In 1963, Coach Babe McCarthy and the MSU Basketball team were forced to sneak out of state in order to play against Loyola (Chicago) in the NCAA Tournament, defying the "Unwritten Rule" that Mississippi teams could not play against integrated schools.
One Night in March, a documentary on the 1963 MSU vs. Loyola game, was produced by two MSU graduates who wanted to tell the courageous story of MSU President Dean Colvard, Basketball Coach Babe McCarthy, and the MSU players.
“One Night in March” began in late 1999 as a collaboration between sports writer Paul Jones and video producer Robbie Coblentz. What started as an interview with MSU great Leland Mitchell became a documentary almost two years in the making.
“This story makes national headlines every time Mississippi State is in the Tournament, but we wanted to tell it through Mississippi eyes,” said Robbie Coblentz, executive producer of the video. “It is set in the midst of the forceful integration of Ole Miss and the deaths of the civil rights workers in Philadelphia and tells the true story of a game that changed Mississippi State athletics forever.”
“Mississippi State’s 1963 Tournament appearance was its last until 1991,” Paul Jones, video co-producer, said. “We can only speculate how different Bulldog basketball might be today if earlier teams had been allowed to participate in the NCAAs.”
After the interview with Mitchell, Jones and Coblentz began traveling across the state to capture other MSU legends on tape. From Richard Williams in Bay St. Louis to Jack Cristil in Tupelo, everyone was willing and happy to discuss the ‘63 team and the Mississippi State Bulldogs. One common theme emerged– the 1963 team was pretty good as well as very courageous.
“We hope that this documentary tells the story from a Mississippi point of view. This was a proud and at the same time very sad moment in our state’s history,” said Coblentz. “Proud because Coach McCarthy and (MSU president) Dr. Colvard did the right thing, but sad in the way they had to do it. We just want to tell the complete story.”
Robbie Coblentz is president of Broadcast Media Group, Inc. and a graduate of Mississippi State University.
Paul Jones is a sportswriter and an alum of Mississippi State University.