CHICAGO – With its 34-30 road win over No. 24 University of St. Francis (Ill.) and a loss by Carroll College (Mont.) over the weekend, the Saint Xavier University football team has become the first program in the 41-year history of Cougar Athletics to garner a No. 1 national ranking when the NAIA national office released the latest NAIA Football Coaches' Top 25 Poll Monday afternoon. SXU earned all 15 first-place votes to land atop the rankings. It is the first time since the 2006 NAIA Postseason Top 25 Poll was released on January 18, 2007, that a team other than Carroll College and former NAIA member University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) has owned the NAIA's top spot. In fact, the last team to hold the No. 1 rank besides Carroll and Sioux Falls was current Mid-States Football Association (MSFA) rival University of Saint Francis (Ind.).
"It's certainly an exciting time for our program and the University, but quite honestly, we just need to continue focusing on the next opponent and not allow ourselves to be distracted by the other stuff," said Saint Xavier University football coach Mike Feminis. "I've been preaching to our players for the past two years that we're the team everyone circles on the schedule and now it is magnified even more. Coaches are always looking for ways to motivate their players and what more can you want than to have an opportunity to knock off the No. 1 team in the country?
"We know that every week will be ‘Super Bowl' week for our opponents and this past weekend was a great example of that," continued Feminis. "Although we're in uncharted waters right now, I know our players are anxious to prove they're deserving of this ranking. To think of where we started from in 1999 to where it is now makes me very proud of not only this group, but all of those guys who laid the foundation in the earlier years. Our alums are extremely supportive of us and it's neat to see so many of them at our games. I get calls and e-mails from several of them on a regular basis and it means the world to me. When Coach (Bob) Hallberg says to our alums, ‘Once a Cougar, always a Cougar,' I think our guys really take it to heart."
In addition to the new rank, Saint Xavier is also in the midst of one of the nation's longest regular season win streaks in college football at 24 games. The Cougars have not lost a regular season contest since dropping their season finale to University of Saint Francis (Ind.), 47-30, on November 15, 2008. Of all football institutions currently playing at every level of the NCAA and NAIA, only University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has a longer active regular season streak at 25 games.
Saint Xavier will begin defending its No. 1 ranking on Saturday, September 17, with a home game against former MSFA Mideast League member Walsh University (Ohio). The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start at Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field in Chicago.