Wildman's Corner: Xavier looks to dethrone Charlotte

Jason Kokrak

Jason Kokrak

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It has been a while since a school other than Charlotte has won the Atlantic 10 Conference men's championship.

Since 2006, only the 49ers have hoisted the conference hardware. This spring, Charlotte will be going for its seventh consecutive conference crown. The last team to win the championship trophy - and NCAA automatic qualifying bid - was Xavier.

"It does seem like a long time ago now," Xavier coach Doug Steiner. "We've battled and are often close with them, but those guys are really good."

In 2005, Xavier won the conference championship in Rhode Island after only 27 holes of competition. Brutal weather circumstances cut the tournament short and Xavier won the shortened tournament by 26 shots over the host Rams.

Charlotte hadn't joined the conference in 2005, moving into the conference following the 2005-2006 season.

"There was a time when the conference was cyclical." "Steiner said. "Before Charlotte came to the conference, it was us (Xavier), Richmond and Rhode Island battling."

Leading Xavier in 2005 were senior Neil Grusczynski and sophomore Jason Kokrak (who will be on the PGA Tour this year). The teammates shot 2-under 106 in the shortened A-10 championship.

The 2005 championship was also the last year the conference's championship wasn't played in the state of Florida. After snow, cold and tough winds at Rhode Island, the conference voted to move its championship to the Sunshine State moving forward. The next year, the tournament was held at Orange County National, followed by a few years at Mission Inn in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.

Charlotte has dominated the conference since becoming a member, with former coach Jamie Green leading the 49ers at the outset. Green led the unheralded group of Andrew DiBitetto, Ray Sheedy, Trevor Murphy, Jonas Hedin and Matt Mincer to prominence.

This year, the spring championship will be at Heron Bay GC in Coral Springs, Fla., and Charlotte undoubtedly will again be the team to beat. The 49ers will be going for a seven-peat, but Xavier wants its trophy back.

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