April 2, 2013
CHICAGO - Fifty years after knocking off the University of Cincinnati to capture the NCAA championship, the 1963 Loyola University Chicago men's basketball team will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame on November 24 in Kansas City, Mo. The 1963 Rambler squad is the first team ever to be enshrined in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
Also part of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2013 are players Tom McMillen (Maryland), Bill Walton (UCLA), Marques Johnson (UCLA), and Bob Hopkins (Grambling State); coaches Gene Keady (Purdue) and Rollie Massimino (Villanova); and contributors George Raveling (Nike) and George Killian (FIBA).
"The induction of our team into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame is a tremendous honor for all of us," center Les Hunter, a member of the 1963 Loyola team, said. "Loyola helped tear down the color barrier in college basketball and our national championship game against Cincinnati, which was the first nationally televised NCAA title game, showed that the brand of black basketball was exciting and it provided for more exposure and recruiting for future players. We are very proud and humbled by this great honor."
Under the direction of legendary head coach George Ireland, the 1963 Ramblers, who were led by a starting lineup known as the "Iron Five," played an electrifying style of basketball and led the nation in scoring with 92.3 points per game after opening the season ranked No. 3 in the Associated Press Poll. Loyola , which began the year by winning 20 consecutive games, earned the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament berth and promptly set a record for margin of victory in a 111-42 over Tennessee Tech in the opening round.
Despite the team's NCAA championship, it may be remembered most for its role in a NCAA Regional contest against Mississippi State, which later became known as the Game of Change. On that important day - March 15, 1963 - Loyola and Mississippi State played a game that changed college basketball and integration in the South. The Ramblers had a starting lineup that featured four African-Americans and the all-white Mississippi State team had previously been unable to compete in postseason play against integrated teams due to an unwritten state law.
Determined to play the game and give its players the opportunity to compete for a national championship, Mississippi State snuck out of town under the cover of darkness before Governor Ross Barnett could serve an injunction that would have prevented the team from playing an integrated Rambler squad.
Loyola won that historic contest, 61-51, behind 20 points from two-time All-America selection Jerry Harkness, and would go on to win the 1963 NCAA Championship.
Loyola knocked off two-time defending champion Cincinnati in the title game by staging one of the most memorable comebacks in NCAA Tournament history as it erased a 15-point deficit with just 10 minutes remaining in regulation to force overtime. Vic Rouse's tip-in of a missed shot as the buzzer sounded in overtime gave the Ramblers a 60-58 victory and the chance to call themselves champions, and to this day, Loyola remains the only school from the state of Illinois to have won the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship.
"The 1963 Loyola men's basketball team played a pivotal role in helping change college basketball," Loyola Assistant Vice President and Director of Athletics Dr. M. Grace Calhoun said. "To be recognized for the remarkable courage they displayed while dealing with the racial tension they faced on daily basis, their fantastic accomplishments on the court, including bringing the only NCAA Division I men's basketball title to the state of Illinois, as well as their many academic and professional achievements off the court, is a tremendous and most deserved honor."
The National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame honor is just one of many for this beloved team, which forever changed college basketball. Earlier this year, the Ramblers' NCAA title game versus Cincinnati was named the No. 1 contest in NCAA Tournament history by the Ultimate Book of March Madness, and the Game of Change was named as one of the top moments in NCAA March Madness history.
Loyola's 1963 men's basketball team, which was led by Ireland and assistant coach Jerry Lyne, featured starters John Egan, Jerry Harkness, Les Hunter, Ron Miller, and Vic Rouse, as well as reserves Dan Connaughton, Jim Reardon, Rich Rochelle, and Chuck Wood. All of those individuals are members of the Loyola Athletics Hall of Fame and each of the five starters has also had his jersey number retired.
Induction ceremonies for the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame will take place on Sunday, November 24, at the Midland Theatre in Kansas City as part of a three-day celebration of college basketball.