is a historically black college and was at the time the primary place in Kentucky for higher education available to black students.

The article to the right illustrates one example of a clinic that Rupp held on the KSU campus in 1945, in which he also brought some of his players as demonstrators.

The NCAA's First African-American Head Coach at a historically white university, Will Robinson of Illinois State University
Beyond clinics Rupp gave to black audiences, as blacks started to make inroads into white circles, he was also open to those developments giving clinics to integrated audiences. In fact Rupp was extremely active throughout his career in holding and participating in coaching clinics all over the country and internationally to people of all colors and races (and as it turns out sexes as well).

The first black head coach of any major sport at a predominantly white Division I university was Will Robinson at Illinois State in 1970. (Note John McLendon was reported to be the first black coach of a predominantly white school when he coached Cleveland State in 1966, however Cleveland State was not Division I at the time.) 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.

Another example of a legendary black coach taking advantage of a clinic given by Rupp was Clarence "Big House" Gaines who attended a coaching clinic with Rupp as the featured speaker at Southern Illinois University in the summer of 1950. Gaines (listed as C.E. Gaines of Teachers College, Winston-Salem, N.C.) appears on the roster of coaches attending in the fifth paragraph from the bottom of the following newspaper article describing the event.(article was published on August 22, 1950 in the Southern Illinoisan.)

Article from Atlanta Daily World, August 15, 1949 mentioning an upcoming Coaches clinic open to black coaches in which Rupp was a featured speakerArticle from American University Eagle, October 14, 1959 describing a recent AU-sponsored basketball clinic which attracted 125 coaches from six states. Photo shows Rupp instructing two black American U. players, Willie Jones and Dick Wells.

Advertisement in Atlanta Daily World, May 16, 1961 promoting a coaching clinic held at the Historically Black College Tennessee State, with Rupp a featured speaker along with John McLendon.Article in Nashville Banner (June 3, 1961) noting that Rupp not only provided lecture on basketball defense, but participated in clinic's closing panel discussion with Vanderbilt's Bob Polk and Cleveland Piper's 'Johnny' McLendon

John McLendon of the ABL's Cleveland Pipers talks with Tennessee A&I coach Harold Hunter, host of the 1961 Coaching Clinic held on the A&I campus. Adolph Rupp, among other basketball and football coaches and officials participated in the event.

Caption: Adolph Rupp (with Assistant Harry Lancaster in the background) instruct two players (Marvin Coslett and Tyrone Parker) during a USAREUR (US Army Europe) Basketball Coaches Clinic at a military base in Bad Kreuznach, West Germany in September 1967.

JPS Note: Rupp went on to hold and participate in countless coaching and instructional clinics all over the country and the world (including seven trip to Europe, three to the Far East and one to the Middle East for the US Government) during his many decades as coach at Kentucky.

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.

1948 Dunbar High School Basketball Championship Banquet. Shown seated are P.L. Guthrie, J.B. Brown and S.T. Roach. Standing are players Davey Whitney, M.L. Passmore and Lee Chenault

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.

In 1950, Rupp attended the Kentucky black high school state tournament, where he noticed a talented black player by the name of Jim Tucker from nearby Paris. After Tucker's team lost in the tournament, Rupp asked for permission to speak with Tucker.

"I knew who he was, and he [Rupp] said to me, 'I'd like you to come to Kentucky, but you know our situation here. But what I'd like to do is contact some of my friends in the coaching community and see if they might have an interest in you because I think you have the ability to become an All-American and a good basketball player."

Rupp did follow through with the offer, and eventually Tucker signed with Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and their coach Donald Moore, who accepted Tucker sight unseen, based solely on Rupp's recommendation. "He said that if Adolph Rupp recommends you, that's the only reason we showed the interest, because if he couldn't have you, then we'd like to."

(All quotes from an interview between Dick Gabriel and Jim Tucker in video Adolph Rupp: Myth, Legend and Fact, WKYT, 2005)

JPS Note: Tucker went on to become an All-American at Duquesne. After his senior season, he was invited to 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 offer was made despite the fact that Tucker had not played collegiately for a Kentucky college or University. The coach of the Kentucky All-Star squad was Adolph Rupp, who selected Tucker to the squad. The players shared in the gate receipts from the game. As shown in the article below, some players chose to forego the game to maintain their amateur status.

Article from Louisville Courier-Journal, September 5, 1954

Later on Tucker joined the NBA and teamed with Earl Lloyd to become the first African-American teammates to win an NBA championship, which they did as members of the Syracuse Nationals.

Laker legend Kobe Bryant meets Bob Williams, the first ever black Laker and his wife Marietta in 2015
Integrating that neighborhood was just another first for [Bob] Williams, who is the first Black player to play for the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers. He wore number 33 for two seasons (1955-57).

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wore the same number over a decade later. It is now retired and hangs in the rafters of the team's Los Angeles arena.

A Florida native, Williams played one season at Florida A&M before enlisting in the Air Force. Later, legendary University of Kentucky men's basketball coach Adolph Rupp watched him play in a tournament and was impressed with his athletic ability.

"He [Rupp] wanted to get me to go to school at Kentucky, but he said he had to get the regents to approve it. But they wouldn't approve a Black player at that time," recalls Williams.

As a result, Rupp called Sid Hartman, who then worked for the Minneapolis Lakers, and recommended Williams, who signed his first pro contract for $6,500 during the summer of 1955. A month after he was honorably discharged from the service in September, Williams attended his first Lakers training camp in St. Peter's, Minnesota. - by Charles Hallman, Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder "NBA pioneer Bob Williams' legacy as Minneapolis Lakers' first Black player," February 17, 2010.

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.

Chicago referee Art White
Kentucky hosted a Christmas tournament called the University of Kentucky Invitational Tournament. The UKIT was a popular event that attracted many top teams and was copied by many Universities. In the 1960's, Rupp reportedly had become impressed with a black Big Ten basketball official, Art White and the way he called the game. Rupp invited White to officiate in Lexington at a future UKIT, which White did in the 1971 UKIT in games Kentucky played against Missouri and Princeton along with the 1972 UKIT in games Kentucky played against Nebraska and Oregon.

JPS Note - Art White was reportedly a letterwinner for the Loyola (Chicago) team that faced Kentucky in the 1949 NIT. From the boxscore it does not appear that White saw action, although black star Ben Bluitt did and scored 9 points for the Ramblers.

Thornton Jenkins, who officiated the 1966 national championship game, had a similar story about Rupp as White. Said Jenkins "Rupp told me, 'I sure like the way you call charging and blocking.' He said, 'Would you like to work my Christmas Tournament?' This was right after the (championship) game. It was either the night before or that night -- it was during that time. So I told him I would have to get with my supervisor. He sent me a contract -- I went back. I got four watches from him. I got four watches but I think I only worked three tournaments, I think. That was sheer delight to go down there." ("Denver Chevrolets, Chaffee Chatters and the Las Vegas Steelers?" by Mike Mitchell, SEMissourian.com, February 3, 2006.

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-acre 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.)

The 1948 Olympics

Barksdale: A Perspective on '48 Olympic Games by Murray Olderman NEA Sports Editor.  New York (NEA) - 

The rest of the United States Olympic players stayed in the big hotel downtown.  Don Barksdale had to stay 'across the tracks' with a Negro family. The rest of the United States team went down the hall to get their rubdowns. Don Barksdale had to take the service elevator up to the 12th floor.  The rest of the United States team was white.  Don Barksdale was black.  That was 1948.

'To me,' Don Barksdale says today,'being the first black man to play on a United States basketball team was a great honor, something I'd have gone to hell and back for.  But it wasn't until we arrived in London that I got away from racial prejudice.  I mean I had to leave America, my country, to be treated equally. 

'The Players and the coaches, Adolph Rupp and Omar Browning, were the only reason that I kept going.  They were great.

'I had to put up with a lot of horse manure before I got to London.

'Then the whole thing changed. It was beautiful.  All my teammates and I hung out together, went everywhere together.  R.C. Pitts became one of my best friends, and he was dead out of Mississippi.  Rupp was the coach at Kentucky, and he was a great coach, amazing at knitting a team.'

Barksdale, who now owns two night clubs in Oakland, views his place on the Olympics in rational perspective.

'It was a breakthrough,' he  says.  'There had been other black athletes on United States Olympic teams - Jesse Owens, Ralph Metaclfe and others - but never one in basketball.  There are five on this year's team and probably would have been more had there not been a Negro boycott.

'Getting back to that '48 Olympics, I remember it was like another world.  So many fine guys on the American team.  I got very friendly with Harrison Dillard and Barney Ewell and some other black athletes.  And with a lot of white ones, like Bob Richards and Bob Mathias.'

The United States team won the basketball gold medal.  At that time, the U.S. squad was far superior to the other countries.  Rupp had each player play about 15 minutes each game.  Barksdale was third high scorer in the Games.

'The entire U.S. Olympic team came back by boat.  It was a six-day trip. The togetherness really got me.  I was a very proud young man.  But as soon as I stepped off the boat into New York, I stepped right back into prejudice.  For five years I was an All-American college and AAU basketball player, but I didn't get one nibble from an NBA team.  The league had an unwritten law:  No blacks.'

Three years later, Don Barksdale, Chuck Cooper and Nat (Sweetwater) Clifton became the first black players in the NBA.  For Don Barksdale, it was another breakthrough.
Article from Playground Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, FL), October 17, 1968 pg. 11.
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.

Prior to the championship game, Rupp did recommend that his five Kentucky starters be named to the Olympic team. Bud Browning, however, refrained from doing the same for his Oilers starters, stating: I don't plan to make any recommendations to the committeee. . . I have too many good boys on my squad to pick out the five who should make the trip. I'll let the committee select them." (Abilene (TX) Reporter-News March 30, 1948).

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 before. 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.'"

Published in the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle August 24, 1949
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.

For his part, the following year during an event in Rochester, N.Y., Rupp praised Don Barksdale, calling him "the best amateur athlete in the United States last year."

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.

Don Barksdale (#33) (far left) shown with Bob Kurland and Jesse Renick (#55) defending as Ralph Beard dribbles the ball with teammates Vince Boryla (#30) and Alex Groza (#15) looking on

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 combined Olympic team leaves together from Lexington station, bound for New York and then London

The first time Kentucky played an official game against a team with a black player is not clear. It may have occurred in a game against Loyola (Chicago) in March of 1949 when they faced Loyola reserve Ben Bluitt. Or it may have been before this time. Kentucky later played against integrated CCNY March 14, 1950 in the National Invitational Tournament. Ed Warner scored 26 points to help CCNY crush Kentucky 89-50. (Seldom used Leroy Watkins was put in the game to jump center against 7-footer Bill Spivey. Floyd Layne also saw action in the game.) Later, during the 1950-51 season, Kentucky played against St. John's and Solly Walker twice, winning the first contest in New York and the second 59-43 on the way to their third national championship.

Bill Spivey launches a hook shot over the CCNY defense

Solly Walker
The first black player 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.

JPS Note - While Mike Douchant in his book completely fabricated the effects of the rough play [Douchant claimed Walker was sidelined for three weeks when in actuality he played most of the Kentucky game and started the next game for St. John's against Vanderbilt, with absolutely no report of an injury (Link 1, Link 2)], there is evidence that the play was indeed rough.

Published June 3, 1951 (Kingsport (TN) Times News)

While the game and it's aftermath worked out well for all concerned, there was some controversy leading up to the game. During the summer, an article was published in the Brooklyn (NY) Eagle which quoted St. John's coach Frank McGuire discussing his and Rupp's concerns about bringing a black player into the South for the first time. The Eagle article suggested that the 'pompous' Rupp was resistant to the idea of bringing Walker, who was the first black basketball player at St. John's and who was playing his first year there on the varsity.

Rupp replied to the article through the national media, and took exception to some of the specific quotes and the overall tone of the Brooklyn article. Rupp, who seemed somewhat miffed that McGuire chose to discuss personal discussion to the media, acknowledged that during his discussions with McGuire, the issue did come up and Rupp was concerned about the arrangements and details, but went on to relate other details of the conversation which apparently weren't afforded by article, such as the fact that Rupp had made arrangements with a local Lexington hotel to accomodate the entire St. John's team. Said Rupp in his response to the article, "Then have him [McGuire] also tell the papers how we arranged for his entire team to stay at our leading hotel and all other arrangements we made for his comfort."

Noted Ed Ashford that June about the issue: "Although Negroes are not housed and cannot eat in any of the major hotels or hotel dining rooms in Lexington, arrangements have been made by the University of Kentucky for housing and feeding of any Negroes on visiting athletic teams at the Phoenix Hotel, Lexington's oldest hotel and one of the two leading hotels in the city. Discrimination on the Kentucky campus does not exist. There are several Negroes in the graduate schools at U.K. Concerts in the Memorial Coliseum (where basketball is played) have been open to Negroes with no segregation practiced. Negroes were also welcomed at the U.K. Coaching Clinic, featuring Adolph Rupp, Paul Bryant, Hank Iba and Bud Wilkinson, with no segregation." (Brooklyn Eagle "Cage Signs Point to L.I.U." June 13, 1951.) (JPS note: per the above the Phoenix Hotel was secured but in the end and was thereafter known to host visting integrated teams, however in this particular case it turned out that the Lafayette (Lexington's other leading hotel at that time) ended up hosting the St. John's contingent.)

Frank McGuire's biography (Frank McGuire, The Life and Times of a Basketball Legend written by Don Barton and Don Fulton, Summerhouse Press, 1995) discusses the game and takes an accusatory stance against Rupp. The book mentions a conversation between the Baron and McGuire the summer leading up to the game with Rupp reportedly 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 goes on to claim that McGuire didn't tell his team about potential controversy before they travelled to Lexington (JPS note: even though it was discussed in the national papers as early as that summer? Seems McGuire and his biographers have stepped away from reality.)

In the book, McGuire is quoted:

JPS Note - As documented here above, there were discussions between Rupp and McGuire during the summer prior to the game discussing the situation and accommodations, and as with many things, different takes on the conversations became evident. Whether Rupp was trying to prevent Walker from coming or simply questioning the details of how it would be arranged is something that could easily be interpreted different ways by the different parties.

Published Dec. 17, 1951 Lexington Herald
As far as the McGuire quotes in his book (which presumably were made in interviews with the authors), the specific claim about a last-minute change in lodging is not consistent with the other reports at the time. Rupp stated in June in national newspapers (including the Brooklyn Eagle) that Kentucky had already worked out hotel arrangements (which was not a trivial matter and probably unprecedented at the time in the city.) The idea that Rupp would interfere at the last minute with any arrangements that he himself set up doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

Also, according to a blurb in the Lexington Herald (shown at the left) McGuire didn't even accompany the St. John's team when they first arrived in Lexington. Per the article (December 17, 1951) McGuire was attending business in Washington and met up with the team later. The St. John's team had already checked into the Lafayette hotel on December 16. If McGuire had indeed been alarmed for the safety of his player as has been suggested in his biography, his actions at the time certainly didn't support this idea. It brings directly into question the accuracy of what McGuire related to the authors of his book.

Frankly, I chalk up the quotes found in this biography on this issue to be more the result of the effect of 40 years time on the accuracy of someone's memory, along with perhaps a natural tendency to exaggerate and sugarcoat one's own role in past events. Again, the remembrances in McGuire's biography don't square very well with the information at the time.

This, I think, is a very good example where too often journalists and biographers etc. tend to put too much credence into people's distant memory rather than doing the difficult leg-work to actually research the issues and events. If such leg-work had been done in advance of the interview, then most certainly the interview would have been a more valuable experience as it would have helped the biographer in terms of knowing what to ask, what specific issues to probe and as necessary, what remembrances to challenge or expand upon. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen nearly as much as it should in my opinion.

Associated Press article published December 18, 1951 Tuscon (AZ) Daily News
After the game, Lexington Herald Sports Editor Ed Ashford wrote:

It is known that some in the New York media were present at the game in Lexington, so that they could report on any 'incidents' that may occur. The New York Times had this to say after the game.

The Times also had an interesting comment in the pre-game article. They likely were referring to the Olympic exhibition held in Lexington which included Don Barksdale, although it's possible they were referring to someone else, such as a black football player from Michigan State who reportedly played in a game against UK on Stoll Field (November 2, 1946).

JPS Note - After all the media interest and concerns expressed publicly by McGuire and the Eastern media, it is noteworthy that Walker's appearance in Lexington was quickly followed up nine days later when John Wooden brought his UCLA Bruin team to Memorial Coliseum where black players John Moore and Bobby Pounds participated. This time, there was apparently no public angst about the situation from either side. Although reading Seth Davis' book Wooden: A Coach's Life may explain why. Davis notes that Wooden, believing that the Lexington hotel was segregated, opted to keep his team housed in Cincinnati, which was ninety miles away. The Bruins took a bus to Lexington to play the 4:00 PM game, which they lost 84-53, and then got back on the bus to return to Cincinnati. (Wooden: A Coach's Life by Seth Davis, Macmillan, 2014).

It's strange to me that this happened at all, as I'm sure that if Wooden had broached the topic with Rupp he would have learned that arrangements had already been made to accomodate St. John's the previous week, so UCLA could have benefitted as well. For whatever reason, that conversation did not happen before UCLA made their travel arrangements.

Kentucky continued to regularly play integrated teams throughout the remainder of the 1950's and beyond on their home court and in Louisville's Freedom Hall.

It is noteworthy that Kentucky actually faced so many integrated teams during the 1950's, at a time when very few if any other Southern teams did so, that there are a large number of black players whose first and only experience playing in the South was against Kentucky. As someone who runs a statistical website which provides boxscores etc. of virtually every game UK has ever played, I've been surprised by the number of inquiries through the years from former opposing players and those who knew them, who assume they were the first black players to face UK on their home court, when the reality is that they were one of literally dozens to the point that there's no definitive list available. To me it raises the question of what exactly their coaches were telling them when they arrived in Lexington to convince them they were trailblazers?

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.

Raleigh News and Observer, February 13, 1966 (note the text was moved from the original formatting to reduce space)
Beyond the tournament encounters, Kentucky regularly scheduled integrated opponents on their home court during the 1950's and 1960's. Their SEC brethren failed to do this until the mid-1960's if even then. Integrated teams Kentucky faced on their home floor are likely too numerous to mention and information about the racial makeup of all collegiate teams is not complete, but some of the integrated opponents UK faced on their home floor (all prior to ANY other SEC school doing likewise) includes DePaul, Illinois, Notre Dame, Temple, Iowa, Loyola (Chicago), Dayton, Miami of Ohio, Northwestern, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, UCLA, Xavier etc. along with numerous other smaller schools.

In an article by Jack Williams in 1966 Rupp was interviewed about his remembrances of playing Georgia and Georgia Tech. The subject of his record came up and Rupp boasted of the quality of the competition, including the fact that his team regularly played against integrated teams. According to Rupp: "We haven't beat any YMCA's. We've never played Southeastern Louisiana or McNeese State like so many of the southern teams do. We play teams from the Big Ten and the Missouri Valley Conference who have Negro boys who can jump a mile. And we hold our own."

JPS Note: - A few authors have taken the last lines of this quote out of context to argue that this somehow supports the idea the Rupp was defending the 'status quo', but the full quote shows this not to be the case. The point Rupp was clearly making was to praise the quality of his competition, and in doing so praising the qualities of the black players that UK was facing, as opposed to most of the other SEC schools at the time who weren't playing against integrated teams.

Attitudes During the 50's and early 60's

After Paris (KY) Western had finished a successful season it was a cause for great celebration. The coach of Paris, (Chief) William Reed, was a friend of Rupp and invited him to come to speak at a team event honoring the champions, which Rupp accepted.

Rupp speaking at all-black Paris (KY) Western High School at rally in May 1953 after Paris won the National Negro High School basketball tournament in Nashville, TN. Photo originally published in The Bourbon County Citizen.)

Louisville Courier-Journal May 9, 1953
Lexington Herald Advertisement May 9, 1953
Mayo-Underwood Coach J.B. Brown

The banquet in 1953 for the Paris Western team was held April 10, whereas apparently the rally was held the following month on May 8, during which the team members and coach were to be presented with special jackets. For this event, Rupp attended as the principal speaker and per the Louisville Courier-Journal praised the team, telling them they "brought glory to yourselves and honor to the Commonwealth."

The following day, per the advertisement to the right, Rupp along with Happy Chandler, Blanton Collier and J.B. Brown (long-time principal and coach of Mayo-Underwood High School in Frankfort (and as mentioned earlier was an organizer of Rupp's clinics held at Kentucky State University in Frankfort), were participants in a radio program honoring the team.

Willie Naulls
Bill Keightley: "There was an All-American from UCLA here and his name was Willie Naulls who is now a minister, and Willie played for John Wooden. They played here in the UKIT and Willie was telling me how Coach Rupp came down to the Lafayette Hotel to be certain he was being treated the same as every other member on that team and could receive the same services."

(From Interview with William B. Keightley by Jeffrey Suchanek, November 8, 2005, as part of the University of Kentucky Oral History Collections.

JPS Note: UCLA was part of the UKIT field in 1953-54 although they didn't face Kentucky. They lost to LaSalle in the first round and beat Duke the following night. Kentucky won the four-team tournament, beating eventual national champion LaSalle.

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.

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.

Kentucky schoolboy players Bob Carpenter (left) of Louisville Central and Billy Ray Lickert (right) of Lexington Lafayette pose at center court of Memorial Coliseum, while taking a break from practice for an All-Star game in the summer of 1957

Louis Stout
"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.

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.

After Rupp hired Ron Murray as a trainer for the UK basketball squad in the late 1950's, he learned that Murray had been the trainer for the minor league baseball team, the Knoxville Smokies.

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

In 1956, the state of Louisiana enacted Legislative Act 579 (later struck down in 1959 by the Supreme Court), which banned all interracial athletic competitions in the state. This most noticeably impacted the annual Sugar Bowl, which at the time was more than just a major college football game, it was also a multi-sport festival sponsored by the Mid-Winter Sports association. Included in the festivities was the annual Sugar Bowl Basketball Tournament, which invited four of the top college basketball teams from around the nation.

Sugar Bowl Program
Scheduled to attend the tournament in December of 1956 was Kentucky, Notre Dame, Dayton and St. Louis. To their credit, all the teams except Kentucky advised the Sports association that they could not compete under the new law. St. Louis had one black player on its team, Cal Burnett, who was considered a potential starter. Athletic Director Eddie Hickey said it was "impossible" to compete under the circumstances. Notre Dame was also integrated. Dayton, which had no black players on its team that year, stayed out on principle. Said Dayton Athletic Director Harry Baujan, "if we went to the tournament as it now stands we are condoning the law."

After some debate and letters by alumni suggesting UK also decline the tournament, Kentucky President Frank Dickey determined to abide by the existing contract between Kentucky and the Sugar Bowl. Said Dickey "I agree with you that the problem of the religious and moral implications in this situation is a difficult one. However feel that the moral values of integrity and honesty are also involved ... a moral obligation and a commitment to abide by the contract." (And the Walls Came Tumbling Down by Frank Fitzpatrick, pg. 131).

When asked about the situation, Rupp was quoted that "We will be there according to our contract with them." However, Paul DeBlanc (president of the Mid-Winter Sports Association) stated that Kentucky had informed the group that it's policy was "We do not make any racial discrimination either at our home games or games away." DeBlanc added that Kentucky was willing to play integrated teams in the tournament. ("Sugar Bowl Cage Tourney Staggered by Louisiana Segregation Law," Nevada State Journal July 29, 1956.)

There were numerous concerns about the possibility of Kentucky integrating their program at the time. 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.

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

In an article by Larry Boeck in January of 1963, Boeck asked the local college basketball coaches (such as Western's Ed Diddle, Louisville's Peck Hickman and UK's Rupp) about relatively poor basketball seasons. Adolph Rupp mentioned that talented local players were being lost to out-of-state schools, including some black stars.

Photo published in the February 4, 1966 edition of the Lexington Herald newspaper.

Observing [the Kentucky-Indiana High School All-Star game in Louisville] on the sideline was UK Coach Adolph Rupp, who like everyone else in the record crowd of 17,875, was impressed with [George] McGinnis. "He's one of the best I've ever seen," said Rupp. "I'd sure like to have him." Then he added, smiling almost wistfully, "I don't think he'd have a good future in college ...anywhere but our place." - by Mike Rehling, "McGinnis Pops 53 Points As Indiana Rolls, 114-83" Lexington Herald June 29, 1969.

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

Testing the Waters

Article from Atlanta Daily World, January 15, 1950. Note the layout of the article was altered to conserve space by only showing the information pertaining to this issue.
Before proceeding with this section, it is noteworthy that in early 1950, on the heels of news that UK opened their graduate school to black students after the Lyman T. Johnson lawsuit, rumors that UK was looking at signing black players was making the rounds. This is evidenced by an article published on January 15, 1950 in the black newspaper The Atlanta Daily World where sports editor Marion E. Jackson stated "Adolph Rupp may become the Branch Rickey of Deep South basketball" and later noted that "Talent-seekers for Coach Adolp (sic) Rupp ...reportedly have come up with several tiptop Negro stars."

What this rumor was based on: i.e. actual evidence of Kentucky officials looking at black talent or simply wishful thinking on the part of the writer, is not provided, and there doesn't appear to be much that came out of this. The rumor may have started from Rupp or a representative themselves, as the article was published a day before UK was to face Georgia Tech in Atlanta, so presumably the team was available to the writer. Interestingly this rumor does presage similar rumors that came out over a decade later, as will be illustrated below.

The reality was that even though the UK graduate school had been opened to black students, the undergraduate school (from the ranks of which athletes came from) would not be opened to blacks until 1954. It was only then that it would have been possible for a black athlete to suit up for UK, and that's also ignoring the fact that such an event would have likely forced UK to leave the Southeastern Conference.

Despite these difficulties, 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 words did not go far enough to satisfy those looking to him to take the first step.

Oscar Robertson

Article from Lexington Herald, December 24, 1959

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.

Photograph from banquet in Philadelphia in March of 1960. Rupp is shown presenting the Big Five player of the year award to Bill "Pickles" Kennedy. Also shown are Providence coach Joe Mullaney and Wilt Chamberlain (voted pro player of the year)

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

Guest column by Paul Delaney in Marion Jackson's Atlanta Daily World sports column, published August 6, 1960.
As the 1960's began, there were cases where black journalists, either out of their own wishes or perhaps due to the perception that significant change was about to take place and recognized positive steps and attitudes when they saw them, did look to the University of Kentucky and Rupp in particular as a logical choice for the program which could shatter the color barrier in the South.

In a guest column written by Paul Delaney in August 1960 for the black newspaper the Atlanta Daily World, Delaney stated: "I have always suspected that Adolph Rupp would be tempted not to let too many good Negro basketball players get out of the state." But he went on to acknowledge that such a move would most likely involve expulsion from the Southeastern Conference.

Paul Delaney
Delaney, who had graduated from Ohio State in 1958, also recognized the positive steps that UK and Rupp had taken to date when he noted "Kentucky yearly plays many teams with Negroes on them - even at Lexington. I believe that it is only a matter of time before the SEC will be faced with this situation."

For his part, Rupp did become more vocal in public newspapers and magazines with positive comments regarding integration. These, along with other comments by the President of the University, Frank Dickey, at the time inflamed racists throughout the country leading both of them to reportedly receive death threats among other abuses.

The year 1961 saw some obscure but interesting developments in this regard. On March 9 of that year, sports columnist Fred Russell of the Nashville Banner newspaper mentioned an interesting rumor he had heard (a rumor which happened to be similar to another rumor noted previously which was published over a decade earlier in 1950 by Marion Jackson of the black newspaper The Atlanta Daily World.) This new rumor happened to be published the same day Vanderbilt faced Kentucky in an SEC-playoff game held in Knoxville TN.

The article contained daily musings of Russell, in this case the article was entirely concerned with the Kentucky-Vanderbilt game that night. Of particular interest was a rumor that two black athletes from Lincoln High in Louisville were preparing to enter the University of Kentucky (and thus upsetting the status quo of segregated athletic teams in the conference.)

Blurb in the Fred Russell article "Sidelines" in the Nashville Banner, March 9, 1961.

Fred Russell's comment seemed to pass by the general public's notice. But just over a month later in late April, another similar comment (this time attributed directly to Rupp) made national noise. This led to a strange series of events played out in Atlanta and Birmingham during spring of 1961.

What Fitzpatrick was referring to was an article young Atlanta Journal reporter Gregory Favre wrote about Adolph Rupp as he was attending a basketball banquet for the local Oglethorpe team. Below is Favre's remembrance of the events, forty-five years later. ("The Real Glory Road, Coach Rupp as Source," Poynter Online January 13, 2006.)

Let's go back again. To 1961 in Atlanta. I was a young assistant sports editor of The Atlanta Journal, young enough to still have hair. Coach Rupp came to town to speak at the basketball banquet at Oglethorpe University, home to a small college team coached by a man named Garland Pinholster, who that same year would schedule a home game with the University of Rhode Island and play the first integrated college basketball game in Georgia's history. And when Charles Lee, an All-Yankee Conference player, fouled out late in the game, the Oglethorpe crowd gave him a standing ovation.

But back to Rupp. In a conversation on the way to the banquet, I asked Coach Rupp when the end of segregated athletics would come to the Southeastern Conference. My story the next day quoted him as saying that it would happen "when I turn my hand."

"Many schools in our league," Rupp said, "allow their teams to go off on strange grounds and play against Negroes, but they won't allow integrated competition on their home soil. What will these schools do if I bring an integrated team into their cities to play? If they refuse to play me, then they will just have to forfeit, according to the rule, and I will take all those easy victories I can get."

"There may be some schools that will refuse to play Kentucky if we have an integrated team, but if they do, those schools don't belong in our league."

You can imagine the wave of reaction that caused in the South. By the time Rupp arrived in Birmingham, Ala. for another speech the day of publication, he was met by a herd of reporters. And what did he do?

In print he was quoted as saying, 'How ridiculous can you get? Why the kid [that's me] knew I didn't mean for him to write that. It's a ridiculous story. There's nothing to it. I absolutely deny such a story.' And his athletic director, Bernie Shively, said Kentucky was planning no change in its policy of not recruiting black athletes.

But there's more. The phone rang that day and it was Coach Rupp. And what he said has never escaped from my memory bank. 'Kid, I know I told you those things, but I am catching heat. How about just telling people that you made a mistake and that you misquoted me?' This kid politely said no. Well, maybe not so politely.

(by Gregory Favre, "The Real Glory Road, Coach Rupp as Source," Poynter Online January 13, 2006.)

Rupp stands with players Buddy Goodwin and Roger Couch at Oglethorpe banquet in Atlanta Georgia in April 1961

Favre does a good job recounting the events leading up to the story. Below was the article, which was published in the April 26, 1961 Atlanta Journal.

Article from Atlanta Journal, April 26, 1961

As mentioned, Rupp's next stop the following day was in Birmingham where he was met with a barrage of questions from reporters about the issue of potential integration of the league. (The reporters were apparently tipped off by the Atlanta Journal's newswire, because by the time the story was actually published in the paper on Wednesday the 26th, there were also two other stories in the same paper which were in response to it, one from Rupp and the other from UK President Frank Dickey.) Rupp clearly was not prepared for the firestorm (and also likely surprised that some of the comments that he mentioned which he assumed were 'off-the-record' made it into print) and his first impulse was to deny it happened (although specifically what he denied isn't exactly clear, per below).

It should be noted that in the Atlanta Journal article about Rupp's response (on April 26), they mention that Rupp denied the story and that he denied the mention of his use of "when I turn my hand". Other articles in other papers around the country at that time specify that Rupp's objections to the Favre article was concerning the aspect of Kentucky planning on signing two black players. Apparently an earlier edition of the Journal suggested this to be the case, which Rupp denied, instead saying that UK having black players on its team was a hypothetical case. The second edition of the Journal that came out later that afternoon (and which apparently is what is provided above) removed the mention of Kentucky signing two black players.

Article from Kansas City Times, April 27, 1961
Article from Hammond (IN) Times, April 27, 1961

In Birmingham, Rupp said:

The following day the New Orleans Times-Picayune sports editor, Benny Marshall, had interviewed Rupp and wrote a column about it. The first issue he brought up was the breaking story. Wrote Marshall:

Birmingham Columnist Benny Marshall
The good stories don't always leap at a man in the news business, demanding his typewriter, shouting to be heard.

Many of them come creeping, in quiet times, unsuspected, unbidden. A word, a sentence suddenly meaning much more.

It was one of these that was here yesterday.

ADOLPH RUPP had come to town for a meeting of Southeastern Conference basketball coaches.

Whether you admit it or no, whether you admire him or the reverse, Rupp of Kentucky IS basketball.

Thirty years, half of this man's lifetime, have been spent teaching the game, building victories, and carrying the message.

So we sat yesterday, late, in the hotel room; Rupp to be interviewed, and the one who would interview him.

"Come on over," he'd said. "It's Room 1103." Rupp learned long ago that if the message is to be gotten about, newspapers are the best carriers.

- It was dropped

In a sentence, he'd dismissed the business out of Atlanta - quickly denied - which had Kentucky breaking the color line in SEC athletics.

"Let's drop that one," Rupp requested politely but firmly. Forthwith, it was dropped.

(by Benny Marshall, "One great cheer and Rupp to go," Birmingham News April 27, 1961.)

Below are some responses to the event, first by then-UK President Frank Dickey, who it was known had been working behind the scenes trying to bring about integration to the SEC, but had met resistance along the way. Dickey is said to have related that "if a Negro student-athlete wished to participate as a member of a Kentucky team, and was good enough to make the team, he would not be discouraged. We are talking about something that hasn't happened," Dr. Dickey said, "but should it happen, we would hope the other members of the conference would see fit to compete against our teams."

It is noteworthy to compare the responses of Dickey (who suggests that although UK was not actively trying to integrate at the time, they would be open to it) against that of Athletic Director Bernie Shively (above), who stated that UK did not have any intention of changing its policy regarding lack of integration of its athletic programs. Obviously not everyone in the athletic department and University were on the same page with regard to this issue.

Article from Atlanta Journal, April 26, 1961

To be complete, below is Favre's response the following day commenting on Rupp's denials as compared to the comments by Dickey, along with standing behind the information in his earlier story.

Article from Atlanta Journal, April 27, 1961

Article from Hammond (IN) Times, April 27, 1961

Opening Doors

Regardless of the intent of the episode in the spring of 1961, the event did serve to at least open up some dialog and publicly revealed UK President Frank Dickey (and a lesser extent Rupp) as someone who was not adverse to the prospect of integration of the UK athletic teams. Later that year and in successive years, Dickey was able to further define UK's stance on the subject and set the stage for a formal initiative to accomplish just that.

UK President Expresses Interest in Recruiting Negroes For Sports

The Lexington Leader, December 15, 1961

(by Larry Van Hoose)

University of Kentucky President Frank G. Dickey today expressed interest in recruiting Negro players for Wildcat athletic teams, but said that the school should not drop out of the segregated Southeastern Conference.

The president's remarks were published today in the Kentucky Kernel, the school's student publication.

"It is just a matter of time" he said before Negro players participate in SEC athletics.

Some Southern state prohibit, by law, their universities from engaging in athletic competition with teams that are integrated. The UK president obviously referred to this when he commented: "You know - and we do too - what the outcome would be if we had Negro athletes on our teams at the present time."

Dickey said contracts with various schools in the SEC already have been made through 1966.

"First, we should stay in the conference. Second, along with other institutions, it will be inevitable that we integrate our athletic teams, as well as other university programs," he said.

Dickey's suggestion referring to Negro players was the first public statement by any school official that UK is willing to use Negro athletes.

"The most effective method of bringing about integration of SEC teams would be through a joint movement of the SEC universities. I don't think it can be done by any one school." Dickey told the Kernel writer, adding that UK would not attempt to force the other schools to bring this about.

Dickey's comments came during a meeting with a journalism class at UK. He told The Lexington Leader today that although the Board of Trustees met Tuesday this subject had not been discussed. Neither Dickey said, had he discussed this with the Athletic Board.

SEC Integration 'Matter of Years,' UK President Says

The Kentucky Kernel, December 15, 1961

(by Kerry Powell (Kernel Managing Editor)

It will be "just a matter of years" until Negroes begin competing on Southeastern Conference athletic teams, Dr. Frank G. Dickey, University president, said yesterday.

"I hope the University can be one of the leaders in bring this about," the president added.

His remarks were made during a press conference with News Reporting 501, a School of Journalism class.

"The University has done one of the most outstanding jobs of integration in all the nation," President Dickey said. "Negroes were first admitted in 1948, long before any other Southern state made this move, and long before the 1954 Supreme Court decision," Dr. Dickey said.

"We have moved slowly and quietly in order to eliminate difficulties experienced elsewhere," he added.

"We have made real progress but now there is a pont beyond which we could knock out the props from everything we have done.

"You know - and we do too - what the outcome would be if we had Negro athletes on our teams at the present time.

"We have contracts with teams extending through 1966. Some of these teams will be extremely slow in integrating. And we can't just drop out of the Southeastern Conference - that would be a violation of contract."

The president said he believed the most effective method of bringing about integration of SEC athletic teams would be through a joint movement among the SEC universities.

"I don't think it can be done by any one school," Dr. Dickey said. "Still, it would not have to be unanimous. I should think five or six schools would have enough power to pull it off."

President Dickey was also asked if he thought Medical Center expenses were hurting the growth and development of the rest of the University. . . .

Dr. Frank Dickey
"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.

"I think there was only one school at that time that said 'yes we will go along with you on this.' The others said, 'if you do move in that direction, we're going to have to drop you from our schedule, because we cannot guarantee that when you come to our homecourt that you will be safe, or that you would be at any sort of welcome.' They said, obviously, Afro-Americans on their squad would have to sleep and eat someplace else, and they didn't think that was good; and we didn't either." - Frank Dickey, Adolph Rupp: Myth, Legend, Fact, WKYT, 2005.

"It was a time when we wanted to move faster than we were able to. Let's put it that way. And that's always a distressing sort of situation." - Frank Dickey, Adolph Rupp: Myth, Legend, Fact, WKYT, 2005.

In the spring of 1963, Dickey took advantage of editorials and a poll done by the UK student-run newspaper The Kentucky Kernel to formally bring up the issue of integration of Kentucky's athletic programs to the Board of Trustee's meeting. The editor of the paper, Jack Guthrie, was present to give a presentation of their poll which found that of 132 students questioned, 59 percent favored integration of UK's athletics, while 21 percent opposed and 20 percent offered no opinion. Of the 59 percent, 8 percent would change their minds if integrating UK's athletic programs resulted in a withdrawal from the Southeastern Conference.

A motion was passed to transmit to the Athletic Association Board of Directors to give 'full consideration' be given to integration and a recommendation be made.

University of Kentucky Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes, April 2, 1963, page 42

It was this step by Dr. Dickey which for the first time formally initiated the process towards formal integration of Kentucky's athletic programs. After that step, the pace picked up fairly quickly although Dickey himself was not present to witness the change. He resigned the office, effective July 1 1963, to become the first executive director of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.


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 third question. The school's basketball team was eligible for N.C.A.A. tournament play three times before this year as the conference champion but was kept home.

This year, Dr. D.W. Colvard, the Mississippi State president, and the State Board of Athletics 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 Kernel, 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 certain 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 Kernel, 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.)

JPS Note - Kentucky had hosted a black opposing player in an exhibition since 1948 (Don Barksdale) and had hosted a black opposing player in a regulation game since 1951 (starting with Solly Walker), with numerous other black opposing players coming to Lexington to face UK thereafter, including powerhouses such as Temple, DePaul, Notre Dame and Illinois. It is noteworthy that at the time these surveys were sent in 1963, no other SEC school had ever hosted an opposing black player on their campus. According to an article in the Dallas Morning News ("Carlisle Signs with Packers," January 14, 1964), the first time an SEC school other than Kentucky hosted an integrated basketball team on their campus was Tennessee, who met the Fort Knox (KY) squad in an exhibition game in 1964. The Volunteers lost the game 96-56. It is not clear when the first regulation game was held against an integrated team by any SEC school (again other than UK who was well ahead of their conference brethren in that regard by more than a decade).

It is also noteworthy that these questionnaires went out in April 1963 while Frank Dickey was President at UK. Some have incorrectly assumed and stated that Kentucky didn't make any movement on race until Dr. John W. Oswald (who succeeded Dickey as President) came to Kentucky. In actuality, Oswald accepted the postion in late May of 1963 which came well after the questionnaires had been formulated and sent, and in fact Oswald didn't arrive in Lexington until September to begin the Fall term. The editorial in the Kentucky Kernel newspaper can be read here.

Article from Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger May 2, 1963. Note that the format of this news article was altered to conserve space.

Article from Syracuse Post Standard May 30, 1963

It's Integration, Not Butt-Bryant Incident, That is Main Concern In the SEC Now

The Lexington Herald, April 1, 1963 by John McGill

CONFERENCE PROBLEMS -- It seems improbable that the Southeastern Conference will be damaged seriously by the current investigation of Wallace Butts and Bear Bryant. The greater problem as far as the conference is concerned lies with integration of Negro athletes.

Kentucky has signified willingness to take the lead in bringing about the revolutionary change. First will come explorations to determine what, if any, support is forthcoming. Then would come the task of negotiating with the schools that are known to opose the idea. Take the NCAA-AAU squabble, multiply it a few times and you have an idea of what will happen. The courage of Daniel Boone still lives in our fair Commonwealth !

The question has been discussed in the SEC ranks - but never formally.

A prominent conference coach offers this guess:

"If and when the SEC requires participation against negro athletes, eight members will withdraw and form a rebel conference. These schools would be Mississippi, Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Tulane, Georgia and Georgia Tech. Tulane and Tech might be quuestionable. I hope this will not happen but it is my guess that it will. I don't think some of the schools, such as those in Mississippi, will ever accept the idea."

The coach said that such a move would be particularly hard on Florida, removing traditional rivals. Such a withdrawal would pave the way for a "new" SEC, with Miami, Fla., Florida State and Memphis State among candidates for membership.

Another high school in the SEC was asked. "What would be a good guess on the time it will take to integrate conference athletes?"

The answer: "Ten years. That is, for complete adoption."

SEC Commissioner Bernie Moore was asked the same question. He said he had no knowledge or information on which he could base an answer. He agreed that it would depend on individual initiative of members rather than the conference as a whole.

After Kentucky's role in the proceedings is mapped by the athletic board, further action must come from university presidents. Basically, coaches and athletic directors will not make the decisions. It promises to be an interested situation. The SEC can lose national prestige only by continuing its present course, which until this season has included the unhealthy habit of the championship basketball team declining to play in the NCAA. This promises to be a year-to-year problem under the existing circumstances.

Kentucky has placed the good of the SEC at least equal to its own interests. Now it remains to be seen whether schools such as Mississippi State will do the same.

The coach previously mentioned also had this to say:

"Aside from the issue of color, we are seriously limiting our recruiting program. We are losing good boys to other sections of the country. The colored athletes would help us more in basketball than in football. Really, basketball is the colored boy's game. He has the quick hands and springy legs. It also gives him a chance to excel and be somebody. You see the results. Seven of the 10 starters in the NCAA title game were colored. You know, they not only jump higher, but they seem to hang up there in the air!"

UK's Adolph Rupp must have thought the same thing as he watched Tom Thacker, Jerry Harkness of Loyola and Bill Green of Colorado State work out prior to the East-West Game. He jokingly proposed a new rule: "If any of these boys jump and stay up more than three seconds, award the ball to the other team."

Once the integration movement starts - and there would be no point in starting if it were not sincere - then it may become a question of whether the SEC is wiling to be dominated by certain schools.

Not all Kentuckians favor the new move. And perhaps not all UK officials relish their task. But it is inevitable and perhaps the real questions are those of fairness to the individual and whether the SEC is to escape the tag of a "backward" conference.

Rupp was in Huntington, W. Va., several years ago for a youth basketball convention and national tournament and delivered one of his highly entertaining talks. He also had a press conference which was attended by several writers from big city newspapers. A Philadelphia writer was telling the UK coach about a fellow named Wilt Chamberlain and how great he would be in college. Eventually it was suggested that Rupp should be interested in Wilt.

"If we signed him, what then?" Rupp asked. "We couldn't take a colored player to New Orleans, Atlanta or Starkville."

Kentucky is a member of a powerful conference. It has been correct in rejecting the idea of withdrawal.

However, we've often wondered how many state universities could afford to ignore the possibility of signing a 7-foot phenomenon from the home state.

How about Negro stars this season ?

Wichita's Dave Stallworth, who almost single-handedly dealt Cincinnati its only regular-season defeat, is from Texas; two starters on the championship Loyola team came from Tennessee; Cincinnati All-American Tom Thacker is from Covington, KY., and Colorado State standout Bill Green is from Alabama. There must be many other examples.

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 was an Associated Press article, 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 Wesley 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 probably was in early December 1963, since here is an abbreviated form of the story which was published in the Charleston (WV) Daily Mail on December 7, 1963.

Article in January 23 1964 (Middlesboro (KY) Daily News prior to the annual SEC Meetings acknowledge that race was a contentious issue
In an article published in Sports Illustrated in early 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 University's policy of actively recruiting players of all races was reaffirmed in a meeting of the Board of Trustees in December of 1965.

University of Kentucky Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes, December 13-14, 1965, page 10

Turning Point

Many critics look to the 1966 Texas Western game as a turning point in UK fans and Rupp's attitudes and Kentucky's attempts at recruiting black players, but the truth is Kentucky had already been recruiting black players (albeit unsuccessfully) in the years leading up to the 1966 National Championship game.

If there was a turning point in attitudes towards recruitment of black players, it can more accurately be traced to the 1964 NCAA tournament when Kentucky was ranked #4 in the country and earned a bye into the Mideast Regional in Minneapolis. The Wildcats faced the unranked Ohio Bobcats, who had earlier dispatched the Louisville Cardinals in a tight, two-point victory 71-69. The other game in the regional matched the Michigan Wolverines against the defending national champion Loyola (Chicago) Ramblers, a team which won the 1963 national championship with four black starters.

In the game versus Ohio, the Bobcats raced out to a 10-3 early lead and despite a few flurries by Kentucky, were never threatened. Ohio controlled the boards while Kentucky shot poorly, resulting in a convincing 85-69 upset victory for the Bobcats.

Action from the Kentucky-Ohio Game: Shown are Ohio's Don Hilt (#50) and Mike Haley (#30) and Kentucky's Terry Mobley (#25) and Cotton Nash (#44)

After the game, Lexington Leader sports editor Russell Rice directly addressed the elephant in the room which no doubt had been lingering in the minds of Kentucky fans. Wrote Rice:

Lip service has been given to integration of athletics at the University, but so far there is no evidence that the color line is about to be broken.

Russell Rice
After watching the performance of Ohio U's Jerry Jackson and Don Hilt; Michigan's Bill Buntin and Cazzie Russell, and Loyola's Leslie Hunter and Vic Rouse, even the most diehard segregationist among the Kentucky ranks here are wavering a bit.

The prevailing attitude: If you're going to compete on a national level, you'd better get some boys who are not only tall, but big. The Negro is the quickest answer.

A former Kentucky All-American Vernon Hatton said of the OU team: "They may not be much taller, but they jump about that much higher." His hand measured about 18 inches from the floor.

There is no doubt that Kentucky, with its pattern offense, can hold its own with anybody when hitting its shots. In the last two outings - losses to St. Louis and Ohio U. - the Wildcats have got only one or two shots before losing the ball.

Ohio U's two forwards and center completely blocked the smaller Cats from the Kentucky goal in the first half. The result: a 29-12 rebounding edge for the Bobcats.

Kentucky fared better in the second half, but ended on the wrong side of a 45-38 rebounding ledger. These statistics only take in account individual rebounds. Ohio U. was way ahead in team rebounds.

The Wildcats have faced larger teams this season, particularly Duke, but even the Blue Devils don't seem as powerful under the boards as Ohio U.

The first name which popped into the mind of the UK fans here was Wesley Unseld, Seneca's 6-foot-8 Negro star. There has been some talk that perhaps Unseld is too slow to play on a Rupp-coached eam. Perhaps speed and savvy come with experience.

On the other side of the ledger, Rupp definitely has an eye on two junior college boys with height, weight and go credentials.

. . .

Back to the integration question. Ohio U. started three Negroes; seven of the 10 Loyola and Michigan starters were Negroes.

The more liberal thinking Kentucky fans feel its now or never, and if the coaching staff doesn't make a move to get Unseld or another good, big Negro, the matter might as well be forgotten.

("Upshot of Kentucky Loss: Possible Cracking of the Segregation Barrier" by Russell Rice, Lexington Leader March 14, 1964)

The following night, Kentucky and Loyola (Chicago) were slated to meet in the consolation game to put a nightcap on the season. If there were concerns after the Ohio loss, they were only amplified after Loyola, as the Ramblers raced to a 100-91 victory. This was only the second time in UK (and Rupp's coaching) history that an opponent had scored 100 or more points agains the Wildcats. It was also the first time Kentucky had lost a NCAA consolation game. In fact the Loyola loss meant Kentucky had lost three games in a row, including a loss to St. Louis prior to the tournament. This was only the third time in Rupp's career that he had lost three straight games. An inglorious end to a once promising season.

During the game, Kentucky shot much better (in fact they outshot the Ramblers scoring 39 field goals on 46.4% versus 31 field goals on 38.3% shooting.) But the Wildcats were again out-rebounded and out-hustled by their opponents.

After the game, Russell Rice once again addressed the issue of integration and got quotes from Rupp directly. From the article:

Rupp revealed the (sic) UK in the past few days has written other Southeastern Conference universities, asking if they would provide housing and eating facilities for visiting Negro players.

The plan suggested is to (house) athletes in dormitories on campus and feed them in school cafeterias.

Rupp said a Negro would have to be treated exactly as a white boy in a Kentucky uniform. "If you couldn't take them where you took the others, it would be a tragedy and humiliation. We're not going to humiliate anybody."

He pointed out that Kentucky was the first university in the South to let colored boys play on its floor.

"We have a problem in the South, you know," he added. "It may not be solved unless a public accommodations law is passed."

Rupp admitted the university doesn't have all the answers. "But it looks as if colored boys will be used in the South in the next few years."

The subject was brought up after Rupp noted that Michigan's three big Negroes - forwards Cazzie Russell (6-foot-5-1/2) and Oliver Darden (6-foot-7) and center Bill Buntin (6-foot-7) - "seem to have been cast from the same mold."

"If I could find that mold, I would be glad to use it," Rupp said.

("Negro Cagers To Be Sought, Rupp Explains" by Russell Rice, Lexington Herald-Leader March 15, 1964)

Attempts at Signing Players

Article from New Orleans Times Picayune, March 26, 1964
After the weary Wildcats returned home from Minneapolis having lost in the NCAA tournament, the city of Lexington was in the midst of hosting the Kentucky boy's basketball tournament, which was won by Louisville Seneca the following Saturday in a victory over Butch Beard and Breckinrdige County. This was a repeat state championship for Wes Unseld and Seneca.

It was at this point when rumors started flying about Kentucky's interest in signing a black player, and in particular Wes Unseld from nearby Louisville, KY. As already described previously on this page, the Unseld recruitment was full of misunderstandings and in the end did not end in Kentucky's favor.

Regardless, the need for Kentucky to integrate in order to compete in the future was never more clear or urgent.

In the above article, published in March of 1964, Marion Jackson, sports editor of the Atlanta Daily World reported a rumor that Wes Unseld had agreed to join Kentucky. The article also noted that Kentucky was recruiting another black prep star, Don Chaney of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Chaney would go on to join Elvin Hayes in integrating the basketball program at the University of Houston.

JPS Note: - Detailed information on the recruitment of Butch Beard and Wes Unseld is included in the sections above. The above is the only reference seen to UK recruiting Chaney as well.

The effort to recruit black players to Kentucky wasn't by Rupp alone, some powerful people, including the governor of the state, tried to assist.

Article from Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger, December 15, 1965.

But there were also forces working against their efforts. Assistant Coach Neil Reed described a meeting of about a dozen UK boosters who confronted Rupp after he began recruiting Wes Unseld to try to convince him to cease in his efforts.

Another example of Rupp's mind-set during those years can be illustrated by a correspondance between a Kentucky fan and Rupp. In the Fall of 1965, the fan wrote to Rupp complaining about Kentucky's lack of height, and in particular the fact that Kentucky was planning on starting another 'short' center, 6-foot 5-inch Thad Jaracz for the upcoming 1965-66 season. The fan had suggested at least starting Cliff Berger, who had at least three inches on Jaracz.

Rupp personally replied in a letter, not only reinforcing the fact that Rupp himself knew best about who to start and who to not (which was evidenced by the success of the 1965-66 team), but also made it a point to ask for help among UK fans and alumni in terms of helping with recruiting, specifically mentioning Wes Unseld as one example of someone who this fan himself (who lived in Louisville) could have lent a hand in helping to recruit, yet failed in doing so.

Dear Mr. Jones:

I was glad to get your letter because I want some of our great alumni to get a picture of our problems here at the University. You sign as a "disappointed UK fan". I, personally, am ashamed of you as is every other loyal Kentuckian because we still have a winning record of any team that has ever picked up a basketball.

It is because of belly-achers like you that we haven't been able to do better in recent years. I think I know what we need here at the University possibly better than any other coach and one of those things is less criticism and an active participation by some of our alumni to help us get some of the material that you spoke about in your letter.

How many boys who are athletes have you brought to the University of Kentucky campus at your expense ? How many of their families have you entertained in Louisville and told them about the advantages of coming to the University? Some of the advantages you have apparently forgotten about.

Please don't come from Louisville to Lexington to see us play. Go out and see U of L play because they have a boy by the name of Wesley Unseld on that team that we made 13 trips to Louisville to interest in coming to Kentucky. You never raised a hand and before you continue more belly-aching let's get something done on your part to make a contribution to the University that gave you a fine education.

We only beat Tennessee three of the last four games in spite of the fact we didn't have a big center. You apparently overlooked this also.



Basketball Coach

JPS Note: Here is a link to the original letter.

"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.

Article published March 18, 1967 throughout the country. This particular article in Fond du Lac (WI) Commonwealth Reporter

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 meets with Felix Thruston in his office. On right is Rupp with Thruston and Thurston's Owensboro (HS) head coach and former UK player under Rupp Bobby Watson. Rupp is pointing to a photo from when Watson was a player

As mentioned earlier concerning players Kentucky recruited who ended up going to Western Kentucky, Kentucky had difficulty getting players enrolled in school, both black and white. At the time the Southeastern Conference had internal academic standards in place which were higher than other universities along with the University itself increasing their academic standards, which put a burden on the athletic programs to recruit. Rupp in numerous letters to fans was very frank about the difficulties UK had not only enrolling qualified students, but keeping them eligible. Below are a few letters in response to questions about Kentucky's recruiting circa 1967. These responses by Rupp mention players Kentucky was considering but could not proceed due to academics.

Dear Mr. McKay:

I was glad to get your letter in regard to prospects.

[Howard] Porter has signed with Villanova. We were there to see him four times and spent considerable time and money but it takes more than that to get these good boys.

Gene Phillips of Houston was here this past weekend. Rudy Benjamin's grades will not permit him to come.

We think we are getting along nicely with out recruiting program.


Adolph F. Rupp
Basketball Coach

(Link to original letter)

Dear Mr. Harrington:

I was glad to get your letter and enjoyed reading it.

[Randy] Poole (sic) is not playing because he was ineligible last year and fell behind.

[Bill] Busey is not playing because we have four guards bigger than he. Bobby Washington couldn't get into school here. A lot of these kids are turned down by the Registrar, not by us.

It is nice hearing from you.


Adolph F. Rupp
Basketball Coach

(Link to original letter)

Sylvester "Rudy" Benjamin of Dayton Roosevelt went to Michigan State
Lexington Dunbar's Bobby Washington went to Eastern Kentucky

According to Rupp, academics was an issue that was posed a difficult issue to crack. In an audio interview on October 28, 1971 Rupp noted about President Oswald his unwillingness to relax the increasing academic standards at the school for athletes, including black athletes and students:

JPS Note: It is noteworthy that today, even though most schools try to deny it, there are regularly allowances given to athletes who would not otherwise be admitted to the school under their normal admission requirements. In fact, it's been shown numerous times at nearly every school that the only admission requirement that matters is the one that the NCAA itself puts in place. This is true at Kentucky, at North Carolina, at Duke, and at nearly every other major school one cares to mention.

Many critics of Rupp like to cite President Oswald's influence in favor of integration of the school, even though by his own admission he quickly tired of making any personal efforts in terms of helping the coaching staffs in recruiting black players. The one area in which Oswald could have made a significant difference (by relaxing the academic requirements, which again whether you agree with it or not, is commonly done today at nearly every school), Oswald made no effort to do so.

The academic issue did not hamper just Kentucky, but other schools at the time as well. Noted Vanderbilt coach Roy Skinner years after Perry Wallace had signed with the school and was set to graduate without the Commodores successfully recruiting any black players to follow in his footsteps:

Tennessee coach Ray Mears was asked about recruiting black players and noted:

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.

JPS Note #1: According to the biography of Hall by Russell Rice, after Hall accepted the assistant coaching position at UK he had asked one of his former standout players, Cozel Walker, to come with him to Kentucky but Walker refused. According to Hall Walker replied that did not want to fight 'that battle'. "That was the attitude among blacks back then," said Hall about the response.

JPS Note #2: Below is a listing of some of the black athletes who were offered scholarships by UK and Rupp in the 1960's. This list is not complete. There likely were others who may have been recruited but not formally received a scholarship offer. Any additional information, including the extent of their recruitment, visits to the school etc. is appreciated.

Westley Unseld1964Louisville, KYLouisville
Butch Beard1965Breckinridge County, KYLouisville
Perry Wallace1966Nashville, TNVanderbilt
Howard Porter1967Sarasota, FlVillanova
Jim McDaniels1967Allen County, KYWestern Kentucky
Jim Rose1967Hazard, KYWestern Kentucky
Jerome Perry1967Louisville, KYWestern Kentucky
Felix Thruston1967Owensboro, KYTrinity (TX)
Joby Wright1968Savannah, GAIndiana
Ron King1969Louisville, KYFlorida State
Tom Payne1969Louisville, KYKentucky

"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.

"[UK assistant coach Joe] Hall says that the effort to get Butch Beard was perhaps the biggest UK has made for any player in recent years. UK also tried to sign Westley Unseld and Jim McDaniels, actually spreading the grant-in-aid agreement before McDaniels in his home. Kentucky wanted Howard [sic, Harold] Sylvester, a good student, and seemed to have a good chance of getting him. But much pressure was applied to keep him in his home state of Louisiana and he eventually signed with Tulane. Last year, more of UK's recruiting money was spent on Georgia-born Joby Wright, than any other prospect. Coach Adolph Rupp made a strong personal plea that Wright enroll here, assuring him he would be happy at UK and would certainly have an All-America future. Wright chose Indiana then switched to Tulane.

Of course there are factors other than those mentioned here. But the door at UK is open to colored players. The ones UK has tried to recruit, and there are several, either have been blocked by the entrance exam or by their own decisions to go elsewhere." - by John McGill, Lexington Herald, "Time Out" April 16, 1969.

Sport Magazine: Has Kentucky recruited any Negroes ?

Rupp: "Yes, we have two on our football team and we called on five or six basketball players last year, but we were not successful."

Sport Magazine: Why not ?

Rupp: "I just think the whole thing has been a fear of traveling through the Deep South and probably being insulted or picked on. I know one of these boys got many letters from the south when it looked like we were going to get him, suggesting he not come here. But we do not draw the color line in any way."

Published in Sport Magazine, "Sound Off! Adolph Rupp: I Don't Want To Be a Mean Old Man" by Fred Katz, March 1967, pp. 32-33, 92-94.

When describing the events surrounding the post-season banquet after the Texas Western game where Lexington sports editor Billy Thompson made his unfortunate remark (mentioned previously 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.

Support from Unexpected Places

Louisville Defender editor Frank Stanley Jr.
As mentioned previously during the Wes Unseld recruitment some among the black community were supportive of Kentucky's and Rupp's recruitment of Unseld. Most notably this include Frank Stanley Jr., who in June 1962 became the editor of the state's prominent black newspaper The Louisville Defender, a position succeeding his father, Frank Stanley Sr.

Stanley Jr. was an active protester for Civil Rights in Kentucky participating in numerous boycotts, demonstration and sit-ins around the state, in particular in the city of Louisville. He also was instrumental in voting drives and became the head of the Allied Organizations for Civil Rights (AOCR), which was an umbrella organization of approximately 40 civil rights groups throughout the state. He was Kentucky's spokesman for the Kentucky delegation to the March on Washington in 1963 and was instrumental in organizing a March on Frankfort in 1964 which saw the Reverend Martin Luther King speak to a crowd of nearly 10,000 people.

Stanley was fully supportive of Rupp's recruitment of Wes Unseld and made his own efforts to convince Unseld. "We've tried to get everyone who we have reason to believe is close to him (Unseld) to talk with him about it (Kentucky's recruitment)." reportedly said Stanley in an Associated Press article which was published nationally in April 1964, including in the South which took notice. "The entire Negro community is anxious for him to go to Kentucky. But so far I don't think he's made up his mind." said Stanley - ("Negro Star Pressured Toward Ky." Jackson (MS) Clarion Ledger, April 22, 1964)

In later years, Rupp made use of student protesters to help him with recruitment. Most notably in 1967 Harlan Ky. native William H. Turner was a student at the University of Kentucky studying Sociology, having transferred there after attending Southeast Community College in Cumberland KY. Turner was a founding member of the UK Black Students Union and became involved in protests around campus and most notably was asked to step in to speak in place of Muhammad Ali at a rally in Memorial Coliseum before 11,000 people, after Ali cancelled after news of Martin Luther King being assassinated in Memphis.

Turner was active in student-led protests of the UK basketball team in December 1967, protesting the fact that the team was still not integrated by that point. Prior to that Turner had requested an in-person meeting with Coach Rupp, which Rupp agreed to along with athletic director Bernie Shively. While Turner has given varying accounts of how serious he thought Rupp was in recruiting black player in subsequent years, the immediate result of the meeting was that Rupp asked and Turner agreed to assist the athletics program in recruiting black players to the school.

Bill Turner giving a speech in the 1960s

Per an article in December 1967 discussing the protests:

Dr. George Hill
Similarly black UK biochemistry professor George Hill in a May 1969 Letter to the Editor to the Lexington Herald in response to an earlier column by John McGill entitled "UK and the Colored Cagers" discussing the lack of success of Kentucky's recruitment of black players, noted that "I worked with Coaches Adolph Rupp and Joseph Hall and the BSU [Black Student Union] last spring in attempts to recruit blacks and have spoken to previous prospects who went elsewhere." - ("Insult Claimed" Lexington Herald, May 23, 1969)

The George Hill letter generated a lot of interest and responses, including by Rupp himself who penned a response to Earl Cox of the Louisville Courier-Journal. (Apparently Hill sent identical letters to both John McGill at the Lexington Herald which was published on May 23rd and to Earl Cox of the Louisville Courier-Journal which was published earlier on the May 18th.) Rupp was out of town and apparently didn't see either of the letters when published but was sent a clipping of a follow-up story by Cox in the Louisville Courier-Journal to which he chose to respond to.)

In his response, Rupp confirmed that Hill assisted in UK's recruiting efforts. Wrote Rupp:

Pushback from Unexpected Places

It was mentioned previously that during the Butch Beard recruitment, that then-chairman of the Louisville NAACP Lyman Johnson actually threatened to sue UK if they continued to recruit Beard.

That seemingly bizarre response was actually not that unusual for the time period. The truth is that there was not universal support from within the Black community in support of UK's and Rupp's efforts to integrate their program. Whether it was a preference for a local schools which had recently started recruiting black players like Louisville or Western Kentucky, or even a consideration that once formerly all-white programs started signing black players it could harm the long-term athletic fortunes of historically black colleges like Kentucky State University (many of which at the time were undergoing a renaissance of their athletic programs), there were alumni and fans of other programs actively working against Kentucky. Add in the people who simply were looking for retribution against either the school or someone in Rupp who for better or worse came to represent an all-white program for decades, and it's not surprising.

Once UK had failed with Wes Unseld, the stage was set. Unseld helped dissuade Butch Beard not just to come to Louisville but away from Kentucky. Both Unseld and Beard helped to dissuade Perry Wallace away from Kentucky as well.

Rival recruiter George Raveling
Rival recruiters were happy to join in. According to Barry Jacobs in the book Across the Line: Profiles in Basketball Courage:

Exhibition Games with Black Players

Rupp throughout his career held many clinics and often coached all-star exhibitions. He travelled to Europe, the Middle East 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.

Johnny Wilson
One early game where it is known that Rupp coached a black player was "Jumpin'" Johnny Wilson of Anderson (IN) College. Wilson was the star of his high school team in Anderson IN and led them to a state title in 1946, and was named Indiana Mr. Basketball. Despite these accomplishments, he was not offered a scholarship by Indiana University or any Big Ten School. When IU coach Branch McCracken was asked about the possibility of Wilson playing at IU, McCracken is reported to have responded "I don't think he could make my team." (Indianapolis Star, "70 years later, a statue honors Indiana basketball hero", May 27, 2016).

Wilson ended up at nearby Anderson College where he excelled on the court, setting a school record in scoring and finished third in the nation in scoring, but ended up dropping out of school after three years due to a disagreement with the track coach. He later played a year of baseball in the Negro leagues before joining the Harlem Globetrotters to play basketball until 1954. But prior to joining the Globetrotters, Wilson was invited to participate in a basketball exhibition between former college All-Stars and the NBA World Champion Minneapolis Lakers with their All-Star center George Mikan. The College All-Star team was coached by Rupp (assisted by Loyola (Chicago) coach Tom Haggerty) and featured four of Rupp's Kentucky stars: Alex Groza, Ralph Beard, Cliff Barker and Wallace "Wah Wah" Jones among stars of other schools. Players reported to practice on October 22 at the Loyola gym where Rupp drilled his players in preparation of the game to be held on the 26th.

Prior to the game during warmups, Wilson who was just under 6-foot tall, wowed the crowd with pre-game dunks. Despite having four of his own UK players at his disposal, Rupp started Wilson along with his own All-American Ralph Beard to go along with Notre Dame's Vince Boryla, St. Louis center Ed Macauley and Kentucky's Wallace Jones. Reportedly Wilson "brought the crowd to its feet with some tricky ball handling early in the game and played most of the first quarter before giving away to some of his larger teammates." (DeKalb (IL) Daily Chronicle, "Bits by Sue", October 27, 1949.)

Photo of Exhibition Game between Minneapolis Lakers and Collegiate All-Stars coached by Adolph Rupp in 1949. Shown in photo for the All-Stars are "Jumpin'" Johnny Wilson of Anderson (IN) College, Ed Macauley (St. Louis) and Ralph Beard (Kentucky)

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.

Roster of the 1954 Kentucky Collegiate All-Stars. Jim Tucker was the only player on the squad who didn't play collegiately in Kentucky.

In the two-game series (which ended with a victory by Indiana in Louisville and a victory by Kentucky in Indianapolis), Tucker started both games and scored 11 and 8 points respectively. Noted Angelo Angeolpolous of the Indianapolis News: "Tucker, who they say scratches his elbows on the basket ring, was uncontrollable on rebounds, tipping in four, and giving the best two-night performance." (Indianapolis News September 13, 1954).

Action from back-to-back games. The first photo (on left) from the game in Louisville (10-SEP-1954) shows Kentucky's Cliff Hagan getting tied up between Indiana's Dick Rosenthal and Dick Farley while Tucker looks on in the background. The second photo (right) from the game the following night in Indianapolis shows Tucker (#7) trying to clear the way for teammate Frank Ramsey's (#4) shot, which nevertheless was blocked by Indiana's Dick Farley.

Program from 1959 Ararat Shrine All-Star Basketball Game held in Kansas City, MO.

Advertisment before 1959 Game
Rupp was the coach of the Eighth Annual Shriners East-West All-Star game held in Kansas City MO in March 28, 1959. Rupp coached the East squad which included black stars Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati), Johnny Green (Michigan State) and Joe McDade (Bradley) to go along with other stars such as Jerry West (West Virginia), Dave Gunther (Iowa) and Johnny Cox (Kentucky) among others. [Note to read the biographies you can check the following links: (Link 1) (Link 2).]

Rupp said about his team prior to the game: "There's never been a collection of players like this for this game and there probably never will be again."

The East won the game 102-71, with Oscar Robertson (Cincinnati) leading the scoring with 22 point, nine rebounds and was named most valuable player. Johnny Green (Michigan State) contributed 7 points and 11 rebounds and as the Kansas City paper noted "combined with Robertson in a brilliant exhibition of blocking shots and intercepting passes." Later on it was noted: "With Robertson, Green and Bradley's Joe Billy McDade maintaining the superiority on the boards, the awesome power of the East showed in the final eight minutes. The East ran 13 consecutive points and moved to a 94-68 margin." (Note: The above quotes from Kansas City Times in preview and summary of game held on March 28, 1959.)

1959 All-Star Game Photo
West All-Star Bob Boozer (#30) is defended by East players Johnny Green (#24) and Oscar Robertson (behind) while Bob Ferry (#43) looks on. Adolph Rupp was the coach of the winning East All-Stars.

I recently asked one of these players, Joe Billy McDade (now a U.S. District Judge in Peoria Illinois), what he remembered of the exhibition, and in particular whether he noticed or experienced any slights or disadvantages on the part of Rupp toward him. This is what he wrote back:

Dear Mr. Scott:

My participation in the 1959 Shriners All-Star basketball game as a member of the East squad was memorable because of the great players involved, some of whom I had played against as conference opponents, and because of Coach Rupp, whose reputation was legendary at that time. Outside of practice and of course the game itself, I had no contact with Rupp. I have no idea the degree of off-court contact he had with the white players. On the practice court, I do not recall any difference in treatment among the two groups. Coach Rupp, however, provided me with a most memorable coaching event that says something about him and his approach to that game. Having been favored to win, we were down 16-19 points at half-time. We were a quiet, sober bunch in the locker room awaiting Coach Rupp. Within the last minute of the half, he came and stood in the doorway and said in his Kentucky drawl: "Boys, you are 17 points down. You have the best damn coach in the country coaching you. It ain't my fault." He then abruptly left without another word. To my knowledge, he had no contact with us as a team after the game. In retrospect, this epitome of arrogance could have been a brilliant psychological play since we played great in the second half and won the game.


Joe Billy McDade
United States District Judge

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 Practice Photo
Kentucky Wesleyan's Sam Smith (with ball) works against Western Kentucky's Dwight Smith in preparation for a All-Star game between Kentucky and Indiana collegians in April 1967. Looking on intently is UK Assistant Coach Harry Lancaster

1967 Kentucky-Indiana All-Star RosterIN's Bill Russell drives on KY's Dave Gilbert

On April 13, 1968 Rupp coached the Kentucky All-Stars in a game against the Tennessee All-Stars (coached by Vanderbilt's Roy Skinner) in Nashville. On the Kentucky roster were: Dick Cunningham and Billy Chumbler of Murray State; Thad Jaracz, Steve Clevenger and Jim LeMaster of Kentucky; Dallas Thornton of Kentucky Wesleyan, Larry Jordan of Morehead; Garfield Smith, Butch Kaufman and Greg Smith of Western Kentucky.

In the game Western's Kaufman led all scorers with 20 points and Dallas Thornton contributed 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Kentucky Stars, including the game winning basket in a 74-71 win. Reportedly the game was moved from it's original date on Friday night, April 12 to Saturday April 13 due to what the Nashville Tennessean described as "racial tension in town which had brought about early curfews in the first part of the week."

Rupp talks with UK player Thad Jaracz, Murray State's Dick Cuningham and Western Kentucky's Greg Smith during practice in Nashville, April 12, 1968.

According to the documentary Adolph Rupp: Myth, Legend and Fact, Rupp coached Perry Wallace in an exhibition after his career at Vanderbilt was complete. Said Wallace, "He was very, very nice. He offered to be helpful as he could about the draft and speaking to scouts. That was striking." I emailed Mr. Wallace about this and the exhibition. This is his reply:

Hi Jon,

During my senior year at Vandy, Coach Rupp coached me in one of those post-season, college all-star games. I believe the game was played in Tennessee. I remember that Coach Rupp was very nice to me, even to the point of offering to help me in getting tryouts with pro teams.

I understand that this adds to the considerable complexity in and around the myth of Adolph Rupp, but I always like to relate the story where I can--mainly because it is true and deserves to be told. Just as the South is more complex than the usual stereotypes, so also are its people and its institutions. And Coach Rupp, especially given his transcendent presence, deserves to be seen in all his complexity--however hard it makes people have to work to understand him and this amazing phenomenon called humanity.

Best regards,

Perry E. Wallace

JPS Note: Unless Wallace is referring to another exhibition game that I'm unaware of, I don't know that Rupp technically coached in an exhibition. They did face each other twice in 1970 when Rupp was coaching the Kentucky All-Stars and Wallace was playing for the Tennessee All-Stars and his collegiate coach at Vanderbilt Roy Skinner. Regardless, obviously the two found time to talk at some point after Wallace's graduation during an All-Star event.

Perry Wallace dunk attempt
Perry Wallace misses his dunk
During the game in Nashville on March 23, 1970, because the players had graduated and some had already started signing pro contracts, professional rules were being used. After his star player Dan Issel noted that the team had scored 98 points with a full quarter remaining, Rupp reportedly replied: "You're playing pro ball now, you might as well get used to it."

Besides 12-minute quarters and the mandatory use of man-to-man defense, the rules also allowed for the ability to dunk, something that had been taken away from Wallace in college. Mid-way through the first quarter, Wallace was on a fast break and sensing his chance rose to dunk the ball and missed spectacularly. The ball reportedly bounced off the rim 15 feet up in the air. Said Wallace afer the game: "I had intended to have some fun dunking the ball, but when the opportunity came I had to remember I could do it...The goal came up on me too fast and I thought the ball might go through the roof."

After that miss, Wallace settled down and got two dunks to go down as part of his 15 total points scored. Reportedly after each dunk, Rupp said "That boy has been around. He's smart. You can't give him that position."

(Note - All quotes above from articles in Nashville Tennessean, March 24, 1970.)

With a potential basketball future on his mind, Wallace participated in a college All-Star game in Kentucky, where his coach for the exhibition was none other than Adolph Rupp. It was the first time Wallace spent any time around the man who had been - always from a distance - a significant actor in his life, given Rupp's role in the banning of the dunk and his halfhearted efforts to recruit Wallace to Lexington. Wallace would take away only pleasant memories of his encounter with the legendary coach. "It was a very special meeting, out on the floor at the first practice. He was extremely welcoming and gracious. If you think about it, by that point it was clear that Texas Western, my efforts, all were part of a great flood of progress. And in our talks, I discovered something compelling that I knew many people would not understand," Wallace recalled. "For all of his reputation as a classic racist power figure, I hadn't the facts to decide whether or not that was true What I could see in those short talks and moments was an American man - yes, white, but more important, a product of all of America's good, bad, and ugly. And more curiously, I found myself comparing him with older partriarchal men, both black and white. My father, my high school coach, and many others all seemed eerily similar in certain basic ways. Tough, not hugely emotional. The good ones pushed you, goaded you, but toward honorable goals and good conduct. Tough love personified."

(by Andrew Maraniss, Strong Inside, (2014) Vanderbilt University Press, pg 362.)

JPS Note: I haven't really discussed this in detail on this page but the topic of Rupp's view on dunking is complicated. It is true that he was in favor of the ban on dunking at the time it was announced in 1967, although it's not clear that he lobbied for the rule change and he was not a member of the rules committee at the time the rule was passed. One thing people today don't seem to recognize is that at the time with exposed hooks for the basketball net, dunking was a potentially dangerous maneuver and the threat of seriously hurting your hand or even losing a finger was real. In addition, if the goal was damaged it often led to game postponements as most places didn't have backup goals readily available.

While Rupp generally was against the dunk through much of his career. Lou Tsioropoulos noted that Rupp allowed the players to dunk in practice but not in games. Despite this, his players did indeed dunk from time to time in the 1950's and 1960's at least, including a memorable break-away dunk by Bill Spivey in a game vs. Kansas and rival big man Clyde Lovellette. Marion Cluggish, 6-8 center who played for Rupp in the late 30's to early 40's, was known to dunk in pregame warmups at Rupp's request in order to intimidate opponents. In an interview after his retirement, Rupp was quoted as saying about the dunk: "I really think it should be a part of basketball," said Rupp. "I was violently opposed to it, but after thinking about it for two or three years, I think it has a spot in basketball." (Eugene (OR) Register-Guard, May 1, 1976)

1970 Kentucky All-Star photo in Louisville
A bare-chested Dan Issel battles KY All-Star teammate (and former EKU player) Willie Woods (#33) for a rebound as part of preparations for a game against the Tennessee All-Stars in Louisville, Ky on March 30, 1970. Adolph Rupp was the head coach of the KY All-Star team.

For the Kentucky-Tennessee All-Star series in the late 60's and early 70's, Adolph Rupp alternated with Western's Johnny Oldham as coach of the Kentucky stars. Rupp was the coach in 1968, in 1970 (both games), and in March of 1971 (second game).

In 1970, the roster included Bob Long (Cumberland), Toke Coleman (Eastern Kentucky), Mike Pratt (Kentucky), Jim Reid (Georgetown), Willie Woods (Eastern Kentucky), Ron Belton (Bellarmine), Bobby Hiles (Morehead), Claude Virden (Murray State) and Dan Issel (Kentucky).

The roster in 1971 included Jim McDaniels (Western Kentucky), Clarence Glover (Western Kentucky), Jim Rose (Western Kentucky), Jim Day (Morehead), Mike Casey (Kentucky), Larry Steele (Kentucky) and Jimmy Young (Murray).

Clarence Glover was interviewed years later about his interaction with Rupp as part of a oral history project and this is what Glover had to say:

WKU's Clarence Glover
(35:00) "I remember Herky Rupp calling and asking me if I would talk to a guy who was writing a book about his dad. Because there are not going to be a great number of black people who were going to say anything good about his dad, so he saw an interview I did on television where I talked about Coach Rupp.

And Coach Rupp and I sat down right after the tournament, where we had beaten the University of Kentucky, because I played for him in a college all-star game and he made his way around the room, sat down and spoke and talked with each of the players, and two of the players on there played for him, Pratt and Steele, played for UK, and they were on that team too. So he didn't have have to talk with them as long because he knew them.

So he went to each of the guys and he was very cordial and shook their hand, and told them who he was and he was pleased to be coaching them. And then he came to me and he sat down. And it scared the heck out of me, because I was already, my heart was beating like crazy, I mean we'd beaten the University of Kentucky 20-some points, and here was the coach getting ready to talk to me and I'm thinking he was going to ream me out.

And we really didn't talk very much basketball. We talked about other things, life and what makes the economy run for the United States, and just different things.

And so, a week or two later I got a call from Red Auerbach. And he said: 'I talked with Adolph, and Adolph said you're one of the quickest big men in the country, and one of the smartest players he's ever worked with, although he only coached me that short time.

'And so he said we're going to draft you #1.

So therefore, when I had the interview on one of the Lexington television stations I said: 'My meeting and talk with Coach Rupp went just fine, we had a good time.'

And he was one of the prime reasons for me being drafted #1, so I didn't hold anything against Coach Rupp. But I did know that he felt, he did things he felt he needed to do during that time that he had to do them, because of segregation and because he felt he would lose funding for his team, if he had black players on his team. And, not saying that was right, I just said my connection, with him, my interaction with him was on a positive note, moreso than a negative note."

(Oral History Interview with Clarence Glover, December 9, 2004)

1972 Kentucky All-Star photo in Nashville
April 1, 1972 in Nashville TN - Rupp signs an autograph for a ballgirl as members of the Kentucky All-Star team look on
It's also known that Rupp coached the Kentucky-Tennessee All-Star games in 1972, held in Louisville and Nashville. On the Kentucky squad included Billy Burton (Eastern Kentucky), Daryl Dunagan (Eastern Kentucky), Stan Key (Kentucky), Tom Parker (Kentucky), Henry Bacon (Louisville), Mike Lawhon (Louisville), Everett Bass (Transylvania), Ron Thomas (Louisville), Jerry Dunn (Western Kentucky) and Al Vilcheck (Louisville).

Rupp coached the East Squad in the All-Star Senior Basketball Classic held in Las Vegas, NV on April 18, 1972. Rupp's team came back from a three-point deficit on a field goal by Bob Morse (Penn) and the winning points came on two free throws by Bill Chamberlain (North Carolina). Other's on the squad included Jim Price (Louisville) who was the East MVP and scoring leader with 16 points and Bob Lackey (Marquette) among others.

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.

1966 East All-Star Team
1973 East All-Star Team - Seated (l to r): Ernie DiGregorio, Kevin Joyce, Unknown Assistant Coach, Head Coach Rupp, Allen Hornyak, Doug Collins; Standing: Mike Bantom, Kermit Washington, Jim Brewer, Billy Schaeffer, Mike Boylan, Dwight "Bo" Lamar and Barry Parkhill

JPS Note:One interesting tidbit was that when it came time to name the Head Coach of the 1972 US Olympic basketball team, the AAU faction favored naming Adolph Rupp (although he was ailing physically at the time), while some in the collegiate faction were favoring a younger coach, such as North Carolina's Dean Smith. In the end, a compromise candidate was agreed upon, former Oklahoma State coach Henry Iba. The team went on to the Munich Olympics where they became the first US mens team not to capture a gold medal in the sport, losing to the Soviet Union on a last-second disputed play.

On April 13 1976, Rupp coached the South All-Star team in the Mid-America All-America Classic held at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis. The opposing coach was Tony Hinkle, retired from Butler. On the South squad (which lost 121-95) was: Robert Paige (Houston Baptist), Tim Sisneros (Middle Tennessee), Alex English (South Carolina), Mike Dunleavy (South Carolina), Phil Spence (North Carolina State), Charlie Fishback (Austin Peay), Marion Hilliard (Memphis State) and Butch Feher (Vanderbilt).

Other Events Rupp was Involved With

There were a number of integrated events and exhibitions which Rupp was directly involved with, although he didn't coach the teams. Oftentimes he was on the selection committee who actually determined which players would be invited. Other times, he was on the organizing committee, as many of these events were held in Lexington.

Wes Unseld was invited to attend the 1964 East-West All-Star Game. Lexington Herald (March 29, 1964)
One high profile event was collegiate portion of the 1964 Olympic Trials, which were held in Lexington, KY. Thirty college seniors and underclassmen players were invited to try-out, with Adolph Rupp and Olympic coach Henry Iba acting as the selection committee. These invited players, along with players from the N.C.A.A. champion UCLA Bruins (which competed as a team) formed the pool from which the collegiate portion of the Olympic team would be chosen. While the Bruins worked out on their campus, the thirty other players descended on Lexington.

As part of the event, the 1964 East-West All-Star game was also held in Lexington on March 28, 1964, with many of the same players trying out for the Olympic team involved. The players who participated in the East-West game were as follows:

1964 East-West All-Stars about town in Lexington, KY
Photos of some of the East-West All-Stars about town in Lexington. Show are Jim "Bad News" Barnes, Cazzie Russell, Willie Murrell and Dave Stallworth
1964 East-West All-Stars Game Action
The West's All-Star Joe Caldwell (Arizona State) drives past the East's Wally Jones (Villanova)
UNC star Billy Cunningham cools his heels in an official University of Kentucky ice bucket
Michigan star Cazzie Russell nurses his foot in the Memorial Coliseum "whirlpool"

Lexington Herald (March 29, 1964)
After the East-West game was concluded, the additional players in the Olympic Trials joined in and four teams were formed, which scrimmaged each other in preparation for the selection. These other players included: Billy Cunningham (North Carolina), Jim Davis (Colorado), Les Hunter (Loyola), Garry Sloan (Evansville), Manny Newsome (Western Michigan), Steve Thomas (Xavier), Paul Silas (Creighton) and Rick Kaminsky (Yale). These teams continued to play exhibitions around the country, including in Lexington.

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.

1966 East All-Star Team
1966 East All-Star Team in Lexington - Seated (l to r): Steve Vacendak, Larry Conley, Coach John "Taps" Gallagher, Bill Melchionni, Dave Bing; Standing: Dave Schellhase, Dick Snyder, Cazzie Russell, Henry Finkel, Bob McIntyre and Tommy Kron

In fact, the NABC All-Star game was held in Lexington from 1963 until 1967, a time period when other southern campuses and gymnasiums still chose not to host integrated teams. Rupp (along with Henry Iba and N.A.B.C. President Harold Anderson) were credited with being the prime motivators behind making the NABC All-Star game a reality.

As mentioned above, in 1964 (a year that saw black stars such as Texas Western's Jim Barnes, Michigan's Cazzie Russell and Providence College's John Thompson among others), Rupp not only was on the N.A.B.C. All Star game committee, but he in addition served as the chairman of the player selection committee. Other years he likely served those functions also, as his list of accomplishments in the 1971-72 Media Guide (Rupp's last year at UK), it lists the fact that he "heads the group that selects players to appear in East-West All-Star Game benefitting the Hall of Fame" without any restriction on the years.

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. John's), 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. John's), 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. John's), 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)

From 1964 NABC Program

The 1965 East-West game was held in Lexington (March 27 1965) was televised nationally and according to Rupp, raised approximately $15,000 for the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Joe Lapchick, in his final game ever as a coach, led the East All-Stars. On the East squad was Fred Hetzel (Davidson), Rick Barry (Miami), A.W. Davis (Tennessee), Ron Reed (Notre Dame), Billy Cunningham (North Carolina), Tom Van Arsdale (Indiana), Bill Buntin (Michigan), Toby Kimball (Connecticut), Ken McIntyre (St. John's), and Jerry Sloan (Evansville).

Dartmouth's Doggie Julian led the winning West All-Stars. That team was comprised of Gail Goodrich (UCLA), Flynn Robinson (Wyoming), Dave Stalworth (Wichita), Keith Erickson (UCLA), Warren Rustland (Arizona), Ollie Johnson (San Francisco), Harold Denny (Texas Tech), John Fairchild (Brigham Young), Jim Jarvis (Oregon State) and Jim King (Oklahoma State).

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
Darryl Bishop came to Kentucky in 1969 on a football scholarship, although he was named to the fifth team 1969 Parade All-American basketball list and was a first-team Kentucky high school basketball player. He played on UK's freshman basketball team where he started and on many occasions 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.

Shawnee's Payne Casts Lot With Kentucky

The Lexington Herald, June 10, 1969

Tom Payne, 7-foot-1 All-American center from Louisville Shawnee High School, has become the first Negro to accept a basketball grant-in-aid at the University of Kentucky.

Payne, who had been sought by more than 100 colleges and universities, was signed in Louisville yesterday by Coach Adolph Rupp, who remarked "this is a pretty good way to start the week."

Rupp, whose teams have won more games than any other coach, predicted that Payne has a future as great as that of Lew Alcindor, who led UCLA to three straight national championships.

He is the first 7-footer signed by UK since Bill Spivey, who led the Wildcats to the national crown in 1951 and made All-American.

"We wanted a big man and we got one," Rupp commented.

Payne was offered an opportunity to sign when he visited the campus last weekend.

Payne, who weighs 215 pounds, said that he chose Kentucky for two reasons:

"First of all the educational program, I think it was my best bet. I will be going to a big school, but I can get individual attention. I won't be just a number.

"And I felt Coach Rupp could develop my potential better than any other coach."

Payne said he was skeptical at first about attending Kentucky because of the racial discussion. But he declared that he had no reservations about being the first Negro basketball players at the school after visiting the campus.

"I visited Kentucky three times," he said. "I found out that some of the stuff I had heard wasn't true. I liked what I saw at UK."

Payne averaged 25.8 points and 29 rebounds as a senior. He also hit 61 per cent of his field goal attempts and had a single game high of 40 points.

Payne had been actively recruited by Joe Hall, UK assistant coach, for quite some time. "We're real happy to sign him," Hall said.

This may mark the end of UK's recruiting this year, although Rupp could sign two more if he wished.

In addition to Payne, the UK basketball signees are 6-11 Jim Andrews, 6-8 Dan Perry, 6-6 Larry Stamper, 6-4 Steve Penhorwood and 6-1 Rick Derrickson.

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 necessary 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.

In a April 1970 article in Sport Magazine, Rupp had been asked for his input concerning the All-Time team of All-Americans in college basketball history. The list, which had been put together by a group of college coaches included a first team of Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Lew Alcindor, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. At the end of the article the following comment was made which indicated Rupp's interest level in his soon-to-be sophomore:

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 through 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."

Later on during the season, Rupp was still upbeat about his big man's future:

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

Tom Payne (#54) defends against a Tenneess shot attempt in Knoxville

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.

"After going through my senior year with Payne, the way they treated us, especially at Tennessee and Ole Miss, if I was black, I probably wouldn't have gone to Kentucky either. Tennessee was awful. When we came out, every other word was the 'N' word. It was brutal." - Mike Casey in interview by Mark Story, "A Big Blue What-If Story," Lexington Herald Leader, December 24, 2004.

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.)

In late June 1971 the NBA announced that in light of fall-out from the Spencer Haywood anti-trust case they scheduled a supplementary "hardship" draft on September 10th for underclassmen who were economically disadvantaged to apply for the NBA draft. Rupp was upset with the NBA because of how it impacted college teams, "You can't plan anything any more." lamented Rupp who also noted regarding the NBA's rival ABA which had already started poaching underclassmen "The discouraging thing is that this will intensify and encourage that other league (the ABA) to continue its practice."

But when it came to his own player who was considering applying for the special draft (Payne), Rupp was supportive, even though it meant a hardship of it's own to the UK basketball program.

JPS Note - This attitude of being supportive of player's decision to turn pro is similar to future UK coach John Calipari who dealt extensively with underclassmen leaving early for the NBA draft decades later.

Said Rupp in support of his player applying for the draft: "If Tom isn't a hardship case there isn't one in America. The young man is married, and his family lives off welfare stamps." Rupp continued, "I will call him into the office tomorrow and insist that, if he does want to turn professional, he have a lawyer to represent him in negotiations. Too many of these kids today are signing big contracts and not keeping their money. There is one kid up here who signed with them and now he's driving one of those $20,000 English cars around. I can't think of the name of it. But if Tom wants to sign, I want him to be sure to keep his money. And I will never stand in the way of a boy if he feels he can improve himself." (all quotes above from article by George Cunningham and Richard Hyatt "Rupp Upset at NBA Move" Atlanta Constitution June 26, 1971.)

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.

After a game against Indiana in which IU's Steve Downing exploded for 47 points and 25 rebounds, Rupp complained about his current big men, "Payne never let that happen." ("Just about out of players," by Dick Fenlon, Louisville Courier Journal, December 13, 1971)

In a 2004 interview in prison, Payne (who had been moved back to Kentucky after having his sentence reduced in California, was still looking for another chance) was more reflective of his time at the University of Kentucky and what might have been. "If I would have appreciated the opportunity to play for U of K. The great opportunity God had given me and used it the right way. That I could have run for Senator. I could have been the first black man to run for mayor of Louisville. I think like that." - by Alan Cutler, "First Black Player in UK Basketball History, Serving Time for Rape, Talks to LEX 18 Part 1," WLEX 18, November 10, 2004.

Walk-ons During 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. As mentioned previously, Bishop had been a Parade 5th team All-American and 1st-team All-State player in basketball while playing at Louisville Seneca high school. Stephens had been an All-State football and basketball player (named 2nd team All-State in both 1969 and 1970) from Louisville's Thomas Jefferson High School.

1969 Kentucky High School All-State Team shows some familiar faces, including Darryl Bishop of Seneca

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 1971-72 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)

Ike Unseld (brother of Wes) shoots while guarded by Elmore Stephens as Thomas Jefferson HS coach John Reuther looks on
Having football players walk-on with the basketball team was not unheard of at UK as Rupp had many players who were football players, although most of these two-sports athletes 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.

Rupp did make use of his new players. In a critical game against Louisiana State, Stephens was inserted into the lineup to guard Al Sanders who was dominating the boards.

Said Rupp after the game about Stephens. "I only regret that he waited so long to come out for practice. If he had been there three weeks earlier he might be our starting forward now." (Associated Press, published in Danville Advocate-Messenger, January 31, 1972.)


Rupp bids Farewell to the fans at Memorial Coliseum

After the 1971-72 season, Joe B. Hall formally assumed the position as head coach. At the time Kentucky had been recruiting Kentucky Mr. Basketball Jerry Thruston or Owensboro (younger brother of Felix). Thruston originally signed with Marshall but after Marshall coach Carl Tacy left for Wake Forest, he reopened his recruitment and ended up choosing Jack Hartman and Kansas State over Kentucky. Thruston played a year for KSU but then transferred to Mercer where he played under former Kentucky player and fellow Owensboro alum Bill Bibb to finish his career. (JPS Note: Bibb had actually been an assistant coach at Trinity from 1966 to 1969, where he coached Jerry's older brother Felix.)

Meanwhile, Joe Hall was able to sign lightly recruited Reggie Warford of Drakesboro, a small town in South Central Kentucky, when Hall came to speak at Warford's team banquet in April 1972.

Leonard Hamilton
But Hall received a large piece of assistance. According to Warford, he had previously signed with Austin Peay University under Lake Kelly and AP assistant coach at the time Leonard Hamilton.

Hall contacted Kelly and pled the case for bringing Warford to the Wildcats, something that apparently Kelly and Hamilton recognized. According to Warford in a October 19, 2018 Oral History Interview, it was Leonard Hamilton who convinced Warford to go to Kentucky:

JPS Note - Leonard Hamilton was hired two years later by Joe Hall a few years later as an assistant coach for the Wildcats. And Hamilton was a key recruiter for many highly recruited black and white recruits who came to Kentucky through the 1970's and 1980's, before leaving to become a successful head coach himself. Hall later hired Lake Kelly as an assistant as well, beginning in the 1983-84 season.

The Drakesboro team banquet was set up with Joe Hall as the featured speaker, with the plan for Warford to sign with Kentucky afterwards, which he did on April 17, 1972. Warford came to Lexington as a freshman, the first year that freshmen were once again eligible to play varsity. However, Kentucky still retained a Junior Varsity team and that's where he saw most of his action his first year, leading the team by scoring 17.5 points per game in 12 games. He saw action in only one varsity game that year, going scoreless.

Reggie Warford
The road wasn't easy for Warford. Not only was he the only black player on the team when he started, by his junior season ever other player in his recruiting class had transferred, so he was the lone player remaining in his class when he graduated. In an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal his freshman season, Warford noted "Some people were calling me in the dormitory and saying some things, but we got the number changed and it's all right now." He added: "Wilbur Hackett (a black who starred as a UK linebacker in football) told me he used to get some of that, too. But he said there are just some people like that. I think the majority of students here are ready for the black athlete." ("Brother's Death, Phone Calls Don't Stop Warford", by Mike Sullivan Louisville Courier-Journal February 22, 1973.)

More critically, Reggie's 21-year old older brother Billy died in a car wreck on January 27, 1973, a few months prior to his planned wedding. After the season Warford was diagnosed with a heart condition, which nearly led him to quit basketball altogether, but he chose to continue on.

Reggie's impact on the program was immense, even if he didn't always appreciate it until later in life:

Reggie Warford in 2018

Later on in the interview Warford spoke more to the legacy of Coach Hall and the place in history he held in terms of helping to bring about integration in the Kentucky basketball Program:

As mentioned, despite the stumble with Tom Payne, Reggie Warford was key in restarting the process under Joe Hall. This led to the signing of Larry Johnson and Merion Haskins for the 1973-74 season, forwards Jack Givens and James Lee for 1974-75 and guards Dwane Casey and Truman Claytor for 1975-76 season. 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. According to Reggie Warford in the interview above, the occurrence of five black players coming into the game and playing for Kentucky at the same time occurred sometime during his junior season (1974-75), however he didn't remember the particular game.


Rupp bids Farewell to the fans at Memorial Coliseum

Rupp tosses the ball to start a Junior Pro game. (Designed for kids 7 to 14 in age, 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.)

There is little doubt, however that in each era, someone comes along and takes basketball to a higher level. Some of the advances are so fascinating because of the historical extremes they connect. One occurred in the early 1970s when Julius Erving was playing in the ABA. After a typically brilliant high-flying performance, Erving, who was born in 1950, encountered legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp in a hallway near the locker room. Rupp, who was born in 1901, was the essence of basketball conservatism and the flamboyant Erving was the polar opposite of wht Rupp wanted, and what he taught.

That, however, was before Rupp watched Erving play a game in Louisville. After the game, Rupp told Erving, "You made me realize that there's something I've been teaching all these years that I need to re-think. And that's that a player cannot leave his feet and not have his mind made up. I have always coached that any time you leave your feet, know exactly what you're going to do. But I have to re-think that."

Erving still smiles at the memory. "That left him open to thinking about leaving your feet and letting things happen," Erving said, and then added proudly: "That's changing a purist."

(The Official NBA Encyclopedia 3rd Edition, 2000 pg. 14.)

Rupp was highly impressed by the exploits of the young Dr. J.

That game may have also been the source of an article written about Erving after he and the Nets defeated the Kentucky Colonels in the 1974 ABA playoffs. In the article, Rupp is quoted extensively about Erving, and he has nothing but glowing praise for the man.

"I think right now that Julius Erving is the greatest player ever in the game," Rupp declared after watching the good Doctor and his New York Net teammates cream the Colonels in the semifinal series of the ABA playoffs last spring. "But I want to see what this guy does over the next seven or eight years. I always thought Jerry West was the best with Oscar Robertson right behind. They proved themselves over a long period of time."

Erving has the confidence that only the greats have. Rupp compared him to a baseball great. "He's a basketball Babe Ruth," Rupp said. "The Babe pointed to the stands and said he would hit a home run there. Julius is the same way. Everybody in the house knew he was going to take the last shot in the third game of the playoffs against us. He wanted to do it because he knew he could do it."

Rupp never tires of talking about Erving. "A lot of guys pour in points and you know it," The Baron observed. "But Julius surprises you with the final stats. One game against us he had five points in the first half. When I checked the final score sheet he had 41. He's music personified. I'll bet if you gave him a Stradivarius violin, he'd play it for you."

(Above quotes in article by Charles Morey "Mr. Basketball Says: 'Julius Erving is the Greatest Player of All Time !', Pro Basketball Stars of 1975)

In 1972, the Commonwealth Athletic Club of Kentucky began to award the most outstanding college basketball player with the "Adolph F. Rupp Trophy". The award was one that Rupp took great personal interest in and hoped would be his legacy. "Son, more than anything, I want that trophy to be what I'm remembered for. Every year, I want them to know that the award for the best player in the country is named after me," said Rupp to a reporter in 1977, months before he died. (Burlington (NC) Daily-Times, December 13, 1977.)

Despite dying of cancer and diabetes, Rupp made it a point to travel to New York City in 1977 to award the trophy in his name to the season's winner, Marques Johnson of UCLA, just as he had in years past. It would be his last hurrah and public appearance for many in the media who had covered him during his career. "Have you seen the trophy ?" Rupp asked a visitor, puffing out his chest and pointing to a copper-colored piece standing in the corner of the crowded hotel room. "They're going to have to have four guys carry it back for Marques. It's too heavy for any one man." (Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram, December 13, 1977, C-2).

Rupp made a special effort to present the trophy to 1977 award winner Marques Johnson of UCLA

Around that time, Rupp was in Atlanta at the 1977 NCAA Final Four where he gave an emotional and memorable farewell speech. Author Dan Doyle was in attendance and remembers Rupp saying that basketball created "this wonderful tapestry that brought people together from different creeds and colors . . ." - ("Black History Month: Shades of Gray" by Vahe Gregorian, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 13, 2005)

Later that year back in Lexington, Rupp would die in the hospital, after listening to his beloved Wildcats beat his alma mater, the Kansas Jayhawks on Adolph Rupp Night, December 10, 1977.

UK Sports Information Director, Russell Rice, asked Rupp on his deathbed how he would like his life to be summed up. Reportedly replied Rupp, "Just say he did the best he could. That's good enough for me." (from Adolph Rupp: Kentucky's Basketball Baron, by Russell Rice, Sagarmore Publishing (1994), page 205.)

Personal Reflections

The Final Word

In a post-game press conference after his team was beaten by Florida State in the NCAA Tournament, Rupp's last game as a head coach, he sarcastically said to the reporters "I want to thank you for all your kindness through the years. I'm not nearly the mean old man you fellows have led me to believe I am." - Russell Rice, Big Blue Machine The Last Hurrah.

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.

JPS Note: These players were Elgin Baylor (Seattle), Cazzie Russell (Michigan), Guy Rodgers (Temple), Austin Carr (Notre Dame), Dean Meminger (Marquette) and Artis Gilmore (Jacksonville). Twenty players were named in total, the complete list is found in John McGill's book Kentucky Sports, Jim Host Associates, 1978.

Below is what Rupp said about each one:

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Jon Scott