One of the biggest stars of the NCAA college basketball tournament this year — better known as March Madness — is not doing any dribbling, shooting or passing on the court.
No, she’s on the sidelines.
Then again, that’s not exactly true either.
Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, 98 years old, is the chaplain for the 11th-seed Loyola Chicago team, which against all odds has made into the Final Four this year. She’s long been the team’s spiritual guide, mentor, and main cheerleader (and lives in a dorm on campus).
So prominent has she been as a fixture for her team this year that products featuring her likeness have popped up all over the place — and “sales have skyrocketed,” as USA Today reported a couple of days ago.
“The person stealing the spotlight [in the March Madness tournament this year] hasn’t been a player. It’s been the team’s chaplain and diehard supporter … Sister Jean,” Fox News host Laura Ingraham noted in a playful segment on “The Ingraham Angle” on Friday night. “She’s been rooting for the team for six decades … she may be the only nun to inspire an entire sports merchandise line.”
USA Today noted this week that an entity called Fanatics, “which describes itself as ‘the global leader in licensed sports merchandise,’ has been selling Sister Jean T-shirts, including one style with her face and another with one of her quotes in bold: ‘Worship, Work and Win!'”
There are licensed Sister Jean socks. There are shirts (in long sleeves, V-neck style or as hoodies). Perhaps most fun of all, at the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, “a Sister Jean bobblehead has become the company’s best-seller, shattering a previous record,” as USA Today noted.
What’s driving the frenzy?
She’s driven by faith, genuine fandom, wisdom — and a go-for-it-all mentality. “We weren’t going to do anything until she gave her blessing,” senior associate athletic director Tom Sorboro at Loyola told CBS Sports. “She didn’t ask for anything for herself.”
“She didn’t ask for anything for herself.”
On Saturday night, March 31, Sister Jean’s Chicago Ramblers play the Michigan Wolverines. The other two teams, Kansas and Villanova, also play against each other Saturday night.
(photo credit, homepage and article images: Rock ‘Em / Fanatics)