Loyola to celebrate 50th anniversary of title
February, 15, 2013
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com
AP PhotoLoyola's Vic Rouse (40) leaps to score the winning basket in overtime in the 1963 NCAA title game over Cincinnati's Tom Thacker (25). At right is Loyola's Jerry Harkness, who tied the score at the end of regulation.Loyola is set to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ramblers’ 1963 NCAA tournament championship, which has remained the lone title by a team from Illinois.
Loyola will honor players from the 1962-63 team during Saturday’s game against Illinois-Chicago. Former players John Egan, Jerry Harkness, Les Hunter, Ron Miller, Don Connaughton and Rich Rochelle are expected to be in attendance.
The Ramblers won their first 20 games in the 1962-63 season and went 24-2 in the regular season. They defeated Tennessee Tech by 69 points in the NCAA tournament’s opening round, Mississippi State in the second round, Illinois in the quarterfinals, Duke in the semifinals and came back from 15 points to defeat Cincinnati in overtime of the title game. Vic Rouse scored the game-winning basket when he tipped in a rebound at the buzzer.
“We’re 50 years away and the visions of that year jump through your mind,” the 72-year-old Harkness said by phone on Friday. “To see him tap that back, you don’t know at first. You’re thinking, ‘We still got a few seconds to go. Then all of a sudden, you see people running together. I ran toward the pile, too. That stays with you. It really does.”
Harkness and his teammates have found in recent years their title has actually grown in stature since they won it 50 years ago. When they played Cincinnati, the game was televised, but it was on tape delay.
The NCAA tournament and its Final Four are obviously a bigger deal today.
“All the interest in the tournament now, I don’t think there was that kind of interest then,” the 70-year-old Egan said by phone on Friday. “I don’t think it was as important to win as it is today. I find it very interesting. I think the importance has changed to what it means to have won. It’s enhanced.”
The fact no other Illinois team has ever captured a NCAA men’s basketball tournament title has also helped Loyola’s 1963 squad.
The state has had a couple teams come close. Bradley lost in the title game in 1950 and 1954. Illinois lost in the championship in 2005 and has been to five Final Fours. DePaul lost in the tournament semifinals in 1943 and 1979.
“We’re the only one; that’s shocking,” Harkness said. “It really is when you consider all of the great basketball players to come out of Illinois, especially in the Chicago area. They’ve had some truly outstanding players. It’s surprising that hasn’t happened. I’m kind of a little bit happy because you like to hold on to something like a record like that.”
This weekend will mark the fourth time the team has reassembled for an event in the past 50 years. They previously came together for the 25th anniversary, when they were inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame and for when Loyola and Mississippi State celebrated the 50th anniversary of their historic game on Dec. 15, 2012.
The Mississippi State game is considered one of the stepping stones for the civil rights movement. Mississippi State defied a state injunction which prohibited it from playing against a team with a largely African-American roster.
“I think the Mississippi State game, not necessarily the wins, but the game itself, makes the title so much sweeter,” Harkness said. “Matter of fact, I’ve picked the Mississippi State game to be the biggest game in my life, bigger than the national title. Playing a little role in the advancement of the civil rights movement, that’s been the key and most important game in my life.”
That game, along with many others, is sure to be among the former teammates’ topics of conversation this weekend. Egan said it’s a group that truly enjoys each other’s company.
“I think as a result of the years that have passed, the players have actually grown closer than when we were playing,” Egan said. “Maybe we know each other better. We no longer have that part in common -- playing. Whenever we have come together, it’s been nice. It’s something I never thought we would have experienced. The championship has been a great deal to us.”
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35