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Loyola Chicago: History of the History Makers

The Ramblers have been around for awhile, but they are just now becoming America’s darlings.

NCAA Basketball: Loyola University Celebration Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Although they have just recently become nationally recognized, Loyola Chicago has had a tradition of success. Not only have they produced a fine basketball program, but they have also manufactured other great alumni. A few examples are actors Leslie David Baker and Jim O’ Heir. Yes, you are reading this correctly, The Office’s Stanley Hudson and Park and Recreation’s Jerry Gergich (or is it Garry?) both came from Loyola Chicago. I know that has nothing to do with basketball, but that should make anyone a Rambler fan!

Anyway, back to basketball...

Believe it or not, Loyola Chicago actually has as many National Championships as the Michigan Wolverines. Yes, both schools have one championship to their name, but some may not have known that fact. Michigan captured their one and only title in 1988-’89, a season which saw Steve Fisher take over in an interim role.

As for Loyola, they took home their only title way back in 1963. That team was led by the great Jerry Harkness and Les Hunter. It is probably worth noting that the NCAA Tournament only featured 25 teams in 1963. Never the less, the Ramblers took home the crown, beating Illinois by 15 in the National Final.

Now, Loyola Chicago has a chance to end their championship drought, which is no doubt longer than Michigan’s. Also, by simply being in this tournament they snapped an NCAA Tournament dry spell that stretched all the way back to 1984-’85. Obviously, the Wolverines have not had that type of drought in their program’s history. Perhaps that is what makes this run so special in the eyes of Loyola Chicago fans.

The Ramblers basketball program is almost as old as Michigan’s as well. Having formed in 1920-’21, Loyola Chicago remained an independent until they joined the Midwestern City Conference in 1979-’80. Despite not having conference representation, the Ramblers made it to the NCAA Tournament four times. In that span, they made a Regional Final as well as winning the National Championship too. They were also nationally ranked five different times before joining a conference.

As referenced earlier, the Ramblers scored an NCAA Tournament berth in 1984-’85. Though they lost in the Regional Semifinal, it would be their last tournament appearance until this season. The ensuing years saw the Midwestern City Conference become the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. Throughout their years in the newly named league, Loyola Chicago failed to accrue over 17 wins.

That very same conference would be re-named again in 2002, as it would become the Horizon League. Despite another conference name change, the Ramblers were not able to win a conference or regular season crown in their time in the Horizon. Though they had seasons with 19 and 21 wins, they were still incapable of making a postseason run.

After staying in the Horizon League until 2013-’14, Loyola Chicago shifted themselves to the Missouri Valley Conference. At the time, the MVC was considered to be one of the top mid-major leagues in college basketball. This was due to Wichita State and their vast amount of success in the national arena.

However, the Shockers left for the American Athletic this past year, signifying a changing of the guard in the Missouri Valley. Though they lost some prestige nationally, they did not lose a great deal of overall talent. The Ramblers were one of those talents.

They had won 24 games in the MVC in 2014-’15 but had not enjoyed that much success since. This season saw them notch 32 total wins to this point, including some massive upsets in the NCAA Tournament. Now, the Loyola Chicago Ramblers are two wins away from becoming the first double-digit seed to win the National Championship.

It certainly has been a fun to watch, but we must remember that Loyola Chicago has had a tradition of success over the course of their program's history. Winning the National Championship this season would obviously not compare to anything the program has done previously. However, the Ramblers have consistently been history makers when we look into the annals of college basketball lore.