By Mike Williams | @MikeWritesSport
Sports Capital Journalism Program
SAN ANTONIO — It was the day before the Final Four and about 100 people were packed into a small meeting room on the ground floor of the Alamodome. The special guest of the morning was only going to be made available for 15 minutes of questions. Media members from across the country jockeyed for position to be one of the lucky few to ask a question. The star of the day was the media sensation of the tournament, Sister Jean-Dolores Schmidt.
Sister Jean has become as big a story as the team she supports, her Loyola Chicago Ramblers. With her quick wit and sense of humor, it’s not surprising that she’s become America’s favorite nun a few weeks ago. Asked how she felt about being a national celebrity, her sharp sense of humor was shown in her response to the reporter. “Really, if I can correct you, international,” she joked.
Although Sister Jean has been the team’s chaplain since 1994, she’s much more than that for the Ramblers. “She means everything to us,” said junior guard Clayton Custer. Team prayers with Sister Jean were something that caught Custer off guard at first. “Her prayers are a little bit different from everyone else’s,” he said. “She would pray and then start giving us a scouting report in the middle of it, telling us their three best players and what to look for.”
While in San Antonio, the players are being asked about Sister Jean nearly as much as they’re being asked about the Final Four. “If I had a dollar for every question since the tournament started, I’d get investigated,” joked senior forward Aundre Jackson.
The team is happy with her recent fame. “She’s such a great person and deserves all the recognition she is getting,” said freshman forward Christian Negron. He’s trying to get one of the Sister Jean bobbleheads. “Earlier this year, I saw one on one of our upperclassmen’s coffee table and I want one so bad,” he said. “They’re kind of hard to get, though.”
Sister Jean jokes about the bobbleheads. When asked about Sister Jean socks and T-shirts she replied, “It’s overwhelming to me and my bobblehead.”
Even opposing coaches are being asked about Sister Jean. “I will tell you I have heard from many religious (people) that I personally know that tell me their prayers are doing everything they can to counter Sister Jean,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “And I had a priest, not even at my own parish, stop Mass at the end of Mass on Tuesday and say, they have Sister Jean, you have everybody here praying for you. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s great.”
The 98-year-old tries to stay up to date in today’s modes of communication. “I just think everything is so wonderful now,” she said. “I try to keep up with many things but I’m a little behind on a few.”
She was asked about recent comments made by Mary Belle Hicks, the grandmother of former Michigan player Jalen Rose, who posted them on Facebook. “Sister Jean, it’s been a good ride,” she said, “but it’s over Saturday.” Sister Jean’s reply: “We’ll see what happens,” she said. “I hope we meet each other. I love to meet people.”
Although she has scouting reports for the teams the Ramblers face, she doesn’t cross the line and get too involved. She stays away at halftime. “That’s the time for the coach to speak his language and their language together,” she said.
Sister Jean has faith that her team will achieve victory against Michigan on Saturday. “We’re having a university Mass together on Easter Sunday,” she said. “I said Easter Sunday because we hope to stay and we’re confident enough we will.”
No matter what happens, she’s going to enjoy every moment. “This is the most fun I’ve had in my life,” she said. “It is. It is just so much fun for me to be here and I almost didn’t get here, but I fought hard enough to do that because I wanted to be with the guys.”
Before she left the brief session, she had one last thing to tell her audience. She said, “You’re great people. Don’t let anyone put you down at any time.”