Don Haskins on Racism Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 23 December 2016

Don Haskins on Racism

The final buzzer rang off in Maryland’s Cole Field House basketball court. Many watched a game of Texas Western Miners and Kentucky Wildcats on March 19th, 1966, and yet most didn’t realize they just witnessed sports ethics redefine itself. It was a championship, an all or nothing statement for the players of Texas Western. The coach of the Miners, Don Haskins, had just won the NCAA title with five African American starters. They won a mere sports game, but it would prove to be much more than that.

A hero of integration, Haskins revolutionized college basketball by the way he indentified a player, by skill and not color. The 1960’s was a time of many cultural controversies that aspired to what America is today. It was not only about Vietnam, the hippie escapades, or the latest eight-track of the Beatles. The decade has been dubbed the civil rights era. Culture was starting to see African American integration from the help of civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

However not all heroes are recognized immediately, and Don Haskins, whether he planned it or not, helped pave the way to equality in sports. Before Haskins started to coach at Texas Western, the college recruited and played African Americans when it was typical for teams to have full-white roster and oppose integration into basketball (Schecter, 1998). No one imagined the day when five blacks would start at a pre-dominantly white college. Many whites actually did not want to have African Americans on their team at all in fear that it would cause integration through all civil aspects.

Frank. Fritzpatrick, author of And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, concurs, “When Negroes and whites meet on the athletic fields on a basis of complete equality, it is only natural that this sense of equality carries into the daily living of these people” (1999). Once they got on the court, the blacks were still held back and treated unfairly. One of the seven black Miner players, Harry Flournoy, stated “All the best players on the team were black, but there was this unspoken rule that no more than three blacks could play at once.

It was rough, but that’s the way it was” (Schecter, 1998). However, once Haskins came to Texas Western he followed its footsteps of recruiting black players; he sought out only the best players while ignoring the color of the players’ skin. Gathering players around the country, Haskins found skilled African Americans such as David Lattin, Harry Flournoy, and the five other players of 1966 title game. Fitzpatrick explains “they wound up being the core players for a basketball backwater team from El Paso that would force the all-white team from “pedigreed Kentucky” to crack” (1999).

For four years, Haskins coached the Miners and played black players. With the fifth season being wildly successful, Haskins struck awe in white crowds as he started all black players in the championship. “I remember walking out that night listening to the Kentucky fans saying, ‘We have to get some of them,'” today’s Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “That’s what they called the black players ‘them’ but they had to admit that they could play. ” Haskins changed the game of basketball when he started those five black players.

Whether he knew that it was going to change civil rights from then on, he played them to prove Kentucky Coach Adolph Rupp wrong. “Coach Haskins told us that Rupp has said in a press conference before the game that five black players couldn’t defeat five white players. Coach Haskins decided only the African American players would play that night, said Litten. ” (Championing Divsersity, 2006). Contrary to the public eye, Haskins stated “I wasn’t trying to make a statement,” he often said about beating Kentucky. I was trying to win a game. ” However, Feinstein argues, “ of course he was trying to make a statement. But Haskins had made it long before that night. He’d made it when he got to Texas Western in 1961 and began recruiting black players from everywhere” (2008). Some believe that night did not move Americans until it was brought up years later. Lattin just wanted to win a title, but neither he nor Haskins could have guessed it would help alter history.

It never seemed to cross their minds until approached later as addressed in this newspaper article, “ ‘it wasn’t a big, overwhelming event until years later when people looked back and said it was the sports equivalent of the board of education decision. The racial connotations and overtones weren’t really played out all that much at the time but I still think it was one of the most notable games I ever covered’, said photographer Rick Clarkson. ”(Championing Diversity, 2006). With there being truth in what Clarkson said, it did not take until the event’s movie, Glory Road, for integration to ensue in the NCAA.

Haskins and the Miners pushed the motion ever further that March night. “If you want to get down to the facts, we were more white-oriented than any of the other teams. We played the most intelligent, the most boring, and the most disciplined game of them all” (Fitzpatrick, 1999). No one could have said it better then the Miner’s Willie Worsley. They deserved the title. Haskins set out to be a basketball coach, not a hero. He recruited the best players he could find, knowing others would object their presence, but didn’t care. Haskins wanted to win.

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