Loyola Chicago is heading to the Final Four for the first time since 1963. Beloved team chaplain Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt was 43 years old last time the Ramblers made it this far in the NCAA Tournament.
The college basketball world has fallen in love with Sister Jean, just as it has with this year's Loyola team. The Ramblers just put it on Kansas State, winning 78-62 to punch a ticket to the program's second Final Four.
Deadspin's Timothy Burke found an archived picture of Sister Jean from 1963. She was in more traditional nun clothing, rather than her famous Loyola letterman jacket and scarf that she wears to games now.
After tonight's win, Sister Jean even got a part of the net that the Ramblers cut down.
Every March, someone or something tangentially related to one of the teams making a deep run in the tournament becomes a national focus. Sister Jean may be the greatest example of that ever.
Everyone loves the Loyola team chaplain, who brings an infectious enthusiasm to the sideline. It doesn't hurt that Loyola itself plays a dynamic, beautiful style of hoop on both ends of the court.
She's more than just a team cheerleader though. Sister Jean played basketball growing up, and according to 2017 Loyola University grad Ally Spiroff, who did a Capstone project focusing on Sister Jean, she is an experienced coach as well. From the Chicago Tribune:
Spiroff, a track athlete, met Sister Jean during her undergraduate days at Loyola, before she earned her master’s.
“She always knew what was going on with our track and cross-country teams,” Spiroff said. “I think she’s coached pretty much every sport over time. She uses her passion to help those around her and inspire those around her, and she just makes everyone around her a better person, just by being herself.”
Sister Jean attended Mundelein College, an all-woman school that merged with Loyola in 1991. Three years later, she became the team chaplain.
24 years later, with the eyes of the nation upon her and the Ramblers, they are on their way to San Antonio. Loyola will face the winner of Michigan vs. Florida State in the national semifinal.