EL PASO, Texas (AP) - Forty years after etching their place in history, members of the 1966 NCAA men's basketball national championship team from Texas Western have been invited to the White House.
The Miners will meet with President Bush on Feb. 22 for dinner and a screening of "Glory Road," a new movie depicting their unlikely rise to fame. Texas Western, now the University of Texas at El Paso, made history when coach Don Haskins started five black players against an all-white Kentucky squad in the championship game.
"This is pretty exciting after 40 years," Haskins said in Friday's editions of the El Paso Times. Glory Road opened in theaters earlier this month. The team also was featured on a Wheaties cereal box released last month.
It wasn't immediately clear how many players would attend. Bobby Joe Hill, a starter and the leading scorer in the championship game, died of a heart attack in 2002. White House officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Eddie Mullens, the university's sports information director in 1966 and a longtime friend of Haskins, said Friday he doesn't remember if it was routine in those days for NCAA champions to get invitations to the White House.
But he does remember the team looking forward to an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. "I think that was kind of the tradition," Mullens said. "They were excited about that." But an invitation never came. "I don't know if it was the color of their skin or just an oversight," Mullens said.
None of that matters now, the 76-year-old retiree said. He said everyone he has spoken with is in shock about the invitation. He learned about it Thursday, when he got a message from a White House aide at his San Angelo home.
"I played it twice to make sure I was hearing it right," Mullens said with a deep laugh. "It's still incredible. It's just such an honor, a flattering honor. I just think it's great for Don."
By ALICIA A. CALDWELL Associated Press Writer
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)