The year was 1966, the place was College Park and while the Final Four setting was a familiar one, the surroundings for that year's men's championships were very different from anything that had gone before or have taken place since.
The record books say simply that a talented and heralded, but undersized group of Kentucky Wildcats met the Texas Western Miners at Cole Field House for the NCAA title, but there was nothing simple about the matchup, for Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp fielded an all-white team, while Don Haskins' starters were all black.
In his first strictly sports reporting assignment in more than 14 years, Bryant Gumbel tracked down the members of that Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) squad, the first team to win an NCAA championship without at least one white starter, for tonight's edition of HBO's "Real Sports" magazine (10 p.m.).
And though the ramifications of the game have been long lasting, Gumbel, who covered a reunion of the team and Haskins earlier this season, found that the players looked past the cosmic circumstances and stayed centered on the game.
"I was genuinely surprised at how devoid of racism these players were," said Gumbel, who wrote and reported the 13-minute segment. "They knew what was happening, and while everything was filled with passion and emotion, as they say, when they took the court, it was all about basketball."
In fact, this entire "Real Sports" is all about basketball, as Frank Deford talks with Houston center Hakeem Olajuwon, focusing on his views on his Muslim faith and how he relates his beliefs to his sport. Also, Jim Lampley takes a behind-the-scenes look at the ++ Tennessee women's program, the most successful in its sport.
The latest ESPN "Outside the Lines" documentary takes a look at the shadow that AIDS and HIV have cast over athletics, with interviews with Magic Johnson, Tommy Morrison and Greg Louganis, three of sports' most visible HIV sufferers.
In addition, former Washington Post reporter David Aldridge, who has joined the ESPN reporting team, contributes a piece on New Jersey Nets forward Jayson Williams, who has lost two sisters to AIDS.
In an interesting footnote, tonight marks the second time in the last six months that "Real Sports" and "Outside the Lines" -- which begins at 9 p.m. -- have been scheduled for the same night, a quirk the folks at HBO find, well, interesting.
"I don't know if this is intentional. It's possible that somebody at ESPN thinks it's good to piggyback the two shows," said Ross Greenburg, HBO Sports executive producer. "If anyone is interested, our next show is May 20."
It was lucky for CBS that Denny Crum's Louisville team got knocked out in an early round of the Conference USA tournament, or else the network would have been in big trouble for Saturday's Cincinnati-Marquette championship game.
After having worked six games in two days, analyst Al McGuire's voice all but gave out, making him sound like Muttley, the dastardly dog from the "Wacky Races" cartoon series of the 1960s.
So, quick-thinking producer Roy Hamilton, who played at UCLA when Crum was an assistant, asked his old coach if he would come off the bench and give the network an assist, and the Cardinals' leader wasn't bad, for a first effort. Maybe the network should consider sending McGuire to the same region as Louisville for this week's tournament, since he'll have a similar schedule.
By the way, did we really need that countdown clock to the selection show during the Big Eight championship game? After all, it's just a basketball tournament, not Armageddon.
Pub Date: 3/11/96