Texas Western Alum Challenges SI’s Ranking of 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship

Sports Illustrated has it at #23, but a former team member thinks it should be much higher.

On Sports Illustrated’s countdown of the “100 Greatest Moments in Sports History,” the entry at #23 reads as follows:

DATE: March 19, 1966
LOCATION: Cole Field House, College Park, Md.
MOMENT: Texas Western met Kentucky in the 1966 NCAA Basketball title game, becoming the first school ever to start five black players in an NCAA championship game. In a stadium full of almost exclusively white fans, officials and coaches, Texas Western defeated No. 1 Kentucky and changed the college basketball landscape forever.
IMPACT: Though the change did not occur immediately, in the years that followed this game, basketball teams quickly became integrated. Between 1966 and 1985, the average number of black players doubled.


As this year’s March Madness gears up, that historic game and SI’s citation are on the front page of today’s El Paso Times. In the accompanying story by Kristopher Rivera, a former Texas Western team member takes issue with the #23 placement:

“It should be ranked higher than that, one or two,” said Willie Cager, 73, a member of that historic team. “Come on now, we did a lot for the country, but it’s OK, not a problem.”

The top sports moment, according to Sports Illustrated, is the amateur U.S. hockey team that downed the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics in middle of the Cold War. The event is now known as the Miracle on Ice.

“Not even close,” Cager said regarding the comparison of the Miracle on Ice to Glory Road, which is approaching its 50th anniversary next week.

At #2 on the SI “100 Greatest Moments” list is the day at Ebbets Field in April 1947 when Jackie Robinson became the first black player to start in a Major League Baseball game. As Rivera notes, the magazine has asked the public to provide its own online ranking of the greatest sports moments in history. At press time, Texas Western’s “Glory Road” accomplishments sit at #15. From the fan vote explainer:

A team of SI editors and writers spent months, compiling, analyzing, discussing – and, yes, arguing about – these moments. We recognize that the final list has a largely American viewpoint, and that it covers more from the 60 years that SI has been in print than it does from the centuries that preceded them. We also excluded the infamous events that are remembered for the wrong reasons. We’re sure you won’t agree with this entire list from top to bottom, so we included an interactive ranker tool below. We love the community sports create, and the conversation these games sparks. So share with us your favorite moments in sports history.