Suddenly, those who finished their March Madness bracket with Sister Jean and Loyola-Chicago winning it all don’t seem so crazy.
For the second time in three tournaments, the Ramblers — a mid-major program from the Missouri Valley Conference — are Sweet 16-bound. Jean Schmidt, the team’s 101-year-old chaplain, is cheering her players on with a mask, a vaccination, and plenty of excitement.
There is plenty of talk once again about Sister Jean and everything that she means to Loyola-Chicago. Just how long has she been affiliated with the school?
Sister Jean and Loyola are riding high in the NCAA Tournament again
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The NCAA Tournament moves incredibly fast, and the First Four has quickly turned into the Sweet 16.
Loyola-Chicago, which plays in the Missouri Valley Conference, is back in the Sweet 16 once again. After going without reaching the NCAA Tournament from 1986-2017, the Ramblers have secured two recent bids by winning the MVC in 2018 and this year.
The team’s chaplain, Sister Jean Schmidt, became a viral sensation during the first run. Although there were some initial concerns about her traveling to Indiana this year, she received both COVID-19 vaccination shots and is with the team.
Loyola, a No. 8 seed this year, defeated No. 9 Georgia Tech, 71-60, in the NCAA Tournament’s first round. The Ramblers upset No. 1 Illinois, 71-58, in the second round.
Sister Jean has been at Loyola-Chicago since 1991
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This year marks several important anniversaries for Sister Jean.
In 1991, Mundelein College — her longtime employer — merged with Loyola University Chicago. Sister Jean Schmidt had been at Mundelein since 1961 and held numerous roles from a professor to serving as the acting dean at one point.
Schmidt joined Loyola — not to be confused with Loyola Marymount University, a California-based school where she obtained her master’s degree — in 1991 as an assistant dean and an academic advisor after the merger.
According to the school’s official website, Sister Jean took on a new role in 1994. She began helping men’s and women’s basketball players keep their grades at a point where they could remain eligible.
Two years later, and at nearly 80 years old, Sister Jean became the men’s team’s official chaplain. She continues to hold that role today.
What’s next for her and the Ramblers?
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Sister Jean and Loyola’s possible run to the NCAA Championship game isn’t over yet.
Loyola-Chicago plays Oregon State, a No. 12 seed, in the Sweet 16 on Saturday, March 27. Oregon State, a No. 12 seed, already defeated No. 5 Tennessee and No. 4 Oklahoma State in the tournament.
The winner of that game will play either No. 11 Syracuse or No. 2 Houston, which plays Saturday night, in the Elite 8 on Monday, March 29.
Loyola made it to the Final Four in 2018. The Ramblers last reached the NCAA Tournament in 1963, when they defeated two-time defending champion Cincinnati in overtime.
So yes, those who picked Loyola to win it all may have been onto something. The lesson? Never pick against Sister Jean, at least in the tournament’s first two rounds.