SAN JOSE, Calif. – Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh and Xavier University President Rev. Michael Graham, S.J., have come to a friendly agreement regarding the Elite Eight matchup here Saturday to determine which of the Jesuit schools will advance to the Final Four from the West Region of the NCAA Tournament.
“Fr. Mike Graham and I have come to an accord – if Xavier loses, he will send a shipment of Cincinnati’s world-famous Graeter’s ‘French Pot’ Ice Cream to me. If Gonzaga should not prevail, I will ship him three cases of Washington state’s finest wines,” President McCulloh notes. The game tips at 3:09 p.m. (Pacific Time) on TBS.
The similarities between Xavier and Gonzaga are striking: founded in the 1800s in the historic Jesuit tradition; focused on “cura personalis,” which translates into “care for the whole person” – a unique focus in higher education; a beautiful campus enrolling around 7,000 undergraduates and graduates; athletic programs that set an incredibly high standard both on the court and in the classroom; and due to the success of men’s basketball, universities that now have national recognition as among the elite programs in the game.
Both Bulldog and Musketeer fans know this is their university’s story. And now, both alumni bases are looking forward to Saturday.
While separated by 2,000 miles, Xavier and Gonzaga are strikingly similar. Both are ranked in the top five of schools in their region, according to U.S. News & World Report. And both are in the exclusive top 100 of Kiplinger’s Best College Values for private institutions.
But the similarities also extend to athletics. Both schools are making their third trip to the Elite Eight but neither has been to the Final Four. Gonzaga, a No. 1 seed, is in its 19th consecutive NCAA tournament and has made eight trips to the Sweet Sixteen. Xavier, an 11-seed, has made the tournament field 11 out of the past 12 seasons and played in the Sweet Sixteen in six of the last 10 years. And both Gonzaga and Xavier earned a place on this year’s exclusive NCAA Top 50 overall graduation success list for student-athletes.
Gonzaga and Xavier are the only two Jesuit universities remaining in this year’s NCAA field. All 28 Jesuit institutions in the United States offer a well-rounded approach to education, with a commitment to ensuring students mature intellectually, morally, emotionally and spiritually with a depth and quality that invites students to consider how each of them can best serve the world.
“I have the pleasure of serving on the Gonzaga Board of Trustees,” says Xavier President Graham. “I have become incredibly impressed with their campus, the people of Gonzaga, and their dedication to the Jesuit tradition. President McCulloh continues to take Gonzaga to new heights.”
President McCulloh shares similar sentiments about Father Graham.
“Father Graham is one of our nation’s leaders in Jesuit higher education,” he says. “He has been president of Xavier since 2001, making him one of the longest-tenured presidents of any of the 28 Jesuit universities in the country. The contributions Xavier has made to Catholic and Jesuit higher education during his tenure are truly significant, and we are grateful for his leadership.”
The Final Four is April 1-3 in Phoenix, Arizona.