Colvard decided that the principals in the drama should get out of town. The president himself was booked to deliver a speech at Auburn that weekend, so he left early, chauffeured across the state line by another administrator. McCarthy, athletic director Wade Walker and assistant AD Ralph (Rabbit) Brown, guessing that they too had been named, took backroads to the Memphis airport and flew to Nashville that night. Someone broached the idea of evacuating the team too. But Colvard calculated that the segregationists wouldn't risk the bad public relations of serving the injunction directly to the players.
Couriers from Jackson arrived with the papers around 11 p.m., whereupon an Oktibbeha County deputy sheriff, Dot Johnson, began making the rounds. He could find no one who would come to the door, and he had no search warrant to enter anyone's home.
Early the next morning trainer Dutch Luchsinger drove the team's scrubs to Bryan Field, an airfield in Starkville. By pre-arrangement, he was to phone assistant coach Jerry Simmons if the party was served the injunction—whereupon Simmons was ready to chaperone the regulars onto a private plane in nearby Columbus and head for Nashville, where they would catch a commercial flight to Michigan. Luchsinger and the scrubs encountered no interference at Bryan Field. (It has long been suspected that the deputy sheriff was a basketball fan, for though the injunction had been issued against the board, Colvard, McCarthy "and their agents, servants and employees," Johnson didn't intervene.) Luchsinger phoned the all clear to Simmons, who drove the rest of the team to Bryan Field. "You had that knot in your stomach, mat air of not knowing what to expect," says Hutton. "We just got out of the cars and zoomed."
By 9:45 a.m. the chartered Southern Airways Martin 404 Aristocrat was bound for Nashville, where it would fetch McCarthy, Walker and Brown before continuing on to East Lansing. The passengers let out a yell when the plane went wheels up. One said, "Now I know how those East Berliners feel when they make it past the wall."
The grand strategy that sprang the team was Colvard's. But the tactics of the trip could have been drawn up on McCarthy's clipboard. The segregationists had been snookered.
A knot of newsmen and anxious tournament officials awaited the Maroons at the Lansing airport. They had heard crazy, conflicting reports—one that a lone car carrying the team's starters had escaped the state; another that the team plane had been intercepted in midair and ordered back home. East Lansing would hail the Maroons as heroes. A local band would play the Mississippi State fight song in Jenison Field House. Best of all, word would soon reach the team that a state supreme court justice had thrown out the injunction.
"There are all kinds of people looking for you out there," a member of the flight crew told McCarthy as the team prepared to leave the plane.
"There were all kinds of people looking for us back where we came from, too," he replied.
The race issue had hung over Loyola's season every bit as much as it had Mississippi State's. The Ramblers could hardly avoid it, not during an era when most coaches outside the South didn't dare play more than two blacks at home and one on the road. Loyola brazenly started four—Jerry Harkness, Les Hunter, Ron Miller and Vic Rouse. In a game at Houston, fans chanted, "Our team is red-hot, your team is all black," and as the Ramblers left the floor at halftime, spectators spat and threw coins. The year before, in New Orleans to face Loyola of the South, several Ramblers had laughed nervously when they split up at the airport, the blacks taking Jim Crow cabs to private homes in the black part of town, the rest settling into an all-white hotel.
The Loyola coach, George Ireland, set himself up as a lightning rod, intercepting the hate mail and taking the menacing late-night phone calls, the ones wishing his daughter would present him with a black grandchild. At the same time he tried to turn the prejudice into an advantage. He left his starters in against Southern teams to run up the score. "I wanted those teams to wake up and smell the coffee," Ireland said before his death in 2001.