CHICAGO (CBS) — The 1963 Loyola University Chicago men’s basketball team will be the first team ever inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame on November 24 in Kansas City, Missouri.
News of their induction was released this morning and comes just a few weeks after the 50th anniversary of the legendary team’s 60-58 NCAA championship victory over Cincinnati.
Despite the team’s NCAA championship, it may be remembered most for its role in a NCAA Regional contest against Mississippi State. Loyola University Senior Associate Athletic Director Pat Kraft says it was a game that came to be known as a “Game of Change” that really made history.
“It’s probably the most important piece of the whole story of the 1963 team,” said Kraft.
Mississippi State was not allowed to play integrated teams. Loyola had four African-American starters. Mississippi would sneak out of the state under the cover of darkness and play the game before Governor Ross Barnett could serve an injunction that would have prevented the team from playing an integrated Rambler squad.
“This is a real part of American history and these guys lived it and battled and really stood up to some of these awful, awful things and they still have a smile on their face and they keep saying, ‘We’re just playing a basketball game,’” said Kraft.
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.
Harkness, who would go on the play in the NBA, said it was the beginning of the end of segregation and it happened on a basketball court.