THE 1965-66 SEASON turned out to be a watershed moment in the legacy of Adolph Rupp and in the history of college basketball.
The Wildcats finished the regular season 24-1 and ranked No. 1. After three wins in the NCAA tournament, Kentucky's all-white squad squared off for the championship against Texas Western, a team that was fielding an all-black starting lineup, a first in title game history.
The Miners defeated the Wildcats 72-65, and racial barriers in college sports, which had come down in many parts of the country already, started falling in the SEC, ACC and Southwest Conference. Four years later Rupp signed Kentucky's first black player, Tom Payne, to a scholarship.
Though Rupp's failure to sign black players stained his legacy, it's hard to discount his on-court success. The Baron retired in '72 as the winningest coach in college basketball history with an 876-190 record. (He was eventually passed by Dean Smith in '97 and Bob Knight in 2007.) In 41 years as a head coach he won four NCAA championships, 27 SEC titles and four national coach of the year honors. He had 23 Wildcats named All-America 35 times, and 52 were selected All-SEC 91 times.
Rupp died from cancer in December 1977 at age 76, but his impact lives on. Since '76 the Wildcats have played their home games in a 23,000-seat basketball palace that, like the program Rupp directed, is second to none. And its name, of course, is Rupp Arena.