Can you name the only college basketball team in Texas history that has won a national championship? The answer is Texas Western (now known as UTEP) who in 1966 defeated Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky Wildcats. This game is best known because Texas Western’s coach Don Haskins chose to only play African-American players against Rupp’s all-white Wildcats. While this is one of the great moments in American sports history, it does bring up an interesting, and on the surface baffling, question. Why can’t college basketball teams in the state of Texas compete for national championships?
Since 1939, when the modern NCAA basketball tournament was created, Texas has had 4 schools combine for 10 Final Fours . While that is not terrible compared to other states (Texas is tied for 9th), keep in mind that Texas schools have ridiculous amounts of resources and talent in the state. They also have more chances to win, since there are 22 schools in the state that play division 1 basketball. It is also worth noting that half of Texas’s Final Fours were won by one coach: Guy Lewis at Houston. Lewis was one of the first coaches (along with Haskins at UTEP) to recruit African-American players to his program. This allowed all time greats such as Elvin Hayes, Hakeem (Akeem) Olajuwon, and Clyde Drexler to lead Lewis’s teams to Final Fours. However, since Olajuwon left Houston in 1984, only one team from the state has made a Final Four appearance in the 31 years since (Texas in 2003).
The fact that Texas as a whole has only one national championship and 10 Final Four appearances probably wouldn’t be a big deal if not for the incredible amount of in state talent that is produced every year. This is especially true in the areas of Dallas and Houston. Tremendous players such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh, Jimmy Butler, Clyde Drexler, Gerald Green, DeAndre Jordan, Emmanuel Mudiay, Dennis Rodman, Deron Williams, and many many more are from either Dallas or Houston. So, if talent isn’t the problem, and the major schools in the state all have plenty of resources (they do), then what could possibly be the reason for this problem?
The issue seems to be mentality. In the state of Texas, football is king. None of the major programs want to be thought of as basketball-first programs. In order to better understand this problem, I asked our writers from Texas one question: Would people in Texas rather win one football championship, or two basketball titles? The answer was unanimously that fans would choose football. In reality, if a school that was struggling in football chose to promote basketball on the same plane as football, that school would be at a huge advantage. This is especially true for schools based in the greater areas of Houston or Dallas, as they can take advantage of the talent produced in the area. While it makes sense for something like this to happen, I seriously doubt that fans would agree with the idea to focus on basketball over football. This means the state will probably continue floundering in the sport, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in researching this article, it’s that it won’t bother the fans much.