When Mississippi State won the SEC basketball championship for the fourth time in five years, fans expected the season to end right there. It was 1963, and the all-white team had never been allowed to advance to the NCAA tournament, where they might face African-American opponents.
But State Coach Babe McCarthy and school president Dean Colvard made a surprising decision. Not only would State play, but their first opponent would be Loyola of Chicago, a team with four black starting players.
Legal action was quickly taken to prevent State from playing. But in the middle of the night, the team bus slipped out of Starkville, heading to Michigan for the game. When State’s Joe Dan Gold shook the hand of Loyola’s Jerry Harkness before the tip-off, history was made.
Loyola came out on top that night, and went on to win the National Championship. But Mississippi State’s team went home with their heads held high: they were champions, too.
For more interesting facts about Mississippi's 200-year history, watch a new interstitial each week of 2017 with Mississippi: A Thread Through Time on MPB TV.