An unexpected star has emerged from the NCAA Tournament: A 98-year-old basketball-loving nun.
Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, who has been chaplain of Chicago’s Loyola Ramblers for more than 20 years, became a social media sensation after watching from the sidelines on Thursday as the Ramblers beat the Miami Hurricanes (64–62) in a stunning upset. The team went on to snag another victory on Saturday, defeating the third seed Tennessee Volunteers 63-62 in a nail-biter.
During a Tuesday appearance on Good Morning America, Sister Jean spoke out about her newfound fame and how faith plays a huge role in her support for the team. She says she prays with the team before their games.
“I say a prayer, but sometimes there’s a little more than talking to God in the prayer … We wanna be sure that, when the buzzer goes off, the numbers indicate that we get the big W,” Sister Jean told the hosts. “I pray for the other team, perhaps not as hard.”
She adds: “We have God on our side and these young men have great faith and if you don’t have confidence in faith you might as well not be playing”
Sister Jean has waited 33 years to see her team win a game in the NCAA Tournament. Players have even thought of her as another coach, as she often gives tips on how to deal with the other team.
“She knows her stuff. She’s on it,” senior guard Donte Ingram told the Chicago Tribune.
Sister Jean’s basketball prowess likely stems from her own experience in the sport. She told the GMA hosts that she played basketball in high school and later coached girls backetball teams. And after Thursday’s win, the seasoned coach couldn’t contain her excitement.
“Thank God, thank God you did it because we knew we would do it, ” she said. “When we were in the locker room ahead of the game, we just knew we would do this. Our team is so great, and we don’t care who makes the points as long as we win the game.”
She added: “I said, ‘We’re gonna get the big W up there,’ and we did.’ ”
As for her newfound popularity, Sister Jean said she never expected so much attention — she’s just a gal who loves basketball.
“I’m just having a lot of fun. It seemed to mushroom all of a sudden, I really don’t know how all this happened,” she said during her GMA appearance. “I kept getting emails and telephone calls and people from California to the east coast have sent me emails. People I taught over 60 years ago in the elementary school! It just brought so many happy memories to me.”