Loyola Chicago legend Jerry Harkness dies at 81

Legendary guard Jerry Harkness, who led Loyola Chicago to the 1963 national championship, died on Tuesday morning. He was 81.The university announced Harkness’ death but didn’t divulge a cause.Harkness was a two-time All-American at the school, which was known as Loyola at the time.”All of us at Loyola have heavy hearts today,” Ramblers coach Drew Valentine said in a statement. “Jerry was a true trail blazer not only in basketball, but in so many different walks of life, and the impact he made was immeasurable.”Loyola upset powerhouse Cincinnati 60-58 in overtime in the 1963 title game. The Ramblers trailed by 15 with under 14 minutes left in regulation before pulling off a big comeback and forcing OT on Harkness’ late basket.The 6-foot-2 Harkness, the team captain, was one of four Black starters on the team in an era in which many programs didn’t recruit players of color.One of the more memorable games during the 1963 NCAA Tournament was Loyola’s matchup with all-white Mississippi State. State laws prohibited Mississippi teams from playing integrated schools but Mississippi State slipped out of town to play the game at East Lansing, Mich., and the contest became known as “The Game of Change.”Before tipoff, Harkness and Mississippi State captain Joe Dan Gold shook hands and the exchange produced a memorable photo. Harkness scored 20 points in a 61-51 victory.Fifty years after the championship, the 1963 Loyola team was honored at the White House.The story of that team has become well known in recent years due to Loyola Chicago’s NCAA Final Four run in 2018.