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Game of Change: A look at how basketball brought people together in days of division

STARKVILLE, Miss.–The “Game of Change” played between the Mississippi State University and Loyola basketball teams on March 15, 1963, showed that the spirit of reconciliation was there, and that sports, at least at that time, was a way to make it happen.

The NCAA Hall of Champions, located at White River State Park, in Indianapolis, is showing the film “Game of Change” as part of its Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, activities Monday. Admission to the park and the film will cost you a canned good.

“That particular documentary really tells the story of how sports has kind of transcended some of these racial divides,” said Kelly Dodds, assistant director of the Hall.

She said Mississippi State’s team had wanted to play in the NCAA regional tournament the year before, but didn’t. They did not want to miss the change, even though the Loyola team featured four black starters. Mississippi had a rule that no public university teams could play against teams that had black players.

“They decided that they were gonna sneak out in the middle of the night and they ended up getting to the tournament. They lost, but they were all glad that they got to play,” said Dodds.

Then governor Ross Barnett, an unapologetic segregationist, had had papers drawn up to prevent the State team from leaving Mississippi. The team made the trip at night, before they were served with the papers, and made it to East Lansing, Mich.

They lost the game to the Ramblers, 61 to 51, but the game became so well-known because Mississippi State risked so much, possibly even their lives, to play.

“We think that story is relevant today-to see our student athletes and how, all they wanted to do was just play basketball in 1963. They didn’t care that the other team was integrated. I think it tells an important story of how sports can bring people together,” said Dodds.

The film has been shown at several NCAA events.

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