As Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt has charmed the nation during Loyola-Chicago's run to the Final Four, merchandise featuring her likeness has started to pop up over the past week — and sales have skyrocketed.
Fanatics, which describes itself as "the global leader in licensed sports merchandise," has been selling Sister Jean T-shirts, including one style with her face and another with one of her quotes in bold: "Worship, Work and Win!" There are licensed Sister Jean socks. And at the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, a Sister Jean bobblehead has become the company's best-seller, shattering a previous record.
Phil Sklar, the co-founder and CEO of the bobblehead business, told USA TODAY Sports in an email that the Milwaukee-based company had sold more than 8,100 Sister Jean bobbleheads as of Tuesday morning — nearly three times as many as the previous best-seller, which commemorated Clemson's national football championship.
The Sister Jean bobbleheads have been sold to residents of all 50 states and Canada, Sklar wrote, and one person has purchased a grand total of 80 Sister Jean bobbleheads over multiple orders.
"We quickly added Loyola-Chicago to our approved list of schools for licensing purposes and submitted the design as a rush," Sklar told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of the bobbleheads. "It is certainly the quickest we’ve done a project."
Loyola-Chicago said in a press release late last week that a portion of the profit from every bobblehead sold will go to the school's athletic fund and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Meanwhile, Fanatics spokesperson Matt Fox told USA TODAY Sports in an email that the company has sold more Loyola-Chicago merchandise than merchandise from any other college team so far this week — including fellow Final Four teams Kansas, Michigan and Villanova.
With Sister Jean gear among the school's best-sellers, Fox said, fans have purchased more Ramblers gear in the past three days than the rest of the college basketball season combined.
"We are so excited that people around the country are getting the opportunity to learn what all of us at Loyola have known for quite some time. And that is that Sr. Jean is an absolute treasure," Loyola-Chicago athletic director Steve Watson said in a statement.
As for Sister Jean herself, the 98-year-old team chaplain told USA TODAY Sports on Monday that she's still having a hard time understanding how "this whole thing actually mushroomed so quickly." But like the Ramblers, who will face Michigan in the Final Four on Saturday, she's enjoying the ride.
"I’m having a glorious time through this NCAA whirlwind," she said.
Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.