History & Tradition
Football at the University of St. Thomas began in the late 1890s. Its first official varsity intercollegiate games were played in 1904.
The Tommies rank as one of the top 25 NCAA Division III football programs in all-time winning percentage. In 2016, UST joined the University of Minnesota and St. John's University as the only Minnesota institutions to reach 600 victories. In 2018, the Tommies will become just the second Minnesota university (with Minnesota Gophers) to surpass 1,000 all-time games played.
UST joined the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) as a charter member in 1920. Only four schools have been MIAC members all 98 seasons: St. Thomas, Gustavus, Hamline and St. John's. Concordia-Moorhead joined one year later, and Augsburg came on board four years later.
The Tommies established themselves as a top-tier program early in the conference's history. Joe Brandy built a 33-7-1 record as Tommie football coach in the 1920s. He came to the MIAC after his days as the starting Notre Dame quarterback under Knute Rockne for the Irish's unbeaten 1920 team. He played in the same backfield as George Gipp, the subject of the famed “Win one for the Gipper” speech. Brandy also was Notre Dame's captain and star guard in basketball. In 1924, Brandy coached both the Tommies and served as head coach of the National Football League’s Minneapolis Mariners.
One of the most notable teams in UST football lore is the famed 1948 team which played in the Jan. 1, 1949 Cigar Bowl in Tampa, Fla. This is the only Minnesota team besides the Gophers to play in a New Year’s Day bowl game.
UST also played host to a notable 1918 home game vs. Minnesota -- becoming the lone MIAC team ever to play host to the Gophers on its own campus. The Tommies of old had wins over former Midwest powers Creighton and Marquette. St. Thomas football also competed against other top in-state programs through the years, including Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota State Mankato, St. Cloud State, Bemidji State and Concordia-St. Paul.
The Tommies have won 20 MIAC championships in one of the nation's top Division III conferences. Non-conference games versus teams from other top Midwestern conferences compliment UST's challenging conference schedule.
The schedule also includes a special rivalry game with St. John’s University. The Tommie-Johnnie football rivalry began in 1901 and regularly attracts more than 10,000 spectators. The 2010 game, won by UST 27-26, drew a then NCAA Division III-record crowd of 16,421. The 2014 game, won by St. John's by a 24-14 margin, drew an O'Shaughnessy Stadium-record crowd of 12,483. The 2016 game in Collegeville, a 33-21 St. Thomas victory, attracted 16,514 fans to mark another Diviison III best. That record was shattered in 2017 when the Tommies host SJU at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis. A crowd of 37,355 witnessed a 20-17 St. Thomas win.
Although St. John's controlled the football series for most of a stretch from 1960-2009, the Tommies have won four in a row (and seven of the last nine) over the Johnnies.
Notable Football Alumni
The UST football program has produced many exceptional student-athletes, including lineman Walt Kiesling, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame; running back Vince Lombardi Jr., son of the legendary Green Bay Packers coach; ex-Minnesota Viking receiver Jim Gustafson; ex-Viking and New York Giant defensive back Neal Guggemos; ex-NFL tight end Ryan Collins; and current Seattle Seahawk General Manager John Schneider, who was widely credited with building the 2013 World Champion team.
Thirty-one Tommies have been drafted or signed free-agent contracts with NFL teams. Recent pro prospects coached by Caruso include DE Ayo Idowu (Seattle Seahawks); FB Willie Schnider (Indianapolis Colts) and P Garrett Maloney (Minnesota Vikings). Ryan Collins, who finished his college career as a two-time All-American tight end, played for seven different pro teams before an injury ended his career in 2003.
The Tommies have had either an All-America or Academic All-America in 31 of the last 40 seasons -- including four All-America players in 2017. In 2015, junior running back Jordan Roberts was named national Offense Player of the Year by D3football.com and was a first-team All-America. Another Tommie standout is Josh Ostrue, a three-time All-America and D3football.com All-Decade offensive lineman. Ostrue was also awarded the 2008 and 2010 Rimington Trophy Awards in recognition of being selected the top center in Division III football.
The New Era
St. Thomas Football entered a new era in January 2008 when Glenn Caruso was named head coach. Coach Caruso has called on his long coaching resume -- including coordinator experiences at North Dakota State and the University of South Dakota -- to build on the previous Tommie football traditions and to make UST a consistent championship contender.
Coach Caruso led the Tommies to a 7-3 record in his first season, followed by a record-setting 11-2 mark, including a trip to the NCAA playoff quarterfinals, in 2009. Prior to Coach Caruso's arrival, UST finished 2-8 in 2007, and the two-year turnaround ranked as the biggest in Division III football over that time period.
The 2010 Tommies posted a 10-0 regular-season record with the school's first outright MIAC championship since 1983. UST finished the season with another trip to the NCAA playoff quarterfinals and a 12-1 record. The 2011 Tommies completed a second-consecutive 10-0 regular season and claimed another MIAC championship. UST finished with a trip to the NCAA playoff semifinals and a 13-1 record.
In 2012 the Tommies completed a third-consecutive 10-0 regular season and their third straight MIAC championship. They finished 14-1 after the program’s first trip to the Stagg Bowl for the Division III National Championship game, which was televised live on ESPN.
The 2015 team was unbeaten during the regular season with a 10-0 record and won the MIAC championship. The Tommies played St. John's in the postseason, marking the first team the two teams met twice during the same season, with St. Thomas winning both games. The season ended with a second place national finish after appearing in the Stagg Bowl and finishing with a 14-1.
In 2016 and 2017, St. Thomas went unbeaten against conference teams posted a combined 19-1 regular-season record to win the fifth and sixth MIAC championships of the Caruso era. Both tems reached the NCAA playoff quarterfinals and lost to the eventual NCAA runner-up.
Glenn Caruso’s 10-year St. Thomas record is 110-17. That includes his 103-14 mark since 2009, the third-best winning percentage in Division III in that span.
The Tommies play in 5,000-seat O’Shaughnessy Stadium on a FieldTurf surface at Palmer Field. New seating was installed in 2007; a state-of-the-art sound system was added in 2008; and in 2012, a new scoreboard was installed and boasts the largest video board in Division III.
In September 2010, UST opened one of the premier athletic facilities in the country, the new Anderson Athletic & Recreation Complex. The new facility includes a 4,500 square-foot football-only locker room with open-face oak lockers, four big screen televisions, an XBox station and a large projection screen used for meetings and viewing film. The facility also includes a 10,000 square-foot weight room; 6,000 square-foot physio/fitness area; a state-of-the-art training room; team meeting rooms; ample indoor practice space in the Anderson Fieldhouse; and priority stadium seating on the exterior of the new building. (Visit the UST YouTube Channel for a tour of the new facility).