Michigan's Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson and Moritz Wagner talk to the media on Friday about the NCAA Final Four in San Antonio. Robin Buckson
San Antonio – Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, Loyola-Chicago’s likeable 98-year-old chaplain and darling of the NCAA Tournament, is beloved across the nation.
Well, maybe everywhere except Ann Arbor.
With No. 11 seed Loyola and No. 3 seed Michigan set to meet in a national semifinal on Saturday at the Alamodome, former Fab Five member Jalen Rose’s 100-year-old grandmother, Mary Belle Hicks, had some fighting words on social media this week.
“Sister Jean, it’s been a good ride. But it’s over Saturday. Go Blue,” Hicks said in an Instagram video decked out in a Michigan shirt and hat.
During a standing-room only news conference Friday, Sister Jean said she was well aware of Hicks’ message that the Ramblers’ magical run was going to come to an end and responded with a light-hearted jab of her own.
“I saw it on Facebook the other day,” she said. “I also heard that she said she's out to get me, so we’ll see. Somebody said, ‘Maybe you need a pair of boxing gloves,’ and I said, 'Well, we'll see what happens.'
“I hope we see each other. I hope we meet there. I love to meet people.”
Not to be outdone, the Bank of Ann Arbor had also put up a billboard that read, “Sister Jean will soon know the difference between heaven and hail.” (Bank of Ann Arbor later had the billboard removed due to negative public response.)
The winner of Saturday’s game will advance to Monday’s national title game and face either Kansas or Villanova.
Here some other highlights from Sister Jean’s news conference:
* On if God is a basketball fan: “He probably is. And he’s probably a basketball fan more of the NCAA than the NBA. I’ll wager that your viewer audience is very large this time and that if you compare it to the NBA when they’re playing, it will be different. And I say that because these young people are playing with their hearts and not for any financial assistance.”
* On the reaction from across the country during Loyola’s run: “I’m amazed at what the different channels and radio stations and all the reporters from all the papers so forth do. And when they say, I came in from New York to do this, like three or four photographers, and I think to myself, ‘Oh my, don’t let it go to your head.’ I haven’t done that, nor has the team. The team, those young men are very humble. They keep saying how confident they are and I say, ‘I’m really glad to hear that. I’m probably more nervous at a game than you are.’ And when they made the Sweet 16, the first thing Clayton (Custer) said – he gave me a nice sweaty hug – he said, ‘Sister Jean, we broke your bracket.’ And I said, ‘Go ahead and break it a little more.’
* On having her face on socks and T-shirts: “I sort of got used to that when, some years ago, the dance team did a face, but it was a sketch on their shirts. And then we have those cardboard faces – you see those all over. And I see more pictures of even people I don’t even know who are not Ramblers. I see them and I think to myself, ‘Well, maybe I’ll get a pair of socks myself to wear around.’ It’s overwhelming to me, and my bobblehead. … I’m not saying this in a proud fashion, but the first bobblehead we gave away at a game was against Milwaukee. And then this one is updated with different Rambler clothes. I think the company could retire when they’re finished making these bobbleheads.”
* On the key for an average person to have their prayers heard: “Well, it all depends on how hard you work for it. We have a little slogan that we say: worship, work and win. And so, you need to do all those things. God always hears but maybe he thinks it’s better for us to do the ‘L’ instead of the ‘W,’ and we have to accept that.”