Fifty years ago, five young men stepped onto the court at Cole Field House in Maryland and not only changed the game of basketball, but also left an indelible mark for good on society.

In 1966, the Texas Western College Miners were one of the best teams in the country. Under the tutelage of legendary coach Don Haskins, the Miners reached the championship game against mighty Kentucky and storied coach Adolph Rupp.

As the Civil Rights Movement swelled throughout the country, Haskins made a basketball decision that would, in retrospect, come to represent something much larger. For the title game, he started five African-American players against Kentucky's all-white squad – the first time that had ever occurred in a national championship contest.

“Coach Haskins could pull the strings and do anything he wanted to, because he was the coach,” recalls forward David Lattin. “The only thing we thought about was winning. It was easy to get sidetracked, with so many things that were going around. But we didn't have time to concentrate on that. All we saw was the gym and the classroom. I believe he had the best players on the court, and that's what he was concentrating on. He felt like it was the best thing to do to win the game.”

And win the Miners did, shocking the Wildcats 72-65 to take the title. In the aftermath of Texas Western's triumph, the entire face of college athletics changed. Schools began to recruit more black athletes, ending years of segregation at the collegiate level.

“When you're playing the game itself, you don't realize what you're doing,” says Willie Worsley, a guard on the ’66 Miners team. “I didn't realize how important what we did was until after the 20-year anniversary, but you see what we did and the time we did it at, it was twice as important. It was really an honor.”

Now, as the 50th anniversary of this momentous occasion in college hoops approaches, the legacy of Texas Western, which changed its name to the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) in 1967, continues to resonate. The Miners' story was captured in the film Glory Road, and several events are being held in conjunction with this year's NCAA Men’s Final Four. The players will be introduced at halftime of the national semifinals.

“It’s hard for me to believe that in 50 years, people are still talking about it,” Lattin says. “It's awesome. I am honored to be a part of it. It's difficult to believe it's been 50 years. It's almost like it happened yesterday.”

CBS Sports Network recently produced a documentary, 1966 Texas Western: Championship of Change, that tells the story of the team and its national championship run, featuring interviews with players and coaches. The film also features footage from a Coca-Cola produced and sponsored instructional film, “Defensive Drills,” where Haskins details the techniques that helped the Miners excel against their opponents.

“CBS approached us about the film, and we went and found it,” says Ted Ryan, Coke’s director of heritage communications. “Coca-Cola produced over 200 of these films in a variety of sports. The reason was to give Coca-Cola bottlers content to use in their local communities. They would get the films and send them to high schools and use them as instructional videos for athletes. This film was released in 1967, and from my viewpoint, it was a pretty daring and open move to bring this team in, and a pretty strong statement toward integrated sport.”

The film, which was restored by Crawford Media Services, took three days to repair, according to project manager Chip Stephenson. The process involved removing scotch tape that was used to hold the film together, and color-correcting and re-splicing the 12 feet of film. The finished product looks as good as new, as Haskins works his charges, including Worsley, who was entering his senior season, through the drills.

“I'm the good-looking one, the short one, drinking a Coke,” Worsley says with a laugh.

The '66 team earlier this year at a 50th anniversary celebration. Credit: UTEP Athletics

The Miners as a team were elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007. Haskins coached at UTEP for the remainder of his career, before he died in 2008. Worsley continues to work as a basketball coach in his native New York, while Lattin became a corporate executive, entrepreneur and author, as his book, “Slam Dunk to Glory,” recalls his experiences in basketball.

The Miners always will be joined together for what they accomplished that night in March 1966, both on and off the court.

“What I think about now is that what we did helped youngsters become recruited to universities all over,” Lattin says. “They realized, wait a minute, black guys can play at this level with no problem. It helped make it possible for youngsters to go to school, not only with sports, but other students as well. That's what my, and the team's, legacy is.”