Legendary Loyola '63 title team meets with Barack Obama

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

President Obama, left, meets with members of the '63 Loyola (IL) national title team. (White House press photo)
President Obama, left, meets with members of the '63 Loyola (Ill.) national title team. (White House press photo)

Fifty years after Loyola of Chicago won a national title, the legendary team's surviving members took a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet the President of the United States.

The two-day jaunt for the former Ramblers concluded Thursday with a cordial greeting in the Oval Office with Barack Obama. The '63 Loyola team became famous for being predominantly African-American and winning a title during an era in which many college programs refused to play against teams with black players. That '63 squad is still the only one from the state of Illinois to win a national title in men's basketball, too.

"The team is most proud of its role in one of the landmark games in college basketball and civil rights history, a contest that would later become known as The Game of Change," a school release said.

That game was at Michigan State, in Jenison Field House on March 15, 1963. Mississippi State had to sneak out of its state in the dark of night -- avoiding an injunction from the state legislature -- to fly to Michigan and play Loyola in the NCAA tournament.

“The whole experience has been unbelievable, and I feel like this trip has brought everything full circle,” former Loyola All-American Jerry Harkness said in a release. “We have been told by so many different people that we have accomplished a lot. But now, to have the opportunity to meet President Obama, we have reached the zenith of all of this. You realize you have accomplished something incredibly special when you are recognized by the President.”

The '63 team earns another honor in a few months. Come September, the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame will enshrine the team. And, in November, the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame will recognize the team at an induction ceremony in Kansas City.

 
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