MIKE NIETO: Life is good at St. Xavier

2011-12-23T21:00:00Z 2013-04-19T22:55:16Z MIKE NIETO: Life is good at St. XavierBy Mike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
December 23, 2011 9:00 pm  • 

Its web pages are taking more hits than the opposing team's running backs.

Coach Mike Feminis' phone and the St. Xavier University's are ringing off the hook. When you win a national championship, you are a hot commodity and have to expect this kind of attention. Without a doubt, St. Xavier University deserves it.

The Cougars, coached by Marian Catholic grad Mike Feminis, won the NAIA title, beating nemesis Caroll (Mont.) College in Rome, Ga.

"It has been a little wild," Feminis said Wednesday. "I got some recruits coming in Thursday, and it is just a great atmosphere."

The atmosphere was in place before this year, but winning a national title makes it special. Feminis took the program to the top echelon, culminating with a national title.

Carroll was always the albatross, usually knocking the Cougars out in the semifinals. This was the Cougars first trip to the national title game and they made good. Very good and they did it with local kids, including many from the south suburbs and Northwest Indiana.

It was the first for a state college since Augustana, led by Bob Reade, ended its run in 1986 by winning the last of its four straight NCAA Division III titles. It is the first national title for a Chicago school since the University of Chicago won the honor in 1913. Yes, they played big-time football in Hyde Park at one time.

Feminis and a few players were on FOX 32 Thursday morning with Corey McPherrin and Dawn Hasbrouck. The program has a "deal of the day," featuring local restaurants. St. Xavier is the deal -- a good bang for your buck. Great education and a chance to be a part of a great athletic program. All of it in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood on Chicago's far southwest side.

Mike Feminis and St. Xavier are what small college football should be about. There is a great atmosphere on Saturday home games, complete with tailgating. And after the game, the players mingle with the fans in the parking lot. What the heck? Have a bratwurst or two. They earned it.

No scandals, no trading your season tickets for tattoos, just hard work and playing the game for the love of it.

Feminis has 24 scholarships to spread among his 88 players, but he told me most of his kids get a big financial aid package for academics and on need. He goes out and get the right kid -- the one who will excel in the classroom and the can play good, old-fashioned football. There is nothing fancy or no secret -- just hard work.

Feminis is happy where he is at and does not aspire to move up the big-time ranks.

He has already built a big-time program at the small-school level. And he will keep it among the elite.


This column is the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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