Normally this time of year, whatever that is today since normal is being redefined, I would be getting ready for “March Madness.” For those of you who don’t follow college basketball, it’s the national tournament where 64 NCAA Division I teams (plus a couple extras thrown in as wild cards) are whittled down to a “Final Four,” from whom the No. 1 team in college basketball is crowned.
Normally, there’s that word again, I would take the sports section, pick my brackets and maybe find some action (we’ll skip over that). However, this year without the big crowds and far-flung playing sites, it will be very different.
But, it’s still a good time to remember one of the great NCCA basketball tournament stories — the 1963 champion Loyola University basketball team.
The Ramblers started four black players on their roster, and they endured racism and hostility the whole season, and especially in the South. Loyola’s season that year also saw what became known as the Game of Change.
In the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament, Loyola was slated to play the all-white team from Mississippi State, which was prohibited by a state order from playing an integrated team.
Mississippi State’s team defied the state order and played the game. Loyola won and would go on to win the national title. But, more importantly, the game played a large role in removing racial barriers in college basketball.
Riverside native Patrick Creadon is revisiting the story with the documentary “The Loyola Project,” which focuses not only that Ramblers team but what players endured just to play their sport. The release of the documentary has yet to be scheduled.
It will the latest documentary film by the award-winning team of Creadon and his wife, Christine O’Malley, who are known for their Notre Dame-centric productions of “Hesburgh” and “Catholics vs. Convicts.”
Another Riverside connection to the Loyola story is former Riverside resident Jack Egan, who was a member of the 1963 Ramblers. A 5-10 point guard out of St. Rita High School, Egan was the second oldest of nine children who attended Loyola on a full scholarship. He is now an attorney.