The Loyola-Chicago and Mississippi State men’s basketball teams will face each other for the first time in almost 50 years on Saturday.
The last meeting on March 15, 1963, in the NCAA Regional Semifinals at Jenison Field House in East Lansing, Mich., was dubbed the “Game of Change” for implications it had on segregation, civil rights and college basketball in this country. The 2012 version will celebrate the obstacles that were overcome to play the historic game.
It was Mississippi State’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament, although the Bulldogs had won the Southeastern Conference title in the previous two seasons. The all-white Mississippi State team had been unable to compete in postseason play against integrated teams due to an unwritten state law. When the Bulldogs were invited to play Loyola — a team with four African-American starters — in the 1963 tournament, there were doubts as to whether the game would come to fruition.
But Bobby Shown — then a 21-year-old senior for the Bulldogs — remembers the commitment and determination of university president Dr. Dean Colvard and head coach Babe McCarthy to get their team playing in the postseason.
“One of them came down to the court our senior year and said that if there was any way possible, we were going to go to the NCAA tournament,” Shown said. “Those two guys kept their word. They faced obstacles that you and I never have faced. The KKK was very strong in Mississippi at that time, and there was a lot that could have happened. The credit goes to Coach McCarthy and Dr. Colvard, who had enough guts to stand up for the principles they believed were right. That spoke volumes to all of us, because regardless of what happened, we were going to fight to do what was right.”
The Mississippi State team snuck out of town before the state’s governor, Ross Barnett, could have an injunction served to stop the Bulldogs from playing the integrated Loyola squad.
“We were just a bunch of kids, but it was the dedication of those two men who thought we deserved the right to go play and wouldn’t let anything get in our way, including the governor of the State of Mississippi,” Shown said.
Loyola won the contest 61-51 and went on to win the 1963 championship, but in Mississippi and the South, the game helped the Civil Rights movement advance, especially regarding integration at educational institutions.
“The game was only 40 minutes long, but the things that have happened since that ball game are unbelievable,” Shown said. “We didn’t know the significance of it. I had no earthly idea until later on.”
On Saturday, the Ramblers will play host to the Bulldogs at Gentile Arena in Chicago. Players from both squads that competed in the “Game of Change” will be in attendance and introduced at halftime.
In addition, Michigan State’s Jenison Field House, where the “Game of Change” was played, will play host to meeting between the Spartans and Tuskegee University — a historically black college — in honor of the significant game.
• Sam Houston State will face a Big Sky team in the FCS playoffs for the third consecutive weekend as the Bearkats travel to Eastern Washington for the NCAA semifinals on Saturday. The Bearkats downed Cal Poly and Montana State during the past two weekends to advance to the semifinals for the second year in a row, and will be vying for a chance to play in the championship for the second consecutive season.
All three of Sam Houston State’s (9-3) losses have come on the road this season, and Eastern Washington is no easy place to play. EWU is 7-0 at home this season, and 13-0 after Nov. 1 since 2010. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU. The winner of Saturday’s semifinal will meet the winner the NDSU-Georgia Southern matchup in the FCS Championship Game in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 5.
• While Mount Union may be making its eighth consecutive appearance in the Division III football championship game, the Purple Raiders will get a new opponent for the first time in eight years as St. Thomas (Minn.) makes its first trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl. UW-Whitewater, winner of four of the past five titles, had met Mount Union in the championship game every year since 2005. Like the Purple Raiders, the Tommies win with a stout defense, allowing just 278.29 yards per game with 44 sacks, 19 interceptions and 16 forced fumbles in 14 games. The two squads will meet on Friday in Salem, Va.
• Collegiate wrestling will take center stage in New York City on Sunday as Madison Square Garden hosts the inaugural Grapple at the Garden featuring 14 Division I programs, eight of which are ranked in the NWCA Coaches Top 25. Eight mats will be on the floor at the event with two rounds of dual meet competitions. Top-25 foes will square off in four of the dual meets, highlighted by No. 2 Oklahoma State and No. 8 Cornell. Sixty-five nationally-ranked wrestlers are expected to compete in the tournament, including three-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake of Cornell. Dake will be wrestling at 165 pounds. He has won national titles at 141, 149 and 157 pounds during his career.
• Two top five Division II women’s basketball teams will tangle on Friday as No. 1 Ashland visited No. 5 Indianapolis in a match-up of two unbeaten squads. The top-ranked Eagles head into the game with a 10-0 record, and are winners of 43 of their past 44 games. The only loss during the stretch was to Shaw in last season’s national title game. The Greyhounds are 6-0 and looking to knock Ashland off its pedestal with the second-best field-goal percentage defense (.291) and sixth-best scoring defense (48.5 ppg) in Division II.
• Winston-Salem State is just the second Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to advance to the Division II football championship game, and the first to do so since Central State of Ohio in 1983. Central State lost to North Dakota State in the title game that season. The Rams will meet Valdosta State, which has won a pair of NCAA titles in 2004 and 2007, in the championship game in Florence, Ala., on Saturday. The Rams are not only looking to become the first HBCU to win a Division II crown, but also vying to become the fifth team to conclude the season with a perfect 15-0 mark.
• Johns Hopkins senior swimmer Eleanor Gardner was named Bermuda’s Rhodes Scholar for 2013 on Tuesday. The prestigious academic award offers a two-year, and possibly three-year, scholarship to Oxford in the United Kingdom to approximately 80 young adults in the world, including one annually from Bermuda.
Gardner, a political science and philosophy major from Smith’s Parish, Bermuda, plans to pursue a Master of Philosophy in Politics to further the work in political theory, racial politics and global politics that she began at Johns Hopkins. She is a co-captain on the Blue Jay’s women’s swimming team, which is currently ranked fourth nationally in Division III. She is a freestyle specialist and recently qualified provisionally for the 2013 NCAA championships as a member of JHU’s 400 freestyle relay. She is the first Rhodes Scholar from Johns Hopkins since 2003.
• Three of the four teams participating in this week’s Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship have already played on the host court, Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center. No. 1 Penn State opened the season in Louisville’s Active Ankle Challenge, sweeping the Cardinals, Morehead State and Western Kentucky at the end of August. No. 3 Texas topped then-No. 15 Louisville in five sets on Oct. 8, and only two weeks ago, unranked Michigan downed Tennessee and No. 10 Louisville in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament.
“I was really impressed the last time we were here,” Michigan head coach Mark Rosen said. “It is a big facility. When you play volleyball, the air movement and the ball movement are big factors. It is a big facility and those tend to be harder to play in. I thought we adjusted to it really quickly the last time we were here. I think the girls felt comfortable serving and passing in a facility that is this big. So, I think it is exciting to come back here and feel like this is a place where we have had some success.”
“Will it help us is the question,” Penn State head coach Russ Rose said. “I hope it helps us, we were comfortable playing here. We will see if there is a transfer of learning that happens from August to December.”
Oregon is the only one of the semifinalists that has not played on the championship court this season.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy