“The whole nation must be sort of sitting on the edge of their chairs tonight,” said Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, Loyola’s 98-year-old team chaplain.The "Game of Change," slated for Michigan State's Jenison Field House (I'm trying to remember when the tournament moved the regional and final games to a professional basketball arena or a domed football stadium) required some maneuvering worthy of a spy-master to get Mississippi State on the floor. "Segregationists had the injunction issued by a chancery-court judge late Wednesday afternoon seeking to ban Mississippi State from playing against Negroes in the East Lansing tournament." Yeah, you read that right. Mississippi State's coach had this play drawn up.
Sister Jean has become a celebrity during the tournament. The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, in conjunction with Loyola University Chicago, unveiled an officially licensed, limited edition Sister Jean bobblehead Friday.
Yes, the Loyola bandwagon has gained that much momentum.
And this squad is inescapably being linked to the 1963 team. [Team captain emeritus Jerry] Harkness and three other members of that squad – Les Hunter, John Egan and Rich Rochelle – were in Atlanta for the Sweet 16 game.
Loyola coach Porter Moser accompanied members of that 1963 team on a 2013 visit with President Barack Obama at the White House and said he was “just blown away by their character, about the stories they told, just sitting there listening to the whole story behind the “Game of Change.”
“I love that this run is sparking the renewed conversation of what that team meant to our country and integration, and to hear the stories firsthand from them and to hear the brotherhood that they had, the black guys, the white guys, everyone together. It was a brotherhood; it was a high character. They embraced the Loyola education.”
Townes said he has enjoyed visits from players on the ’63 team in practices and games.
Assistant coach Jerry Simmons kept the team's regulars in seclusion at a dormitory. As departure time neared, Simmons had five second stringers and a team trainer, Dutch Lachsinger, go to the airport. The idea was that if the order were served to that group, Simmons would be notified by phone and he would hustle the regulars to a private plane for a flight to Nashville, where a regular flight would be made to East Lansing. [Head coach Babe] McCarthy would have accompanied the team from that point.Law enforcement wasn't at the airport, neither was the plane, but the plane arrived and the game took place.
Third-ranked Loyola, 26-2, playing four Negroes all the way, easily defeated the sixth-ranked Southeastern Conference champions 61-51 in the opening round of the Mid-East regionals.Again, that's in the language of the day. Slowly, the coaches of the southeast figured out that their state segregation policies were depriving their teams of talented players.
"They were perfect gentlemen — just like any other team we played," said Joe Dan Gold, Mississippi State captain. "They beat us on the offensive backboards. They just had too many big men for us and they won it by taking all those rebounds."
The game began with the usual handshakes between the opposing players. It ended with Mississippi State's players congratulating the Ramblers with traditional pats on the back.
Only 31 fouls were called, 17 on Loyola and 11 on Mississippi State.
"Let's talk about the way they played basketball, not their color," said Coach Babe McCarthy.