March 19, 2009
Ever since Dr. James Giesen saw the documentary "Game of Change" last year in Detroit, he knew he had to find a way to bring the film to Mississippi State.
Giesen, an assistant professor of History, was interviewed to provide perspective for the film about the 1963 NCAA men''s basketball tournament game that pit Mississippi State against Loyola of Chicago in East Lansing, Mich., so he already knew how to contact the film''s director and producer, Jerald Harkness.
The next step meant finding a time when Harkness could come to Starkville, Miss., to talk about the film.
Giesen arranged the details and hopes basketball fans in the area will join him and Harkness at 7 p.m. Tuesday in room 140 of Dorman Hall.
Giesen will have a question-and-answer session with Harkness and possibly another member of the MSU History department.
The one-hour long film then will be shown, with a discussion to follow.
The film is free and is open to the public. Giesen said the auditorium seats approximately 250 people, so seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
Harkness'' father, Jerry, was one of four black players on the Loyola of Chicago team that waited and wondered if MSU would be able to get out of Starkville to play in the NCAA tournament for the first time.
MSU coach Babe McCarthy challenged an unwritten rule in the state of Mississippi that prevented MSU athletic teams from competing in athletic events against teams with black players.
But McCarthy told his players that they would play in the NCAA tournament, and the Bulldogs got out of town to make history.
Giesen said the documentary features interviews with players from both teams, as well as an audio clip of former MSU President Dr. Dean Colvard reading entries in his diary about the time leading up the game.
Colvard''s support of McCarthy and the Bulldogs was influential and helped them avoid the entanglements of injunctions that were issued from Jackson that sought to prevent the men''s basketball team from playing in the NCAA tournament.
Giesen also said the documentary incorporates still pictures from the game and uses graphics to provide an effective visual of the game.
He said the timing of the film coming to Starkville is fitting, with the MSU men traveling this week to Portland, Ore., to take on Washington in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
"I was thinking about the game a couple of years ago on Selection Sunday (for the NCAA tournament)," Giesen said. "All the teams of 20-year-old kids wanted to do was to play one more game. That''s what drove the Mississippi State kids. They were not worried about crossing a color line or any Civil Rights activists. They just wanted to play another game."
Loyola of Chicago defeated MSU 61-51 and went on to upset two-time defending national champion Cincinnati to win the national title.
MSU rebounded from its loss to beat Bowling Green in the consolation game of the Mideast Regional.
Future NBA great Nate Thurmond was a member of that Bowling Green team.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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