Although the calendar says April, we are still finishing up March Madness, which for us college basketball fans is an important time of year. Soon we will crown the college men’s basketball champions for 2015. Starting with a field of 64 teams we have now narrowed it down to the Final Four and, yes, sport fans my Michigan State Spartans are still in it.
I admit to being a fanatic about college basketball, but there is more to it. The stories that come out about the teams, the coaches, different players, the struggles, the emotions are all part of the madness.
One of my favorite stories around college basketball dates back to 1963 when the Loyola University Ramblers toppled defending two-time champions Cincinnati and won the NCAA title.
One of the players on the Loyola team was a man named John “Jack” Egan. I have known Jack for a number of years, having met him when he lived in Riverside. Now he’s an attorney living in River Forest, and I try to catch up with him around this time of year. I also keep up on him through his nephew Brendan Curtin, head football coach at Riverside-Brookfield High School.
Egan was a guard on the team and the lone white starter. The adversity the team faced was not only on the court but on the road to winning a title. Remember, the year was 1963 and racial tension was high. An all-white team from Mississippi State University defied the governor of Mississippi when they took to the court to play the Ramblers in a semifinal game that was played at Michigan State University.
The game changed college basketball and became known as “The Game of Change” — a change that was long time coming.
When last we talked, Jack mentioned a short documentary that was made about the 1963 Ramblers, which is sometimes shown this time of year on WTTW.
It is about time to give Jack Egan a call and get his take on this year’s Final Four and get some inside analysis on how the game of basketball has changed since the 1960s from a man who went from the basketball court to the court of law.
Locally congratulations to the RB boys basketball team on their very successful season under coach Tom McCloskey. It’s all part of what becomes my March Madness.