MSU star Leland Mitchell dies at 72
Leland Mitchell (44) made a statement in 1963.Mississippi State University
On the basketball court, Mitchell led the Bulldogs to three Southeastern Conference titles. But it was his off-the-court heroics that truly stood out.
The 1963 MSU team, led by Mitchell, famously snuck out of the state in the dead of night to play in the NCAA tournament where state law discouraged the all-white Bulldogs from competing on court against teams with black players.
Mitchell's reaction, according to a New York Times article, was "We need to head out tonight,” he said. “Who all else has a car?”
The three-time SEC champions wanted a shot at NCAA turnament glory and they made their way to Michigan to play their Midwest regional game.
“It was cloak-and-dagger stuff,” the New York Times reports Mitchell once said. “It was almost like cops and robbers.”
The article says that the game between Mississippi State and Loyola University of Chicago on March 15, 1963 — contested at the height of the civil rights struggle — is widely seen as the beginning of the end of segregation in college sports. Loyola won 61-51.