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WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a statement submitted for the Congressional Record in the Senate, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) congratulated the 1963 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Basketball Champions, the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers, on their acceptance as the first team ever to be enshrined into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.  The announcement was made earlier this month by the NCAA and the team’s official induction will take place on November 24, 2013. 

Excerpts from Senator Durbin’s statement follow:

“In an era when racism gripped the game, Loyola Coach George Ireland assembled the first predominately black team to win an NCAA Championship.  Loyola’s starting lineup featured four African-Americans.  This was unheard of in those days.”

“To this day, Loyola remains the only school from Illinois to have won the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.   To most players, winning the NCAA championship would be unquestionably the highlight of the season.  But as Ramblers point guard and All-American Jerry Harkness says, as he has gotten older he is even more proud of a game Loyola played earlier in that championship season.

“On March 15, 1963, Loyola and Mississippi State played a game that the NCAA calls The Game of Change.  It was a game that changed college basketball forever – and helped changed race relations in America.

Full text of Senator Durbin’s statement follows:

Senator Durbin

Loyola University Chicago Ramblers

April 16, 2013

Last Monday, college basketball fans crowned their newest champion, the Louisville Cardinals, I want take a moment to congratulate another historic college hoops team.

The NCAA recently announced that the 1963 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champions, the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers, would become the first team ever enshrined into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

In an era when racism gripped the game, Loyola Coach George Ireland assembled the first predominately black team to win an NCAA Championship.  Loyola’s starting lineup featured four African-Americans.  This was unheard of in those days.

Despite hateful comments from the public and threatening letters from the Ku Klux Klan, Loyola lost only two games all season and marched through the Final Four.  In the championship game, they faced Cincinnati, a team that had been ranked number one all season and had won the tournament the two previous years.  If that wasn’t pressure enough, the 1963 NCAA championship was also the first nationally televised NCAA title game.

Les Hunter, starting center for Loyola, remembered it as an opportunity to show “that the brand of black basketball was exciting and it provided for more exposure and recruiting for future players.”

The championship game was an uphill battle for Loyola.  After missing 13 of its first 14 shots they trailed by 15 points with less than 15 minutes to play.  Then, with only nine seconds left and the score tied, Walter Vic Rouse tipped in a missed shot to put the Loyola Ramblers ahead by 2 points.  When the final buzzer sounded, the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers were National Champions. 

To this day, Loyola remains the only school from Illinois to have won the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship.  

To most players, winning the NCAA championship would be unquestionably the highlight of the season.

But as Ramblers point guard and All-American Jerry Harkness says, as he has gotten older he is even more proud of a game Loyola played earlier in that championship season.

On March 15, 1963, Loyola and Mississippi State played a game that the NCAA calls The Game of Change.  It was a game that changed college basketball forever – and helped changed race relations in America.

Mississippi State had won their conference for the past three years, but it appeared they would be unable to compete in the 1963 NCAA tournament because of an unwritten state law barring the team from competing against teams with black players.  Rather than forfeit their place, Mississippi State’s president and coach decided to defy Governor Ross Barnett’s vow of “segregation now and forever.”  They snuck their team out of town under the cover of darkness to avoid being served an injunction barring them from leaving the state.

 Loyola won the Game of Change, but both teams, together, made history.  The Game of Change altered college basketball and became a watershed event in the civil rights era.  Three years later, for the first time in NCAA history, Texas Western, with an all-black starting lineup, won the championship.  The 1963 Loyola University Chicago Ramblers helped make that possible. 

 Loyola’s basketball team was led by Coach Ireland and assistant coach Jerry Lyne, and featured starters John Egan, Jerry Harkness, Les Hunter, Ron Miller, and Vic Rouse, as well as reserves Dan Connaughton, Jim Reardon, Rich Rochelle, and Chuck Wood.  All of those individuals are members of the Loyola Athletics Hall of Fame and each of the five starters has also had his jersey number retired.

Mr. President, I congratulate the 1963 Loyola University Chicago Ramblers on their accomplishments and look forward to their induction ceremony in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame on November 24, 2013. 

Thank you, Mr. President. 

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