CHICAGO (CBS) — Members of Loyola University’s 1963 national champion basketball team will meet President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, 50 years after they helped break down racial barriers.
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports the 1963 Loyola Ramblers made history not only for rallying from a 15-point deficit to beat defending champion Cincinnati for the NCAA title; they were the first team to start four African-American players.
On their way to the title, they faced Mississippi State in the semifinals, after that team had to sneak away in the middle of the night, because Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett, a staunch segregationist, wanted to prevent them from playing against an integrated team.
The Mississippi State Maroons and Loyola Ramblers ended up playing at Michigan State’s stadium.
“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,” said Loyola senior associate athletics director Pat Kraft. “They keep saying ‘we were just playing a basketball game.’”
Their matchup with Mississipi State came to be known as “The Game of Change,” and paved the way for Texas Western’s historic win over Kentucky in 1966, when Texas Western was the first team to start five black players. Texas Western beat Kentucky’s all-white team for the 1966 NCAA title.