U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) along with Representative Mike Quigley (D-Ill.-5) yesterday honored the 1963 Loyola University Chicago Ramblers with a resolution to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the team winning the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship. The '63 Ramblers were the first integrated Division I men's team to start four African American players and became a symbol of unity during the civil rights movement.
"The Ramblers showed sportsmanship and a commitment to basketball that helped change the game in a time of civil rights activism," Senator Kirk said. "I commend the players for breaking down existing barriers to help bring greater equality to this country. The Ramblers' win will go down in history as a milestone for civil rights and an achievement for Illinois basketball."
"In an era when racism gripped the game, Loyola Coach George Ireland did something unheard of -- he assembled the first predominately black college basketball team and led them to an NCAA Championship," said Durbin. "On their march to victory, the Loyola Ramblers made their mark on race relations in America and changed the face of college basketball forever. All of Illinois is proud of the achievements of this team both on and off the court. To this day, Loyola remains the only school from our state to have won the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship."
"During the height of the civil rights movement, the 1963 Loyola Ramblers revolutionized collegiate basketball with their starting five "Iron Men,' a majority of whom were black," Rep. Quigley said. "Their NCAA tournament win over Mississippi State will forever be remembered as the "Game of Change,' as the Bulldogs were nearly blocked from playing the integrated Ramblers by injunction from the governor. The Ramblers went on to win the NCAA Championship that year, but they were trailblazers who broke ground far beyond the hardwood of the basketball court."