Fifty years ago Loyola played one of the most important games in the history of college basketball. On Tuesday morning, it was announced that the 1963 Rambler team will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame this November.
When Loyola faced Mississippi State in the 1963 NCAA tournament a half-century ago, it did so with four African-American starters, a rarity in the civil rights era. Mississippi State, by contrast, featured an all-white lineup and was banned from playing integrated teams. But the Maroons (as they were called then) left Mississippi under the cover of darkness to play the Ramblers in the Midwest Regional, a game that would become known as the “Game of Change.”
After beating Mississippi State, the Ramblers went on to win the 1963 championship, becoming the first—and only—team from Illinois to win the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. But the 1963 team’s impact went far beyond the basketball court.
As ESPN.com reporter Dana O’Neil wrote:
“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.”
“That game, if you ask me, was key,” Harkness told ESPN.com last year. “I felt like it was the beginning of things turning around in college basketball. I truly believe that.”
In addition to winning a national championship and playing an important role in the civil rights movement, the 1963 Loyola team also excelled in the classroom. The starting five of Harkness, John Egan, Les Hunter, Ron Miller, and Vic Rouse earned a total of 11 college degrees. When the entire nine-man roster is factored into the equation, that number jumps to 19.
And now, they can all add Hall of Famer to their resumes.
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