Stop the madness: Ramblers run was about the team, not Sister Jean
On Saturday, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers improbable NCAA Tournament run finally came to an end at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines. The 69-57 defeat ended any chance of Loyola becoming the first 11-seed in D-1 NCAA Tournament history to advance to the Final Four.
The stage was set for the Ramblers to make history, and the build up to Saturday's showdown with the Wolverines lead you to believe that Loyola had a legitimate shot at history.
Donte Ingram’s game winning 3-pointer versus 6-seed Miami, followed by Clayton Cluster’s game winning jumper to knock off 3-seed Tennessee officially anointed the Ramblers as this year's Cinderella story. But the run didn’t stop there.
Loyola came to Atlanta and defeated Nevada in the Sweet Sixteen, and after dominating Kansas State in the Elite Eight en route to the Final Four had all the momentum.
Now with the team putting together such an improbable run, you would expect the media to dig deeper into the background of the players that comprise this special bunch.
But that didn't happened.
Instead of discussing the teams success, the majority of the focus was placed on 98-year-old team chaplain Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt.
Sister Jean was dubbed the face of not only Loyola basketball, but the entire NCAA Tournament, and while this may be a feel good story to some, it took away the spotlight from the people who have worked hardest to earn it.
The Ramblers finished first in the Missouri Valley Conference with a record of 32-5, finishing the season shooting 50% from the field and 40% from three point range as a team. The team also boasted the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Ben Richardson.
With a roster that has no top 200 recruits, a star transfer player (Redshirt Junior Clayton Custer) and two players from local historic Chicago Public Schools (Senior Donte Ingram from Simeon and Freshman Lucas Williamson from Whitney Young), there were plenty of storylines the media could have chosen to explore during this historic March.
But while most basketball fans just want to learn more about the Ramblers, the national media went with the low hanging fruit; religion.
People often ask athletes to stick to sports, but they have no problem using their religion to claim a victory. And with a 98-year-old nun being wheeled in after every victory, the legend of Sister Jean grew to ridiculous proportions.
Loyola made Sister Jean available for the media on Friday as the same time as guard Marques Townes, the same player who hit the game sealing 3-pointer in the Sweet Sixteen against Nevada. Instead of interviewing someone who is actually a member of the team, the national media flocked to Sister Jean.
The large gathering for the team chaplain seemed to even catch Sister Jean off guard, who told reporters, “I never imagined two or three [cameras], let alone this large group.”
For most of these players, this was their one and only opportunity to be seen on a national stage, and although they weren't able to become the first 11-seed to play for a National Title, the media has to make a change.
Giving attention to Sister Jean was one thing, but to allow her to overshadow these players says a lot about the priorities of the University and the media. Not only were they shut out from the millions of dollars being generated off this magical run, they’ve became supporting actors in their own movie.