By Jason Maholy
What the heck is a Rambler, anyway? Well, according to my research, the nickname of Loyola University's athletic teams are so-named because back in the 1920s, the school's football program – which was dropped in 1930 – traveled, or rambled, all over the country to play its games. That would match up with Webster's Dictionary, which defines a rambler as someone who travels and wanders aimlessly from place to place.
Loyola in 1982 adopted “Bo Rambler” – short for hobo – as its mascot. Today, the mascot anyone paying any attention to anything sports-related over the past week has become familiar with is LU Wolf, chosen because the coat-of-arms of St. Ignatius of Loyola depicts two wolves standing over a kettle.
So now that you have your history lesson for the day, how about those Ramblers? I wrote last week about underdogs and the NCAA tournament, and Loyola certainly qualifies as such. The Ramblers defeated favorites Miami and Tennessee to advance to the Sweet 16, where they will face Nevada tonight with a berth in the Elite 8 on the line.
If you follow college basketball, or more specifically the Missouri Valley Conference, you know Loyola is a talented team despite their underdog status and are not all that surprised by their success. This is a team that defeated Florida in Gainesville earlier this season, then steamrolled its way to a 15-3 conference mark, and regular season and conference tournament titles. Never sleep on a team, even a small school, that takes both those crowns. These guys can play, and they've become the darlings of this year's tourney. Expect to see a lot of maroon and gold, and shots of team chaplain Sister Jean Delores-Schmidt, if this team beats the Wolfpack and earns the chance to play for a spot in the Final Four.
And if you didn’t think you had any reason to root for the Ramblers, consider that they have a local connection. Loyola assistant coach Javon Marmon coached at Richards during the 2014-15 season; and Nick Dinardi, a seldom-used senior forward, hails from Palos Park and is a graduate of Providence High School.