After its miraculous March Madness run to the Final Four, the Loyola men’s basketball team lost to the Michigan Wolverines in a heartbreaking 69-57 defeat March 31. The Ramblers’ stifling defense, unselfish ball movement and inspiring Cinderella story stole the hearts of new fans across the country and awakened a level of school spirit rarely seen at Loyola.
With an exhilarating season coming to an end and the home team now back on campus, many students may be tempted to toss their maroon and gold scarves aside and jump off the Rambler bandwagon they rode proudly for the past couple weeks.
Don’t. Stay on the bandwagon.
More than ever, Loyola needs its fanbase. Men’s basketball finally found its crowd during March Madness, with students typically uninterested in Loyola basketball joining the few die-hard student fans in droves, scrambling to televisions across the city to catch every game. Some students even traveled across the country to see their Ramblers play in person.
The city of Chicago rallied behind the Ramblers as its only team in the tournament, and Loyola pride even swept up notable Windy City natives, garnering the support of locals such as Barack Obama and Chance the Rapper.
Loyola sent a buzz through Chicago that no other local college team had done for years. In a recent editorial, the Chicago Tribune declared the 2018 Ramblers one of the city’s great all-time teams.
“The 2018 Loyola Ramblers now take their place among teams that Chicagoans honor not because they reached the pinnacle, but because they soared beyond anyone’s reckoning or expectation,” the editorial board wrote. “Thanks, Ramblers, for a season that thrilled Chicago.”
Loyola’s sudden growth into a legitimate sports school took many by surprise, but it wasn’t unwelcomed. Chicago fell head over heels in love with not only the Ramblers’ grit but the example of selflessness and maturity they set for NCAA teams going forward.
In another Chicago Tribune piece, sports writer Steve Rosenbloom brought attention to the Loyola players’ reaction to the waves of media attention Sister Jean received.
“As expected, the players were fine with whatever coverage came their way and whatever coverage showered Sister Jean,” Rosenbloom wrote. “Players seemed to get a kick out of the storyline… Such maturity. Such poise. Such a great story.”
Coach Porter Moser had made his wish for a sold-out Gentile Arena known to students many times over, and he finally saw it fulfilled Feb. 24 when students packed the gym to capacity for the first time since 2003 — marking a turning point in Rambler fandom.
Loyola students rose to the occasion this past March, and their school spirit shouldn’t stop because the men’s basketball team’s season is over. As Moser has said, Loyola basketball is “never going back” to how it was, struggling to fill seats in Gentile Arena. Because of its rousing run, Loyola’s men’s basketball team should have a firm fanbase for the foreseeable future.
Other sports may not be so lucky. Despite winning back-to-back national championships in 2014 and 2015 and holding a current record of 20 wins and five losses, the Loyola men’s volleyball team hasn’t been seeing nearly the same amount of attention as men’s basketball. This makes sense, considering the March Madness run was historic for Loyola and improbable by many accounts. While an appearance in the tournament clearly plays an enormous part in boosting a school’s spirit, students should use their renewed Loyola pride to cheer on the rest of their student athletes. From men’s volleyball to women’s basketball and women’s soccer, Loyola has so many teams which could benefit from a boost in fandom.
This isn’t a call for students to blindly support everything Loyola does from now on but rather draw attention to the power of true school spirit. The Ramblers reaching the Final Four put Loyola on a national map — the country knows us now. It knows Sister Jean. It knows our reputation as an academically strong, community-driven, Jesuit institution. Graduating with a degree from Loyola could mean even more than it did before to a lot of future employers. Wear your maroon and gold proudly.
After this historic 2018 season, men’s basketball should usher in a renaissance for Loyola athletics. The traditionally academic, Jesuit institution has undergone a change, and the students have felt it. Chicago has felt it. While many new fans on the team’s bandwagon will be waiting eagerly for next year’s basketball season to start, there are plenty of sports in need of the same attention and heart students gave to their Cinderella over the past month.
March Madness has come to a bittersweet end for the Ramblers, but Loyola pride has only just begun.