Sister Jean is back to add to the magic and the madness of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
At 101, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt is America’s favorite face of the tournament. As with previous games, she’ll join Loyola-Chicago as the team chaplain for the opening tipoff this Friday. The Ramblers, seeded eighth, will play Georgia Tech. If Loyola wins, it’s onto a greater challenge as the likely opponent would be Illinois, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, on Sunday.
“I don’t know about those brackets,” Sister Jean said Tuesday during a Zoom session with reporters. “Those brackets are something else this year. Probably nobody thinks it’s a fair bracket. It amazes me they put two Illinois schools against each other rather than support each other.”
But whatever happens, Sister Jean is glad to be in the game after being on COVID-19 lockdown this season. She has been pressing school officials for weeks to join Loyola courtside. It was slightly more complicated than a simple “yes,” since Sister Jean lives in a senior residential facility and is more at-risk in our COVID-19 landscape. But now it’s a “go” since she is fully vaccinated for the virus.
As a precautionary measure, she will remain at her hotel along with nurse and security personnel until it is time for her to make the six-mile trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Friday.
Her support group was ecstatic. After all, she is a rock star who rose to fame during Loyola’s surprising Final Four run in 2018. She has been the team’s chaplain since 1994 and is known for writing post-game emails to each player.
“One alum wrote and told me she was willing to drive me down. Another said she was going to sneak me out of the university,” Sister Jean said. “But Loyola didn’t know any of those things. I didn’t tell them until after they said yes.”
She did her part by leaning on the Bible, as always. She compared herself to the old woman in the Gospel of Luke who petitioned a judge to grant her wishes until he eventually conceded, saying, “Let her do what she wants.”
Wish granted. Sister Jean is in.