Could Augusta State really win the NCAA title?
OOLTEWAH, Tenn. – We now enter the match-play segment of the NCAA Championship here at The Honors Course, and something does not fit. You know what I am talking about -– the feeling you got when you first learned that Butler would be playing in the Final Four in men’s basketball a couple of months ago.
I am talking about Augusta State.
Josh Gregory’s Jaguars are a very good college golf team. They are the No. 5 team in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and climbed all the way to No. 2 at one point this spring. But we just can’t allow ourselves to completely grasp them as legit, can we?
It’s because the Jaguars are not like the rest of their peers. They are the 5’10” guy on an NBA roster, or the kicker in the NFL.
Augusta State, with an enrollment of just more than 7,100, is a Division II school with a golf program that competes at the D-I level.
Much like Notre Dame football, Jaguar golf competes as a Division I independent, while the rest of the school’s athletic teams are a member of Division II’s Peach Belt Conference. It’s been like that since 1984, and for the most part, any thoughts of Augusta State bringing home an NCAA Championship was nothing more than a pipe dream, a dream I’m sure Gregory has had and former coaches Jay Seawell and Jim Kelson also experienced many times.
But over the course of the next three days, that dream could come true.
Augusta State will face Georgia Tech in the opening round of match play. The Jaguars could win that match, and if they do, they will play the winner of Florida State-Texas Tech. They will be the better-ranked team in that matchup, and obviously could win that match.
“The former coaches and former players have put us in position to get here,” Gregory said.
The current players expected to be in this position, and for Gregory, it is a gratifying experience. But what would the people in Augusta think if the Jaguars were to win three matches in a row?
“I can promise you it would mean more to Augusta, Ga., probably than anywhere else in the country,” Gregory said.
The thought of a Division II school winning a Division I championship is really unthinkable.
According to Gregory: “It doesn’t happen and quite honestly probably shouldn’t.”
Maybe it should not, but it just might.