EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – After the family of El Paso legend Willie Cager, who died over the weekend, asked the El Paso community for help funding a public memorial for him in April at the Don Haskins Center, UTEP tells KTSM that it will be funding Cager’s memorial.
“UTEP has informed the Cager family that we will fund the use of Memorial Gym or Don Haskins Center for Willie Cager’s public memorial service. We are honored to host the service, and we are working with the family on the arrangements,” a university spokesperson said in a statement.
The Cager family issued a public thank you to the university and said they were hoping to hold Cager’s public memorial in April.
As a state institution, UTEP is not permitted to “give away” state resources, which includes the rental of facilities, according to state law. However, there are different ways for the school to cover the cost of events, including privately donated funds.
Representatives for the Cager family initially told KTSM that they were in the process of setting up a fund through a local bank that members of the community would be able to contribute to in order to cover the costs to rent the Haskins Center for Cager’s public memorial. The Haskins Center rental is expected to cost as much as $10,000. Community involvement is no longer necessary after UTEP stepped in.
The Cager family told KTSM that they are extremely grateful to the entire El Paso community for the love and support they have received following Cager’s death on Sunday at the age of 81.
Cager’s family will be having a small, private ceremony for the family, but want to allow the public the opportunity to honor and grieve him as well. Plans are still in the works, but the family is eying a mid-to-late April memorial for Cager, because they say it is what he deserves.
A member of the legendary 1966 Texas Western basketball team that broke down racial barriers as the first team with an all-black starting five to win a national championship, Cager settled in El Paso after his playing days were over and became a beacon for the Sun City. He died Sunday on the 57th anniversary of the 1966 championship game.