Celebrating UTEP's 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship: A Timeless Story of Inspiration

November 2023

By Anna Carrillo ’19, ’21


On February 6, 2016, UTEP celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship game. As a student-worker within the Athletics Department during this special night, I had the incredible privilege of a front-row seat to all the festivities. I had a sense of satisfaction already from the weeks we spent planning and promoting the signature three-day university celebration.


I can vividly recall the memorable task of placing nearly 12,000 blue and orange shirts on every seat in the sold-out Don Haskins Center.


Since I was young, I remember hearing and learning about the incredible story of how our basketball team inspired the nation by challenging social and racial norms. This pivotal moment in American sports history is etched in my brain and is a moment we will never forget.


The night of the anniversary game was so significant for me because I got to watch fans cheer with excitement and appreciation as basketball legends such as Willie Worsley, Willie Cager, Orsten Artis, and others, walked onto the court. The esteemed presence of Mrs. Mary Haskins and her two sons added an extra layer of significance to the evening. Throughout the game, I remember other remarkable moments and guest appearances to celebrate the night. Among these, one of my favorite memories was a special halftime tribute video message from President Obama.


His closing sentence, "That’s what we honor today – a group of Americans who laced up their shoes and moved our country forward," almost brought me to tears. I remember the indescribable feeling of gazing out to a sea of orange and blue as fans cheered on—it is something I will never forget. This game instilled a profound connection in me to the university's history and remarkable achievements.


My time as a student worker provided me with such memorable moments, valuable insights, and many different perspectives. Allowing me to appreciate the unique talents and viewpoints of my fellow students and alumni. As a Miner and a proud El Pasoan, my connection to something as historically significant as the 50th Anniversary celebration of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Championship game has never made me prouder. I feel that the festivities and remembrance of this iconic event deepened my connection to UTEP and our community.


Today, I take immense pride in the fact that UTEP continues to exceed expectations and thrive in the face of cultural misconception. Our unique location along the U.S.-Mexico border, is the intersection where two diverse cultures meet. UTEP's vibrant and diverse community extends well beyond the student body, it’s interwoven into our university's culture.


The 1966 basketball team stands as a timeless testament to the power of sports and community, demonstrating its ability to break down boundaries and inspire change and adaptability, both on and off the court. UTEP will always hold a special place in my heart, and I am grateful for all the memories that I have had and will continue to have. Because once a Miner, always a Miner.


Watch the electrifying pulse of Miner Pride as almost 12,000 fans fill up the Don Haskins Center in a sea of orange and blue shirts: UTEP Basketball Then and Now: 1966 50th Anniversary - YouTube


President Barack Obama's Special Tribute Message: President Barack Obama's special message to UTEP - YouTube


Anna Carrillo ’19, ’21, born and raised in El Paso, Texas, is a proud graduate of The University of Texas at El Paso, where she earned her bachelor’s in business marketing and a master's degree in Leadership Studies. With a strong belief in the power of leadership to bring about positive change and commitment to community service, Anna's current role as the Stewardship Manager at El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank allows her to engage and serve the community.


To learn more about Anna and our other Miner Nation Contributors, click here.