Join me this Saturday, December 15th, for a night of history and basketball as the Loyola University Ramblers take on the Mississippi State University Bulldogs at Loyola’s Gentile Arena on the university’s campus. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m.
This will be no ordinary game of basketball. Saturday’s game marks the first time these two teams have faced each other since 1963, when they participated in one of the most memorable sporting events in our nation’s history.
Known as the “Game of Change,” Loyola’s March 15, 1963, NCAA Tournament match-up against Mississippi State represented a direct challenge to racial segregation in collegiate sports. It forever changed college basketball and helped to propel the civil rights movement in our country.
The 1963 Ramblers (pictured on the left) featured four African-Americans in their starting line-up. Led by legendary Coach George Ireland, the Ramblers ignored a longstanding “gentleman’s agreement” in college basketball to refrain from playing more than three black players at any one time. At the same time, an unwritten Mississippi state law forbade Mississippi schools from competing against teams with black players.
When Mississippi State University President Dr. Dean Colvard announced he would defy the rule and allow the team to play Loyola, Mississippi’s segregationist governor, Ross Barnett, threatened to cut the school’s funding and a state senator sought and obtained a state court injunction to prevent the team from leaving the state. Determined to play the game and give his players the opportunity to compete for a national championship, Mississippi State head coach Babe McCarthy, with the support of President Colvard, snuck his players out of town under the cover of darkness before the sheriffs could serve the injunction.
As the Bulldogs took to the floor on game day, Loyola’s band played the Mississippi State fight song in recognition of the courage of MSU’s players and coaches. The pre-tip-off handshake between Loyola’s African American captain, two-time All AmericanJerry Harkness, and MSU’s captain, Joe Dan Gold, represented the symbolic end of segregation in college sports.
Loyola won that historic contest, 61-51, and would go on to win the 1963 NCAA Championship. To this day, Loyola remains the only school in the state of Illinois to have won the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.
Several decades later, that contest inspired the creation of a documentary, “Game of Change,” about all of the obstacles both teams had to overcome in order to play the game.
At Saturday night’s contest, players from both squads that competed in the “Game of Change,” will be in attendance and introduced at halftime.
Tickets to the game are $10. To purchase tickets, visit:
Or call 777-508-9653.
I look forward to seeing you at the game!