Buoyed by a single-game record gate for a rivalry game, St. Thomas finished first among all 240 Division III programs in 2017 home football attendance.
The Sept. 23 Tommie-Johnnie game at Target Field shattered a Division III attendance record (37,355) and ranks among the largest college crowds ever to see a non-FCS football game.
The Target Field crowd also topped the attendance totals of 84 Division I games played that weekend -- 28 FBS contests, and 56 of the 57 FCS games. Among the prominent matchups where attendance couldn't match the Tommie-Johnnie total included Maryland at Central Florida, West Virginia at Kansas, Texas Tech at Houston, Virginia at Boise State, and Nevada at Washington State.
The attendance also exceeded the gate at 80 of the 81 Minnesota Twins regular-season games played at Target Field, and was larger than 20 of the 40 major-college bowl games following the 2016 season.
Caruso said the meticulous planning and attention to detail that went into moving the Tommie-Johnnie game downtown were a year in the making, and helped make the event a great experience for players and fans.
"I'm both tremendously proud and grateful that we led the nation in home attendance," Caruso said. "It is a tangible reminder of the level of work and sacrifice so many in our university community have given to help build our program to this point."
"I'm also ecstatic that we were able to set the national single-game home attendance record and set it in such grand fashion, doubling the old record. It's a record which will be nearly impossible to surpass unless a team wants to move a home game off campus to a larger venue. It's a day that will forever remain in the hearts and minds of Tommie faithful. We're very proud the record belongs to St. Thomas."
The MIAC had three of the top five in Division III attendance with St. John's and Concordia-Moorhead also in the top five.
Other 2017 St. Thomas Football Highlights:
- UST won the conference title with an 8-0 finish for the sixth time in the last eight seasons, including a fourth consecutive victory over archrival St. John's.
- Coach Glenn Caruso surpassed 100 wins here (110-17 in 10 seasons). Caruso has a 92-12 record this decade (.885 win%).
- UST's 21.9 net rushing yards allowed per game were the fewest allowed by any NCAA football team (all four levels) in one season in the last 16 years.
- UST's defense's 157.6 total yards allowed per game were the fewest allowed by any NCAA team in one season in the last 20 years. It was 50 yards better this season than the next closest team.
- UST broke a conference and school record with one net yard allowed (51 plays) this fall against Gustavus, the fewest yards ever allowed in a conference game.
- UST's 16 tackles for loss against Gustavus tied a school record.
- UST's 8-0 MIAC championship run and 11-2 overall record was capped by a 24-10 loss on the road in the national quarterfinal round of the playoffs to No. 1-ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor, a game tied 7-7 early in the fourth quarter. Two of the Crusaders' three TDs were scored by their defense and special teams.
- UST finished No. 4 in both final Division III polls. UST has been nationally ranked in 117 of the last 118 D3Football.com polls. The same organization's preseason poll has put the Toms in the top 14 eight consecutive seasons.
- In three games this fall against teams ranked in the top 15 nationally -- Mary Hardin-Baylor (14-1), St. John's (9-2) and Berry (11-1) -- the Tommies allowed a combined total of minus-one net rushing yard on 65 attempts. In their other games, UMHB averaged 165 rushing yards; the Johnnies averaged 233; while Berry averaged 185.
- UMHB's 143 total yards against the Toms rank as its lowest one-game total in the 20-year history of its program.
- The Toms also finished in the top two this season among all NCAA teams in these defensive categories: fewest first downs allowed (1st, 8.4 per game); tackles for loss per game (2nd, 11.2); third-down conversion rate allowed (2nd, .203).
- Four St. Thomas players received All-America honors: junior center Matt Beck; and seniors Austin Jochum (DL), Isaac Seering (S) and Matt Christenson (TE).
- Jochum became the third Tommie in a row to win the MIAC's annual Mike Stam Award for top lineman.
- UST's current 28-game football win streak over conference opponents leads all 240 D-III programs and ranks in the top five among all NCAA institutions.
- UST's 277 touchdowns scored over the last three seasons (41 games) rank second among all NCAA programs.