by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

Loyola-Chicago's return to the Final Four for the first time in 55 years recalls a series of stories we previously wrote about those Ramblers and the 1962-63 season.  We will be re-posting several of those stories this week in the lead-up to Saturday's games in San Antonio...

Any reference to the Loyola Ramblers of the early '60s recalls a golden era in Chicagoland sports when high-profile college hoops doubleheaders would be staged at the old Chicago Stadium, promoted by the legendary Arthur Morse, who would bring schools from across the country to be featured in twin bills almost always involving current Horizon rep Loyola-Chicago and, usually, Illinois.

Morse was a character straight out of central casting, a local lawyer who also held the title of Assistant to the Director of Athletics at Loyola University. "I never saw Arthur without a jacket, shirt and tie," UCLA Heisman Trophy winner Gary Beban told us two summers ago as were doing research on our upcoming book, Ramblers and Bearcats.

Among other things, Morse was also a player's agent, with Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Donnie Anderson, and Jim Grabowski among his high-profile clients of the day. As well as Beban, who, upon a recommendation from UCLA Athletic Director J.D. Morgan, used Morse to negotiate his pro football contract upon his graduation from college. Morse also proved very instrumental in steering Beban into a highly-successful career in the commercial real estate business.

Morse was also a promoter extraordinaire, although not in the flamboyant style of a Don King. Instead, Morse was almost the polar opposite, staying behind the scenes, always working in the background. He was a confidante of the powerful Wirtz family that ran the Chicago Blackhawks and a close acquaintance of George Halas. Morse was an influential athletics power-broker in his era and went to great lengths to showcase college basketball at the Stadium.

Short in stature, balding, with horn-rimmed glasses and an ever-present cigar, and, as Beban noted, always dressed in a suit, Morse was the sort of throw-back character that hasn't graced the sporting scene in decades.

Morse's enduring legend from the early 60s, however, involved the college hoop doubleheaders at the Stadium. Morse would line up as many as six of those each winter, drawing from a deep pool of regional entries who were always happy to showcase their programs in the hub city of the midwest. Aside from Loyola, involved in all of those promotions, and Illinois, the doubleheaders would also often feature Iowa, Notre Dame, Bradley, Wichita State, UCLA, and other regional powerhouses while also drawing high-profile entries from across the country.

The zenith of Morse's doubleheader magic, however, was almost 49 years ago to the day, on January 26, 1963. That Saturday night at the Stadium, Morse had lured the top three teams in the country (defending national champion Cincinnati, Illinois, and Loyola) to participate in the twin bill. The fourth wheel in the quartet wasn't exactly chopped liver, either. In fact, it was just the sort of situation that appealed to west coast invader Santa Clara, Loyola's foe that night and itself no stranger to the land of big-time college athletics.

Following is Part I of our excerpt from Ramblers and Bearcats dealing with the first half of that night's doublehader, featuring the Broncos. We'll continue with Part II and an update of the Horizon League in our next issue.

And, if those who ran Loyola were looking to draw inspiration from another Jesuit program, Santa Clara wouldn't have been a bad choice. Indeed, there were times in the preceding decades when Santa Clara displayed potential to become a West Coast version of Notre Dame, a topic often broached down the peninsula, about 50 miles south of San Francisco.

Ironically, it was on the gridiron where the Broncos first gained national attention, emerging as one of the powerhouse programs on the West Coast in the late 30s under coach Buck Shaw, who would later lead the Philadelphia Eagles to an NFL title and become the only coach to defeat a Vince Lombardi Green Bay team in a postseason game. In the late 30s, Shaw's Santa Clara teams were good enough to secure invitations to back-to-back Sugar Bowls, beating LSU in both the 1937 (by a 21-14 score) and 1938 (by a 6-0 count) New Year's festivals in New Orleans. Twelve years later, another Bronco team, this one mentored by future Oregon Hall of Fame coach Len Casanova, defeated a Bear Bryant-coached Kentucky team, quarterbacked by Babe Parilli, in the 1950 Orange Bowl.

But the Santa Clara branch of the Jesuits were uncomfortable with the resources the small school had to commit to sustain a big-time football program; among other inconveniences, home games were played 50 miles away, at San Francisco's Kezar Stadium. In the early '50s, there was still talk of making a sustained run at the big time and building a Bronco gridiron palace in one of the many prune orchards nearby campus. But when those plans fizzled, so did hopes of maintaining any high-profile football glory. Casanova thus departed for Oregon, and a few years after that Orange Bowl triumph, the Jesuits who ran Santa Clara decided to abandon football entirely. Though the program was resurfaced in 1959, and a tidy, on-campus stadium named after Shaw was built (and nowadays the home to the San Jose MLS franchise), the Broncos were never again a big-time football power, and by 1993 the program was shut down for good.

Santa Clara's basketball program, however, was able to maintain a prominent position on the college hoop landscape, almost from the outset of the sport's ability to generate serious national interest. That coincided with a major rules change in the '30s, when a center jump was still contested after every basket. The elimination of that archaic rule opened up the game, and among the first to take advantage were the Broncos of the day, coached by SCU grad George Barsi on a team that featured, among others, future Bronco coach Bob Feerick and another coach-in-waiting, Bruce Hale, who would later become coach at Miami (Florida) as well as with the Oakland Oaks in the early days of the ABA. His presence with the Oaks would help convince one of his former Miami Hurricane charges, Rick Barry (who also happened to be his son-in-law), to make the jump from the NBA to the ABA.

Barsi's Santa Clara teams were among the first to take advantage of the new rules and develop a fast-break style, which was next to impossible with the former rule restrictions. One of Barsi's teams, in 1939 (featuring Feerick and Hale), was even nicknamed the "Magicians of the Maplewood" and traveled to New York's Madison Square Garden, where two powerhouse teams of the day, City College of New York and Philadelphia-based La Salle, were each defeated by more than 20 points. The Jesuits, however, were not keen on their Bronco team being invited to the first NCAA Championship Tournament, so they passed on an invitation to compete in the 4-team West Regional, ironically played in nearby San Francisco. Coach Howard Hobson's Oregon "Tall Firs" instead swept through the West region and became the first official NCAA champ (a distinction that well could have been Santa Clara) when beating Harold Olsen's Ohio State Buckeyes, 46-33, in the title game on the campus of Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois.

Feerick, a star player on those late '30s Broncos teams, eventually became the Santa Clara coach, and in 1952 led Santa Clara to a surprise berth in what would be the first "official" Final Four, that year contested at the University of Washington's Hec Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle. (Previously, national semifinals were held at two regional sites; the 1952 tourney divided the 16 teams into four regional sites, with those winners advancing for the first time to a single site for the national semifinal, third place, and championship games.) After surprising John Wooden' UCLA and Wyoming in the West Regional at Corvallis, Oregon, Santa Clara joined Kansas, Illinois, and St. John's in the first true Final Four. One of the Broncos' younger stars, 6'9 frosh forward Ken Sears, would eventually earn All-American honors and a handful of Player of the Year awards in 1955 before embarking upon a successful NBA career with the Knicks and Warriors. Along the way, Sears was also the first basketball player at any level to be featured on the cover of a fledgling sports publication called Sports Illustrated in December of 1954.

The ballyhooed event the Final Four would eventually become, however, was a far cry from it in 1952, especially for Santa Clara. Forget any trappings of glamour; heck, forget any glamour at all. One of the young Bronco players, a freshman guard named Dick Garibaldi, has no problem recollecting those long-ago events, even if they weren't much fun. "Well, the darned Jesuits didn't want us to miss any more classes," recounted Garibaldi to us not long ago, "so they made an arrangement with the priests at Seattle U (a sister Jesuit school) for us to go to class there during the week. We probably worked harder for the days we spent up there than we did a normal week at home."

That was hardly proper preparation for the semifinal opponent, Phog Allen's Kansas Jayhawks, who featured a rugged frontline force in 6'10 Clyde Lovellette. Big Clyde was too much for Santa Clara in the semifinals, pouring in 44 points in a 74-55 Jayhawk win, almost the same margin as KU's win over St. John in the finale the next night, 80-63. The Broncos knocked on the door of the Final Four the next two years as well, but fell just short when losing West Regional finals in both 1953 & '54. Soon afterward, Phil Woolpert's San Francisco teams, featuring Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, began to dominate the West Coast Athletic Conference, not to mention the entire college hoops world, but Santa Clara remained a formdable presence on the hardwood scene.

The aforementioned Garibaldi, whose younger brother Bob was one of the first baseball "bonus babies" when signed by the San Francisco Giants, would eventually succeed his old coach, Feerick (who took the job as the GM of the recently-relocated San Francisco Warriors), as Santa Clara's hoops supremo in 1962. And Garibaldi's first SCU team wasn't bad. Already in that initial season for Garibaldi, the Broncos had beaten powerful Wichita State, a legitimate Top Ten entry, by a 72-63 count on December 11, and entered the Chicago doubleheader with a more than respectable 9-4 record. Garibaldi had inherited an experienced roster that featured a trio of three-year starters on the frontline, 6'5 forwards Gene Shields and Joe Weiss and 6'6 center LeRoy Jackson, the latter the Broncos' top scoring threat.

Santa Clara, figured Arthur Morse, was a proper opponent for Loyola because the style contrast between the two might make for interesting viewing. The Broncos' deliberate style might prove an effective foil for the go-go Ramblers. Santa Clara had also done Morse favors in the past, and he reckoned that an invitation to play Loyola in the first half of the doubleheader properly returned the favor.

It was no surprise that Santa Clara's size up front had Loyola HC George Ireland justifiably concerned, as did a sudden spate of Rambler injuries. Ron Miller (twisted ankle) and top backcourt reserve Pablo Robertson (sprained wrist) were both injured in Monday night's 80-72 win in Athens against Ohio University. Temptations to go big against the taller Broncos and start 6'5 Billy Smith in place of Miller, moving Jerry Harkness back to a guard position, had crossed Ireland's mind. Now, with Miller's ankle slow to heal, Ireland could more easily justify his lineup switch.

The buildup to the doubleheader had created such interest in Chicagoland that not even brutal weather conditions could keep the crowds away from the Stadium. Traffic clogged the streets around the Stadium while scalpers found plenty of takers for seats that were going for as much as five or ten times face value. The old Stadium, with a seating capacity of 18,000 but able to accommodate 20,000 with standing-room only seats, swelled to more than 24,000 inhabitants that night as fans not only took up all the seats, but jammed every aisle, stood on ramps, and held onto girders for a look. Fire marshals looked the other way because they, too, were interested in the proceedings on the court.

And as the crowd filtered into the Stadium for the 7:45 PM tipoff between the Ramblers and Broncos, they would have noticed that change in George Ireland's Ramblers lineup. Indeed, Loyola had gone to its version of a "big" starting five, with Billy Smith starting in the place of the hurting Ron Miller. While the big crowd began to fill the seats and patiently awaited the main event between Cincy and Illinois, they had reason to pay attention to the first game of the twin bill, because Santa Clara was proving a handful for George Ireland's go-go troops.

As for Billy Smith, he certainly proved up to the challenge, and then some, scoring 18 points and snaring 14 rebounds, although for a long while it didn't appear as if the Ramblers could shake the stubborn Broncos. Santa Clara's defensive pressure rattled Loyola, and the explosive Jackson, demonstrating fine shooting range, helped the Broncos lead for parts of the first half and stay within 4 at the half, down just 43-39. The game was level at 59 not long after action resumed following the break, and past the midway point of the second half, Santa Clara was still within earshot, down only 70-64.

At that point, however, the Ramblers once again shifted gears to deliver a quick knockout blow. In rapid-fire succession, Les Hunter connected on a short-range jumper, Smith tipped in a missed shot, and Hunter followed with his own tip-in, and suddenly the lead was 12 points. Ireland, perhaps hoping to influence pollsters who would be paying attention, kept the press on the entirety of the game and Loyola never looked back when rolling to a 92-72 triumph. Harkness and Hunter both scored 23, and with help from Smith paced a dominating second half rebound performance in which the Ramblers controlled the glass by a 38-18 margin, which compensated for Loyola's rather lackluster 40% field goal shooting for the evening. The quick-jumping Ramblers had also gobbled an astounding 64 rebounds on the night!

Garibaldi was suitably impressed by Loyola, and even told Ireland after the game that he was sorry his Broncos hadn't put up a better fight, but years later said he learned a valuable lesson from that trip to Chicago.

"I decided that night to, if possible, try and avoid scheduling independent teams on the road in the future," said the Santa Clara coach. "It was better to play in a game where a conference would supply the refs. I don't remember us getting a lot of calls that night vs. Loyola. Of course, I think George (Ireland) was saying the same thing about our refs when we got him at our place in the Cable Car Classic a few years later."

Indeed, Garibaldi would get his revenge vs. Loyola, but would have to wait almost five years until his 1967-68 team beat the Ramblers in San Francisco's Civic Auditorium, 91-88, a matchup between what would be two NCAA-bound squads. By that time, however, Santa Clara was a stronger team, with ample star power in 6'10 center Dennis Awtrey and the combative Ogden twins, Bud and Ralph, at the forward spots. The Broncos were twice denied Final Four berths by UCLA in 1968 & '69, the latter a year in which Santa Clara ascended to as high as the second spot in the national rankings. Garibaldi again made it back to the Big Dance in 1970, but a bitter 1-point loss in the Sweet 16 vs. Utah State prevented another shot at UCLA. At that point, Garibaldi, just 38, became one of the early "burnout" coaching victims and relocated to the Stockton area to take a less-stressful job as an athletic shoe rep, where he never had to worry about a referee's call again.

The Broncos, however, didn't have much time to waste after the Loyola game. Their itinerary called for a quick departure from the Stadium so they could make their way 300 miles southeast to Cincinnati, where they would be facing Big Jim McCafferty's capable Xavier squad the following night. Cincy scribes made note of the Broncos' wanderlust, labeling them as "the touring Santa Clara five" in the recap of the game vs. the Musketeers.

Years later, Garibaldi would remember the Xavier win just as clearly as the Loyola loss. "That was a pretty good Xavier team we beat," said Garibaldi of the Broncos' 69-66 win in, as the Cincinnati Post described, the "igloo atmosphere" of the old and mostly empty (only 1028 showed up on a frigid winter night) Xavier Fieldhouse. "They had a great record at home back then, too," said Garibaldi. Indeed, the Musketeers would go on to their own postseason glory, eventually winning the national Catholic schools tourney in St. Louis.

Next issue: Part II of Arthur Morse's Great Chicago Doubleheader of '63 featuring the Cincinnati-Illinois showdown!

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