July 23, 2012
CHICAGO - Fifty years ago, Loyola University Chicago and Mississippi State University played in one of the most memorable sporting events in the civil rights movement when they faced off in the NCAA Tournament in 1963. For the first time since that renowned "Game of Change," the Ramblers and Bulldogs will play each other when the teams tangle at Gentile Arena on December 15. To close out the two-game series, the teams will also play a contest in Starkville, Miss., during the 2013-14 season. This will mark the first time Loyola is playing a Southeastern Conference team on its home floor since 1986 when the Ramblers hosted South Carolina.
"On the 50th anniversary of the famous `Game of Change' we are thrilled that Mississippi State was willing to partner with us to recognize the historical significance of this contest," Loyola Assistant Vice President and Director of Athletics Dr. M. Grace Calhoun said. "Loyola's 1963 NCAA Tournament game versus Mississippi State served as a vehicle to challenge segregation and helped to forever change college basketball and civil rights in this country. The 1963 Loyola men's basketball team accomplished so much both on and off the basketball court, including winning the NCAA National Championship, but the members of that team should also be celebrated for their multitude of achievements off the court as well."
The only time Loyola and Mississippi State ever met on the hardwood, on March 15, 1963, the Ramblers earned a 61-51 victory in a NCAA Regional game at Jenison Field House in East Lansing, Mich., as two-time All-American Jerry Harkness scored 20 points and Vic Rouse added 16.
Although the victory sent Loyola on to the NCAA Regional Final where it dispatched Illinois, 79-64, the game gained notoriety because of plethora of obstacles Mississippi State had to overcome just to play the contest. Because of unwritten laws that prohibited Mississippi State from playing integrated teams, the team snuck out of town under the cover of darkness before Gov. Ross Barnett could serve papers preventing the team from playing the game, to travel to East Lansing. The Ramblers, who eventually went on to win the national championship by toppling two-time defending champion University of Cincinnati in the title game, featured a roster with four African-American starters.
A documentary aptly titled "Game of Change" that chronicled that contest and some of the many hardships the teams faced that season, was produced nearly 40 years later and was shown at The Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis and in a private screening at the 2009 NCAA Final Four in Detroit, among other venues.
"The 1963 SEC champion Bulldogs were given the opportunity previous Mississippi State teams were denied - to compete for a national championship against the best teams in the country," current Mississippi State Athletics Director Scott Stricklin said. "To do so, they had to defy a sitting Governor, avoid a court injunction and sneak out of the state. We're excited to join Loyola over the next two seasons in celebrating this historic occasion. Loyola won a national championship; Mississippi State helped to make for a better way of life. As a Bulldog, I'm proud of this team and the individuals who helped move our state forward when doing so took courage and conviction."
The remainder of the Ramblers' schedule will be released later this summer.