As upstart 11-seed Loyola Chicago has willed its way to the Sweet 16, its team chaplain and all-around good luck charm Sistern Jean Dolores Schmidt has taken the college basketball world by storm.
The Ramblers, competing in their first NCAA tournament for the first time since 1985, huddle up with Sister Jean before every game and she says a prayer for her squad. She attends as many games as she can, wearing maroon-and-gold Nikes with her name on the heels ("Sister" on the left, "Jean" on the right), and has been with the team every step of the way during its magical March run.
People around the country have taken note of Sister Jean's unique story, and she's become an overnight celebrity, spawning tributes across the country:
And she's not just along for the ride: Sister Jean knows her hoops. According to a great story in the New York Times, Loyola Chicago head coach coach Porter Moser found a manila folder on his desk his first day as coach in 2011. Sister Jean had compiled a scouting report of his team.
She also knew her hoops enough to pick Loyola to reach the Sweet 16 in her personal bracket this year, and when Clayton Custer's shot dropped in the waning seconds against Tennessee, Sister Jean's pick was proven correct.
But she has the Ramblers losing in the Sweet 16... which means now they have to prove their biggest fan wrong.
I can’t get over Loyola-Chicago’s 98-year-old team chaplain picking them to lose: “We have to prove Sister Jean wrong,” says the player who just hit winning shot pic.twitter.com/VYsT0gzFe1— Justin Fenton (@justin_fenton) March 18, 2018
She'd probably be okay with that.
Sister Jean began teaching at Mundelein College in 1961, a school which merged with Loyola in 1991. In 1963, the Ramblers won the NCAA tournament championship, a 60-58 upset win of two-time defending champion Cincinnati. She’s served as the men's basketball team chaplain since 1996.
This year's trip to the Sweet 16 is the school's fourth all-time, but the first since Jean joined. The Ramblers' last Sweet 16 run before this season came in 1985, the first time the tournament ever featured 64 teams.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Sister Jean was born in 1919 in San Francisco. She played basketball during high school; after graduating, she joined the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary convent in Iowa.
And how neat is this: On Feb. 2, 2011, Loyola held a Sister Jean Dolores Schimdt BVM bobblehead night. Nine-hundred lucky fans got superb statuettes of the team’s most rabid supporter.
After the Ramblers' current run, there might be a few more folks interested in one of those bobbleheads...