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Amazing what you learn by surfing the canals

Have you seen the Super Bowl? If so, did you watch the halftime show? I can answer these questions with a yes and a no.

Yes, I’ve seen the Super Bowl. It featured a rather exciting ending. However, I didn’t see the halftime show.

This is pretty typical for me, I really don’t care to watch a mini concert on TV. Instead, I change the channel to find something funnier. On Super Bowl Sunday, the most interesting show was an SEC basketball story.

Much of that show was highlighting Kentucky and Adolph Rupp. She’s getting to know Rupp which has been pretty interesting.

There seems to be a belief that Adolph Rupp, the namesake of Rupp Arena, home of Kentucky Wildcats basketball, was quite racist. While there’s probably some truth to him being racist to some extent, if the remarks he’s made are said to be accurate, his inaction in involving black basketball players appears to be more for safety than by prejudice.

Tom Payne was the first African-American basketball player from Kentucky, joining the program in 1969. Per the SEC, he was one of a group of three players who were “firsts” at their respective schools. The first black players in the SEC were Perry Wallace and Godfrey Dillard at Vanderbilt in 1966.

Before that, no school in the SEC would ever bring black players. Although Brown v. Topeka Board of Education ended statutory segregation, the practice has been around for quite some time.

An argument against Rupp, however, is that the Kentucky football program was the first to integrate into the SEC, in 1966. So if there wasn’t a problem with football, why would there be a problem with basketball?

Highlighted in the show was Kentucky’s 1966 loss to Texas Western in the NCAA championship game. It was then that Texas Western’s starting lineup was all black and the Wildcats were all white. As things have turned out, this game has become a bigger black versus white affair now than it was back then.

The show also noted that Rupp had been making some effort to recruit black athletes for a number of years before landing Payne. One of them was Wes Unseld, a famous member who chose to stay home and go to Louisville. Louisville’s schedule was integrated before Kentucky’s.

In addition, Kentucky was also shown to have played on teams with black athletes before, including a Seattle University team that included Elgin Baylor.

An interesting thing about Rupp is that he coached at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament. He was a high school coach in Freeport when the Pretzels played PHT in 1928. They lost in the quarterfinals and went home. Later that season, Freeport finished third in the state tournament.

Rupp started a player named William Mosely on his Freeport team. Mosely was the first African American to play in Freeport and the second to graduate from that school.

After four years in Freeport, Rupp left for Kentucky in 1930.

What’s interesting is that another postseason tournament was taking place in Illinois at the time. The Southern Illinois Conference of Colored High Schools existed from at least 1930 until the mid-1940s.

You see, there were segregated high schools in Illinois from the early 1900s until at least 1967 with the closure of Sumner High School in Cairo.

Interestingly, Illinois experienced segregation for a long part of the 20th century.

So, was Adolph Rupp a racist? Again, given how long he was growing up and when he was coaching, it can be understood that there was probably something to that belief. Even so, I think he may have gotten a bad rap for waiting so long to integrate his own basketball program.

There were so many factors to consider when trying to integrate his schedule, and since he wanted to win more than worry about political correctness, it’s easy to see why he wasn’t in a rush to make the changes.

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