Villanova and Loyola reaching Final Four brings to light Catholic welcome of basketball

March 29, 2018 - Basketballs


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Rev. Michael Steltenkamp is mid and between. Loyola-Chicago plays Michigan on Saturday in a Final Four. And he doesn’t know for whom to cheer.

It should be so simple. He is a Jesuit who always roots for Jesuit schools. More than that, he got his masters of divinity during Loyola University Chicago. He quickly taught there too. And, like a rest of a world, he is soft by Sister Jean, a 98-year-old nun and group chaplain.

Oh, yet he is a highbrow of divinity during Wheeling Jesuit in West Virginia, whose favorite son is John Beilein, Class of 1975. And Beilein, a Michigan coach, represents all that is good about Jesuit education.

“He’s a male during Wheeling Jesuit,” Steltenkamp tells USA TODAY. “He is an implausible deputy of a place. So maybe I’m disposition a hold in Michigan’s direction.”

And that’s observant something, deliberation Steltenkamp warranted his doctorate during Michigan State.

Perhaps it is wise that a inhabitant semifinals will be played on Holy Saturday in San Antonio, named for St. Anthony of Padua. Loyola-Chicago and Villanova are Catholic schools, a initial time with mixed Catholic schools in a NCAA tournament’s Final Four given 1985, when Georgetown, St. John’s and Villanova got there.

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Michigan is a state school, of course, yet Beilein played during Wheeling Jesuit and coached during Le Moyne and Canisius, also Jesuit schools. Kansas is a state school, too, and it also offers a eremite connection.

James Naismith was famously KU’s initial coach. The propagandize hired him originally, though, as chapel executive and associate highbrow of earthy culture. Years progressing he’d invented basketball during a International YMCA Training School in Springfield, Mass., now Springfield College.

YMCA stands for Young Men’s Christian Association and Naismith evangelized a values of foe during a time when many eremite suspicion severe foe was exclusive with Christianity’s ethos of spin a other cheek.

Naismith, who was innate on a plantation on a hinterland of Ottawa in 1861, competed in football, rugby, lacrosse and gymnastics during Montreal’s McGill University. He warranted a grade in earthy preparation there and afterwards entered a Presbyterian College of Theology, also in Montreal, before his auspicious pierce to Springfield.

No longer ‘tool of a devil’

What would Naismith have suspicion of a Final Four featuring dual Catholic schools and his possess KU? Michael Zogry, associate professor of eremite studies during Kansas, thinks he’d be thrilled.

“It’s interesting, in his journal he talks about how unapproachable he is that so many churches had selected basketball for their social, recreational activities,” Zogry says. “Remember, when he was in propagandize many people suspicion entertainment were a apparatus of a devil. It was a genuine tough sell that we could demonstrate your faith by athletics. But he saw, by a finish of his life, a validation of his perspective.”

Over time, Catholic churches chose basketball as a signature foe of a Catholic Youth Organization — CYO was their chronicle of YMCA — and a reason was simple. All we indispensable was a gym and a ball.

Mark Russell, a domestic satirist, remembers basketball as a large understanding in his bishopric and during his Jesuit high school. “I was 18,” he says, “before we found out Protestants played basketball.”

 As prudence would have it, Russell’s late sixth-grade teacher, Sister Frances Niland, was Beilein’s aunt.

The late Al McGuire was a product of CYO hoops and he’d go on to play for St. John’s and manager a inhabitant champion during Marquette. McGuire was a basketball philosopher who spoke in New York-inflected aphorisms.

“You can always tell a Catholic schools,” he’d say, “by a length of a cheerleaders’ skirts.”

Basketball is a ‘religion’

Catholic immigrants clustered in large cities in a late 19th Century and found a infancy enlightenment that was not always welcoming. “No Irish Need Apply” meant for jobs, yet in some cases it competence as good have meant colleges too. The Catholic propagandize system, including aloft education, was founded to offer these Irish, Italian and Polish newcomer communities.

State schools and mainline Protestant colleges typically had some-more income and many Catholic colleges latched onto basketball as their signature sport. Even as many of them forsaken high-cost football, or lowered a status, they continued to champion basketball. Today, usually Notre Dame and Boston College mount as Catholic schools personification football during a FBS level.

When Villanova, that plays football during a FCS level, won basketball’s inhabitant championship in 2016, Nova was a initial Catholic propagandize to do so since, well, Villanova in that 1985 tournament.

“In a Big East, basketball is to a schools what football is to a SEC — it’s a religion,” Villanova manager Jay Wright says. “Hmm, well, we are a Catholic school, maybe we shouldn’t contend it like that.”

And afterwards he lets go a big, robust laugh.

Villanova is an Augustinian school. St. Augustine wrote treatises on strange sin, that is not a initial tainted in a basketball game. Loyola is named for Ignatius Loyola, owner of a Jesuits scarcely 500 years ago. The munificence prayer, mostly attributed to him, beseeches God to learn us “to give though counting a cost.” Sounds a lot like pity a ball.

Loyola-Chicago is among 28 Jesuit colleges in a United States. Twenty play Division we basketball, 5 play in Division II (including Le Moyne and Wheeling Jesuit), dual play in Division III and one in NAIA. Follow @Jesuit_BBall to learn about them all. Where else can we find out Loyola-Chicago hasn’t mislaid a men’s NCAA contest diversion given Georgetown kick a Ramblers in 1985?

Deanna Spiro, executive of communications for a Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, is among several who run a Twitter account. “We’re really proud,” she says, “that all 28 Jesuit schools play men’s and women’s basketball.”

Steltenkamp, a Jesuit who finds himself disposition toward Michigan opposite Loyola — that competence validate as a some arrange of sin — thinks improved of it in a end.

“Flip a coin,” he says during last. “I’ll be happy possibly way.”

Steltenkamp dearly wants to see Beilein win a title, yet Loyola manager Porter Moser, a connoisseur of Creighton, is Jesuit-educated too. And if Loyola were to win a inhabitant championship as a double-digit seed, well, that would be seen distant and far-reaching as some arrange of sporting miracle.

Forget a Gatorade. Moser’s players could lard him with holy water. And only suppose his Ramblers slicing down a nets — branch H2O into twine.

Contributing: Lindsay Schnell