- April 25, 2012
- 2:01 pm
- Steve Christensen
1963 Ramblers honored
By: Bill Behrns, Assistant AD – Communications
The 1963 Loyola University Chicago men’s basketball team, which won the NCAA Championship that season, was honored at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, on April 19.
John Egan, Jerry Harkness, and Rich Rochelle, members of the 1963 team, were on hand along with current Loyola head coach Porter Moser, student-athletes Ben Averkamp and Walt Gibler, Assistant Vice President and Director of Athletics Dr. M. Grace Calhoun, and Vice President for Student Development Dr. Robert Kelly, as a resolution was passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate in support of the induction of the 1963 team and head coach George Ireland into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Senate and House of the 97th General Assembly of the State of Illinois, through S.R. 638 and H.R. 920, urged the relevant authorities to nominate and induct both Head Coach George Ireland and the 1963 NCAA champion Loyola Ramblers into the Naismith Hall of Fame, on this, the 50-year anniversary of its milestone achievements.
In addition to the passing of the resolutions, the honored guests were treated to a tour of the Capitol and had opportunities to meet with Senators John Cullerton and John Mulroe, who both have degrees from Loyola, as well as Loyola graduate and House Speaker Michael J. Madigan. In addressing the House, Harkness gave a moving speech that stressed the importance of sports and how the games can provide so much more to people than just the actual competition itself.
“It was somewhat ironic going back to Springfield 50 years later,” Egan says. “After we won the championship, they passed a resolution that was actually sponsored by my uncle that honored the team. It was nice to go back and thank them for honoring us both then and now. The whole event was impressive. I thought it would be a perfunctory event, but it was far from it. Everyone made us feel special even after all these years.”
Led by Harkness, a two-time All-American, the 1963 Loyola squad captured the hearts of basketball fans across the country by staging one of the most dramatic comebacks in NCAA tournament history in the championship game versus Cincinnati. Down 15 points with less than 15 minutes to play in regulation, the Ramblers rallied to defeat the Bearcats in overtime, 60-58, and, to this day, Loyola remains the only school from the State of Illinois to have won an NCAA Division I title in men’s basketball.
However, the Ramblers’ biggest accomplishment may have been the role they played in the civil rights movement. The first NCAA team to start four African-American players, Loyola played one of the biggest NCAA tournament games ever that year and it had nothing to do with the action on the court. During the NCAA regional round, because Loyola’s team was integrated, Mississippi State University (MSU) was not allowed to play the contest due to state rules forbidding games against such teams. But MSU snuck out of town under the cover of darkness, and the game of basketball was forever changed on March 15, 1963.
For more on the 1963 team, click here.