I won't take a long time on this subject, because most of you know the story. 50 years ago today, Mississippi State's basketball team, led by head coach Babe McCarthy, snuck out of Starkville against the wishes of the state (and the governor) of Mississippi to take on the Loyola-Chicago squad in East Lansing, Michigan. At that time, there was an unwritten rule forbidding Mississippi college athletics teams from participating in games against teams that featured players of color. After the school board issued approval for the team to travel to the game in Michigan, MSU got word that the governor was set to hand down an injunction forbidding MSU to attend the game.
One year after turning down an invitation to the NCAA Tournament for such a reason -- a season, by the way, that could have been the greatest in MSU history -- MSU, from the school president all the way down to the players on the freshman squad, took part in an effort to sneak the team out of town to play in the game against Loyola. They even sent the freshman team (I believe) to the airport first to make sure there were no officials there to keep them from leaving. After they were clear that no one was waiting there to stop them from leaving, the rest of the team joined them, and they flew out -- picking up coach McCarthy in Nashville on the way -- to play in the game they had been ordered not to.
On that day, jobs were put on the line, and reputations were set up for potential ruin. But these guys didn't care. All they knew is that they wanted to play basketball against Loyola, no matter what color the players on the other team where when they got to the gym. The team, the school, and the staff set out to do more than play basketball that day. They set out to induce waves of change in the state and the nation they lived in.
I don't know about you, but I find that to be a point of pride in being a MSU fan. That we could be associated with a group of men who stood up for what they believed in in a time where it was not easy to do so is an honor that I don't take lightly. During a time when it would have been so easy to go along with what they were told, this group of men did not. They defied the senseless orders from their superiors, and they set out to do what was right in their eyes.
Even though it has been 50 years since this happened, it's important to always remember what that day meant, both to race relations and to our school's history. To be affiliated with such a momentous occasion is an honor. Take time, even if it's just a few moments here or there, to think about that.
It didn't matter who came out on top that day on the scoreboard -- Loyola would go on to win the game. What mattered was that the game happened, and that on that day, a basketball team from a small town in Mississippi showed an entire nation what could be accomplished if you simply stood up for what you knew was right.