St. Xavier returns home national champions
BY STEVE MILLAR For Sun-Times Media December 18, 2011 6:32PM
The NAIA Football National Championship banner hangs on the Shannon Center at St. Xavier University. | Steve Millar~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 20, 2012 8:20AM
St. Xavier fans woke up early to welcome the school’s first national championship team in any sport back to campus Sunday morning.
About 13 hours after they defeated Carroll College (Mont.) 24-20 in the NAIA National Championship in Rome, Ga, the Cougars football team got a police escort for the last few miles back to their campus in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community.
There, about 7:45 a.m., they were greeted with a national championship banner that hung on the outer walls of the Shannon Center, and about 50 raucous fans.
“This is what we’ve been working for since we came to St. Xavier,” said linebacker Dave Marciano, a St. Rita alum. “We wanted to see that up on the wall. We wanted to show our trophy to our family and friends and bring something to this neighborhood. It’s not only for St. Xavier, it’s for Mount Greenwood and Chicago itself.”
The fans on hand were delighted at the sight of the large championship trophy, which eventually found its way to the team’s football offices after being pried out of a large cardboard box and paraded around the crowd.
“That thing weighs about 1,000 pounds,” St. Xavier coach Mike Feminis said.
Among the fans in the crowd was Matt Schmeski, of Alsip, whose daughter, Stephanie, is a member of St. Xavier’s Paw Prints Dance Team.
“It was a great game and I’m very excited,” he said. “The team worked really hard at this. They’ve had many good years and this was their year to do it.”
Larry Sondler, director of teacher education at St. Xavier, said it was a great moment for the whole university community.
“We’re just so proud of our scholar athletes,” he said. “They’re classy, classy, classy athletes. They’re all so modest about this and it’s wonderful to see. They’re going to inspire kids to be like them. We’re so proud of (Feminis), too. He’s a great guy and he really inspires our students. You couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”
The Cougars are the first college football team from Chicago to win a national championship since the University of Chicago shared an NCAA crown in 1913.
“So many of our fans are still in Rome or flying back, so to have these people show up at 7 o’clock in the morning, what a great tribute,” Feminis said. “I couldn’t be prouder of our players, our coaches and our university. This has been an unbelievable experience.”