Feb. 26, 2013
CHICAGO - The historic Game of Change, a NCAA Regional semifinal game played between Loyola University Chicago and Mississippi State University on March 15, 1963 in East Lansing, Mich., has been named the No. 12 moment in NCAA Tournament history by ESPN.com.
That contest between Loyola and Mississippi State, forever changed college basketball and civil rights. Loyola head coach George Ireland started four African-Americans and his Rambler team faced discrimination and racism during its national championship run in 1963. A win over Tennessee Tech in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament set Loyola up for a scheduled showdown with Mississippi State in the regional semifinals.
However, the all-white MSU squad was frequently denied participation in the postseason due to an unwritten Mississippi law that prohibited competition against integrated teams. Despite facing the prospect of losing their jobs, Mississippi State's head coach and president challenged the system and allowed the team to face Loyola at Jenison Field House, in a game won by the Ramblers, 61-51.
In December 2012, Loyola and Mississippi State faced one another at Gentile Arena for the first time since that historic game 50 years ago. Several members of both the Loyola and Mississippi State teams from that 1963 season gathered in Chicago for that that in December.
"Now, they call it the `Game of Change.' Then, Mississippi State's 1963 game against Loyola in the Mideast semifinals was historically insignificant. In between, it lost its place, overrun by the more Hollywood-adaptable games between Texas Western and Kentucky. But the significance of the '63 game can't be overlooked. Bulldogs players and staff sneaked out of Mississippi under the threat of a state injunction to play the integrated team from Chicago. The players simply wanted to play a game, but when flashbulbs popped at the historic handshake between African-American player Jerry Harkness from Loyola and Mississippi State's Joe Dan Gold, everyone realized that their March moment was far bigger than a basketball game," ESPN.com reporter Dana O'Neil wrote.