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Golden anniversary: Tech celebrates NCAA team at Tuesday's game vs. Loyola


COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A visit to Cookeville by the Loyola Chicago basketball team on Tuesday night will give Tennessee Tech a chance to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Golden Eagle team that faced the Ramblers in the NCAA Tournament.

Former head coach John Oldham, six players, two managers and the statistician from the 1962-63 Golden Eagle squad will be on hand Tuesday for a 50-year reunion of the team that faced eventual national champion Loyola Chicago in early March in the 1963 NCAA Tournament. The group has several activities planned during its two-day visit, and will be recognized on the court at halftime of the 7:30 p.m. game.

Players scheduled to return include John Hays, Charles Wood, Frank Cardwell, Robert Nunnery, Landon Sexton, John Adams and Bobby Young. In addition, former players Tom Rychener and Eddie Mason will be represented by their widows, Lynda and Becky. The lineup will also include managers Carl Baker and Larry Banks, as well as statistician Ron Klein.

The 1962-63 Golden Eagle squad, directed by head coach John Oldham, won a share of the Ohio Valley Conference championship with an 8-4 record, then defeated Morehead State in a one-game playoff, 80-68, to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Tech dropped the contest in Evanston, Ill., and Loyola went on the capture the NCAA title.

The current Tech and Loyola squads met last year in Chicago, only the second meeting between the two teams since the NCAA encounter. The past Ramblers were recognized in that game on their homecourt, and Loyola went on to capture a 81-78 victory.

Current Golden Eagle head coach Steve Payne is excited that his team and the current Tech fans will have an opportunity to recognize the 1962-63 TTU squad.

"They're the best team in the history of the school, and the last team to go to the NCAA tournament, so it's special that we can celebrate excellence like that," said Payne. "I think it will be neat for our players to see people who played at Tenessee Tech, and have been there, and see what they mean to our university. They certainly deserve being honored."

Especially pleasing to Payne is the return of coach John Oldham.

"Coach Oldham is a legend in college basketball," Payne said. "For me personally, I grew up hearing about coach Oldham's teams so it's very special to have him back. I'm honored to have him back. Those guys are what we aspire to be here at Tennessee Tech, to go to the NCAA tournament. The fact that they think enough of Tennessee Tech to come back and be here is important, and we want our guys to understand that they are upholding tradition here."

When scheduling the two-game series with Loyola, Payne knew the significance of the game for both schools.

"Having them come here makes it a special game," Payne said. "I would have liked to have played it here last year for the actual 50-year anniversary of the game, itself. When you walk into their arena, they have the center court jump circle in their building. I respect history and tradition in the game of basketball, and that team that beat us in the 1963 tournament and then went on to win it, that's a special team, and those teams deserve to be recognized again. I'm excited to be playing Loyola Chicago again this year. I think it's a good series, a good game."

Tickets for the game are on sale, as well as season tickets for the entire 2013-14 Golden Eagle basketball season. Tuesday's game also features a special offer with free admission to the game for all fans who come to the arena early for the 5:30 p.m. Tech volleyball match against Jacksonville State. Please contact the Athletics Ticket Office (931-372-3940) for more information.