Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Seniors at the University of St. Thomas will get their degrees on Saturday, but many athletes are already taking the time to reflect on one of the most successful sports years in the school’s history.
St. Thomas won a total of 10 MIAC titles, six in men’s sports and four in women’s to sweep the conference’s All Sports Competition. It’s the sixth straight year they’ve won it on both sides, and it’s a mark that goes back to 2006-07, when St. John’s won the men’s title and Gustavus got the women’s. The 2012-13 year was arguably one of the most successful in the history of St. Thomas athletics.
It marked one of the most successful runs for St. Thomas sports teams when it comes to NCAA Tournament runs. The volleyball team, coached by Thanh Pham, finished 34-1 and won an NCAA title. John Tauer’s men’s basketball team finished 30-2, won a MIAC regular season and conference tournament title and got to the NCAA Final Four before losing to Mary-Hardin Baylor.
Glenn Caruso’s football program has gotten better every year since he took it over five years ago. The Tommies are 30-0 in the regular season the last three years, have won three straight MIAC titles and made four straight NCAA Playoff appearances. St. Thomas got to the NCAA championship game last fall before coming up short to Mount Union.
The women’s basketball team won the MIAC postseason tournament advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 before having its season end.
If you take an even broader look at St. Thomas athletics, the numbers are simply staggering. The men’s basketball program has won eight straight MIAC Playoff tournaments, the baseball program has won nine MIAC titles in 14 years, including two in the past four years. They also won the national championship most recently in 2009.
The men’s track team there has also won 26 of the last 31 MIAC titles, including one this year, while the women’s team has won nine straight MIAC titles.
It should come as no surprise that St. Thomas athletics has seen the boom that it has in the last few years. When the Anderson family donated more than $50 million for a new athletics facility on campus, suddenly St. Thomas had every resource it needed to continue its athletic excellence. Many programs had successful traditions before the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Center became a reality, now they can go to an entirely different level with new facilities. Take one tour through the athletic building and you’ll notice something: It’s better than any other facility in the MIAC, and it’s better than the University of Minnesota, the only Division I school in the state.
Many student-athletes from Minnesota will choose Division I or Division II schools out of high school so they can play a sport on scholarship, then realize the full-time job of being a college student and athlete isn’t for them. When it’s time for a change of scenery, they look to St. Thomas because they can be an athlete, go to class and still have a life. The Tommies also are now starting to get that upper-echelon talent that might otherwise go to a larger division because they know at St. Thomas anything is possible.
The school has managed to find the right mesh of coaches who can motivate and get their messages across to athletes with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities to stay at the top of their game. The only catch is being a Division III school, St. Thomas doesn’t offer athletic scholarships and the student-athlete has to pay their own way for school.
St. Thomas has had eight teams who have won a total of 15 national titles. Women’s cross country leads the pack with five national titles, while men’s cross country, baseball and softball have each won two NCAA titles.
It should be interesting to see how the fall starts with the volleyball team coming off a national title and Caruso’s squad appeared in a national title game. It appears with the investment the school has made in its athletics facilities, St. Thomas fans and alumni shouldn’t expect anything less than playoff appearances and a few NCAA runs, potentially to trophis.
Here’s a look at, by sport, the St. Thomas teams that have won NCAA titles and the years they were national champions.
Women’s Cross Country (1981, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1987)
Men’s Cross Country (1984, 1986)
Men’s Indoor Track (1985)
Women’s Basketball (1991)
Baseball (2001, 2009)
Softball (2004, 2005)
Men’s Basketball (2011)