STARKVILLE, Miss.--Mississippi State University will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 "Game of Change" when MSU faces Loyola University Chicago at the noon hardwood matchup in the Humphrey Coliseum on Dec. 1.
Fifty years ago, the all-white Bulldog basketball team defied unwritten state law and snuck out of Mississippi to play against the integrated Ramblers -- and its four black starters --in the NCAA Tournament.
Though MSU lost the game and Loyola went on to win the national championship, a trend of defying segregation and embracing equality had begun.
To commemorate that defining moment in race relations, as well as celebrate the basketball players who competed then, the 2013 matchup in Starkville will feature reunion, fellowship and celebration.
MSU will host players from both 1963 teams, as well as their spouses. Deceased players' widows, former team managers and current university administrators have also received invitations.
At Sunday's basketball game, MSU will feature a special halftime salute to the 1963 players and present mementoes to attendees. After a players-only dinner on Saturday evening before the game, honorees will attend a private brunch prior to the noon tipoff on Sunday.
1963 MSU basketball player Bobby Shows plans to attend the reunion. He said he's glad the university is sponsoring the celebration, and he really looks forward to seeing his teammates, as well as the Loyola players.
"We'll get together and talk about how the game was won by Loyola, and the Loyola players will tell you it was won by Mississippi State because it broke the race barriers," Shows said. "It changed people's minds on the campus, in the state and around the United States. It was the beginning of a breakthrough."
He emphasized that 1963 MSU President Dean Colvard and basketball coach Babe McCarthy were the biggest heroes. They could've lost their jobs, Shows said, but they did what they knew to be right by insisting MSU's team should be allowed to compete against a competitive opponent, no matter the color of their skin.
1963 Loyola team captain Jerry Harkness said in 2008 that playing in the Game of Change was even bigger than playing in the national championship. He called the Game of Change "the beginning of the end of segregation."
MSU's celebration and recognition of the 1963 game will continue Monday, Nov. 2, with "Game of Change: The Impact of Sports on Civil Rights." The symposium is set to begin at 10 a.m. in Colvard Student Union at Bill R. Foster Ballroom and will feature appearances by "Champions for Change" author and Commercial Appeal journalist Kyle Veazey as well as Harkness. MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter will moderate the event.