East Lansing, Mich— It was the 1963 NCAA Basketball Tournament, and Mississippi State, a squad of entirely white players, did the unthinkable during this period and faced Loyola, a team consisting of four African-Americans, in the Mideast Region semifinals in Jenison Field House.
Mississippi State didn’t obey a state prohibition at this time, as racism was alive and kicking in America, and played a diverse Loyola team.
Skip ahead 50 years from a Loyola 61-51 victory against Mississippi State in the 1963 tournament, the game of basketball and our nations outlook on diversity has changed drastically.
While Michigan State basketball was not technically part of this historic game in college basketball, the sounds of the game echoed throughout the Jenison Field House.
To celebrate this historic event, this season, Michigan State will celebrate the 50th anniversary season by playing a game in Jenison Field House for the first time since 1989.
Known as the “Jenison Jubilee,” the Spartans will host Tuskegee University on Dec. 15, a pre-game concert by The Commodores will be held on Dec. 15, and a reunion game on Dec. 14. The “Jenison Jubilee” will end with a MSU women’s game vs. IPFW on Sunday, Dec. 16.
“Since Jenison Field House first opened in 1940, it has been the site of memories for nearly every Spartan,” said Michigan State Athletics Director Mark Hollis. “For me, and many others, the most vivid memories are the games when Earvin Johnson led the Spartans to the 1979 NCAA Championship. But before that, 50 years ago this season, it was the site of a historic NCAA Tournament game between Loyola and Mississippi State. It was called “The Game of Change” and many are unaware that the game was played in East Lansing at Jenison Field House. Since Spartan basketball left Jenison, many have dreamed of seeing it return for a game. The celebration of one of the great historical events in Field House history generated the desire to make these dreams come true during the 2012-2013 season.”
While this game is a celebration of the Spartans return to Jenison, Michigan State University is looking to show the world how important diversity is on the campus.
“We look forward to a week-long celebration of our University’s commitment to diversity through a series of events that interconnect,” continued Hollis. “We strive to enhance commencement weekend, when many Spartans will launch their own opportunities, with a unique celebration – a celebration of sports, music, memories, freedom and the people that walked on our campus before us.”
50 years later, Loyola and Mississippi State will play in Chicago on Dec. 15, while Michigan State will host Loyola on Dec. 8 at the Breslin Center.
On the day of the MSU-Loyola game, Michigan State University will reveal a commemorative marker outside of Jenison, honoring the significance of the 1963 game between Loyola and Mississippi State, which ultimately became the integration of collegiate athletic programs across the nation.
Now you may be asking, why is MSU facing Tuskegee?
Well, for those not familiar, the founding of Tuskegee University, formerly known as the Tuskegee Institute, was vital to the growth of African-Americans in this nation. Founded by African-American Civil Rights leader Booker T. Washington in 1881, the university is home to some of the greatest influences in African-American history, such as, the Tuskegee Airmen.
In 2011, Tuskegee recorded a 16-12 record, as a Division II member of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Aside from the cultural significance of this game, MSU players and coaches are honored to be part of this game for personal reasons.
“I have many great memories of Jension Field House from my years as an assistant under Jud (Heathcote), and now I’m excited to have the chance to be head coach for a game there,” said MSU men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo. “For the players, I know they’ll appreciate the chance to play where Magic Johnson, Steve Smith, Scott Skiles, Sam Vincent, Greg Kelser, Johnny Green, and many of the other Spartan legends played. For many of our loyal fans, this will be an opportunity to see one more game at one of the great home courts. And I can’t thank the former players enough for being willing to participate in the reunion game and be a part of the weekend.”
Capacity for the game is expected to be near 5,000, and tickets for the Dec. 15 contest are $30 and will not be included with the men’s basketball season-ticket package.
Tickets for the reunion game are also $30, and will be a separate purchase from MSU-Tuskegee contest.