With a new school year comes a new crop of Rambler fans who need to catch up on the history of Loyola athletics. While some fans might only know Loyola for the historic run the men’s basketball team made during March Madness in 2018, Loyola Athletics has a rich history of breaking barriers and producing championship wins.
1926: Three years before Loyola’s Division I football team played its last game, the team became known as the “Ramblers.” Loyola didn’t have a home field at the time which forced the team to travel for their games. This gave way for the nickname that Loyola Athletics still uses today.
1939: The Loyola men’s basketball team played in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) championship game against Long Island University. This was the team’s first postseason appearance since its inception in 1914.
1949: The men’s basketball team returned to the NIT, this time ending as the tournament runner-up.
1962: Tom O’Hara won the individual NCAA title for cross country. O’Hara went on to become the first Illinois native to break the four-minute mile in 1963, logging a time of 3:59.4. He then set the world record for the fastest indoor mile time at 3:56.4 a year later.
March 23, 1963: The Loyola men’s basketball team became national champions after an upset over the University of Cincinnati in the NCAA Tournament. The Ramblers secured a 60-58 win after sinking a bucket at the buzzer in overtime, making Illinois history as the only team from the state to win the Tournament.
Apart from being the team’s only national title, this win also made history for its social impact at the time. Loyola broke the “gentlemen’s agreement” throughout the tournament — an unspoken rule between coaches that there couldn’t be more than two Black players on the court at the same time.
1964: The Ramblers appeared at the NCAA tournament again, but fell to the University of Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen round.
1982: Bo Rambler made his debut as Loyola’s mascot. Bo, short for Hobo, played off the nickname “Ramblers” and was a fan favorite.
1985: The Loyola men’s basketball team played in the NCAA tournament for the last time before their historic run in 2018. They didn’t make it far, losing to Georgetown University in the East Regional Semifinals.
1990: LU Wolf replaced Bo Rambler as a less offensive, official mascot for Loyola Athletics. The idea for a wolf mascot came from the Loyola seal, which depicts two wolves holding a cauldron — a reference to the generosity of the Loyola family and the Jesuits. Wolves are also depicted in a statue that sits outside the entrance to Gentile Arena, where the Ramblers now play. The original design for LU was more cartoonish and wore roller skates but he was updated to his current, more wolf-like design in 2000.
1994: The now-beloved Sister Jean began working as the chaplain for the men’s basketball team, 24 years before she gained overnight publicity during the 2018 NCAA tournament.
1996: The men’s and women’s soccer teams began playing games at Loyola Soccer Park. The park is located one mile west of Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus and was renovated in 2013 to include new bleacher seating, along with an updated press box and FieldTurf.
November 23, 1996: Gentile Arena officially opened and became the home court of the men’s basketball team. The Ramblers celebrated the Arena’s opening with a win over Eastern Kentucky University. Gentile Arena was made possible by Joseph Gentile, a 1946 Loyola graduate. His donation of $3.5 million covered almost half of the cost to build the facility.
2006: Both the Loyola women’s soccer team and the men’s soccer team won the Horizon League Championship, earning them each a bid to the NCAA tournament.
2007: The women’s soccer team won its second consecutive Horizon League Championship and returned to the NCAA tournament.
2008: The men’s soccer team earned its second Horizon League Championship.
March 3, 2011: The Norville Center for Intercollegiate Athletics officially opened. The center serves as the hub of Loyola Athletics, housing a student-athlete academic center, a strength and conditioning training area, locker rooms and offices for the Athletics department.
2011: The men’s soccer team won the Horizon League Championship to clinch the title and return to the NCAA tournament for the third time.
July 11, 2013: Surviving members of the 1963 men’s basketball team were honored at the White House to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their historic victory.
2014: The Ramblers’ switched to the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) in the fall after leaving the Horizon League.
May 3, 2014: The men’s volleyball team won its first NCAA National Championship in program history after defeating Stanford University 3-1 at Gentile Arena.
April 1, 2015: The men’s basketball team won the College Basketball Invitational against the University of Louisiana Monroe in its first postseason appearance since the NCAA tournament in 1985.
May 9, 2015: The men’s volleyball team defended its national title after defeating Lewis University 3-2.
March 2018: The men’s basketball team made history with its Cinderella run as a No. 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament, tying for the lowest seed ever to make it to the Final Four. The Ramblers defeated No. 6-seeded University of Miami, No. 3-seeded University of Tennessee, No. 7-seeded University of Nevada and No. 9-seeded Kansas State University before falling to No. 3 seeded University of Michigan.
2018: The women’s soccer team won the MVC Championship, punching a ticket to the NCAA tournament for the first time since joining the MVC.
2019: Following their 2018 run, the men’s basketball team finished the regular season atop the MVC. However, the Ramblers were upset in the MVC tournament in the semi-final round after falling to Bradley 53-51. Their regular-season crown earned them an automatic bid to the NIT, but Loyola lost in the first round to Creighton University 70-61.
August 2019: The Alfie Norville Practice Facility opened. The $18.5 million facility, mostly funded by a donation from Allan Norville, functions as a practice space for Loyola’s court sports — men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s volleyball — and features courts on two floors, an exercise science lab, and a film room.
2019: The women’s soccer team went undefeated during conference play en route to defending their MVC Championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The men’s soccer team also made it to the NCAA Tournament after upsetting previously undefeated Missouri State University in the MVC Tournament Championship.