EAST LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) - The Michigan State Spartans are set to honor a historically significant basketball game with the Jenison Jubilee December 14-16.
Jenison Field has held many historic moments for the Spartans over the years, but a racially charged moment at the 1963 NCAA Tournament is the one being celebrated at the Jenison Field House in East Lansing.
"I think one of the things most people don't realize is that Jenison Field House was the site of one of the most significant games and has been described as one of the 20th significant events in NCAA history, and that's the game between Loyola and Mississippi State 50 years ago this season," said Michigan State University Athletic Director Mark Hollis.
Mississippi State was an all white team while their opponent Loyola started four African-American players. The first jump shot proved historic because the state prohibited integrated teams to face off on the court at that time.
The Spartans last played hoops at Jenison Field House in 1989, but they are hosting a celebration honoring that ground-breaking game by playing games inside Jenison in December.
"That's what we want to celebrate this weekend," said Hollis. "Taking opportunities, looking at our history with diversity and what individuals have then done with those chances."
- Reunion game December 14
- MSU vs. Tuskegee University December 15
- The Commodores pre-game concert December 15
- MSU Women vs. IPFW December 16
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," said MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis.
"There are a lot of people around here who love Jenison, personally I still like Breslin better," said men's basketball coach Tom Izzo. "The corvette compared to the Chevrolet but the nostalgic part of it is getting back in there and remembering the players that played there."
Mississippi State faced three prior occasions in the NCAA tournament where they could possibly face integrated teams. The team was prohibited from playing.
But Mississippi State Coach "Babe" McCarthy was able to sneak his team out of the state under the consent of the University President before state officials could again bar them from their first NCAA Tournament game.
Loyola won the game 61-51 and went on to win the championship. The year 2008 had this game as one of its 25 "defining moments" of that year.
"But this is about so much more than one game," said Izzo. "It's about recognizing a game that helped change the landscape of college basketball and even society as a whole. As educators on a university campus, we have an obligation to recognize the importance of these events, and teach our younger generations about those that laid the foundation and struggled to shape what our current players and students now enjoy. I'm proud to be a part of a university that has a proud tradition of embracing opportunity for everyone, and this is a great way to celebrate that tradition."
Roughly 5,000 spectators are expected to join the weekend celebration.