Fans celebrate 50th anniversary of Texas Western championship at Don Haskins
EL PASO, Texas - Thousands of basketball fans filled the Don Haskins Center on Saturday to watch the UTEP Miners play Western Kentucky. This time, the Miners wore Texas Western jerseys in honor of the 50th anniversary of the historic Texas Western NCAA championship that broke racial barriers.
"I witnessed the game in '66," said UTEP fan Dora Loya. "Being back for the reunion is just fantastic."
In 1966, Texas Western coach Don Haskins started five black players, a first in history and a catalyst to the end of segregation in athletics.
Fans wore blue and orange to support their team.
"I wouldn't miss it for anything. It's a big day," said Jack Maxon, a UTEP fan. "I was in college and I was drinking a lot of beer and cheering and screaming the whole game. I couldn't believe it."
Saturday, Jack said he won't be drinking as much as in his college years, but he will still be screaming. The cheers continued when Obama sent a message through the Jumbotron.
If younger fans were not entertained by President Obama, they still did not walk away empty handed. Albert Gutierrez brought his grandson to the game and has a signed photograph and basketball from the 1966 team. Gutierrez says this is more than a bonding experience for him and his grandson; it's also a history lesson.
"I watched it live with my dad when I was 8 years old," he explained. "I got to live it, so I tell my grandson stories."
All tickets were sold for the game. UTEP remains the only Division I team in Texas to win an NCAA championship.