Adding a new twist to a historic football rivalry that goes back more than a century, the 2017 football matchup between the University of St. Thomas and St. John’s University will be played at the Minnesota Twins’ Target field.

The announcement will be made at an 11 a.m. press conference today at the downtown Minneapolis stadium.

“Target Field is a spectacular venue,” said St. Thomas Athletic Director Steve Fritz. “The opportunity to hold our 2017 game against St. John’s will add another fun chapter to what is one of the country’s best college football rivalries.”

“The Twins organization is honored and excited to be hosting one of Minnesota’s great traditions,” said Twins President Dave St. Peter. “As the first-ever football game at Target Field, the historic Tommie-Johnnie rivalry should help create a special experience for the players, coaches and most importantly, the fans. We cannot wait for kickoff.”

Quarterback Alex Fenske rushes during the 2016 Tommie-Johnnie game in Collegeville.

Quarterback Alex Fenske rushes during the 2016 Tommie-Johnnie game in Collegeville.

The game will start at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, and unless the two teams play again in the 2016 postseason, it will be their 87th meeting since a 1901 Thanksgiving Day game played at Lexington Park in St. Paul, which later became the longtime home of the St. Paul Saints baseball team. The Target Field event is considered a home game for St. Thomas.

“We’re excited for many reasons,” said St. Thomas Head Football Coach Glenn Caruso. “What a great opportunity to play the nation’s biggest Division III rivalry in a venue such as Target Field. It not only allows us to highlight both proud institutions and our tremendous history, but it also lets us bring the game to a much larger game-day audience.”

Gary Fasching, the St. John’s coach, said “our players, coaches and fans are excited that Target Field will be the site of the next chapter in this storied rivalry.”

Attendance records

Six of the top-13 largest crowds reported for a Division III football game have involved Tommie-Johnnie contests. The 2014 game at St. Thomas’ campus in St. Paul drew a stadium record crowd of 12,483. The 2015 game in Collegeville garnered national attention on ESPN’s Sports Center and drew an announced crowd of 17,327 – believed at the time to be a record for Division III.

That record was broken this year on Oct. 10 when University of Wisconsin-Whitewater had an announced crowd of 17,535 for its win over University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in a battle of top-five ranked teams.

With a seating capacity of 39,000, Target Field could easily accommodate a new Division III record attendance. Since opening in 2010 it has hosted a number of non-baseball events including concerts, soccer games and music festivals.

The Tommie-Johnnie rivalry

Some things, like a campus under construction, never change. Here in the background of the 1969 game, O'Shaughnessy Educational Center is being built. The Tommies lost 11-33.

O’Shaughnessy Educational Center being built in the background of the 1969 game.

The two teams have played in every football season since 1952 and played twice in 1908 and 2015. St. John’s leads the all-time series 51-34-1. However, St. Thomas leads 6-4 overall against the Johnnies in the nine-year Glenn Caruso era.

The winner of the 2017 game gets to bring home the Holy Grail traveling trophy.

In the last eight seasons under Caruso, in 62 games against conference opponents, the Tommies are 6-3 vs. the Johnnies, 5-3 vs. Bethel, and 45-0 against the other six MIAC football schools.

In the last three seasons under Coach Gary Fasching, in 21 games against conference opponents, the Johnnies are 1-3 vs. Tommies, and 17-0 vs. the other seven MIAC foes.

There has been one tie, seven one-point escapes, and 11 other games decided by four or less points in the Tommie-Johnnie rivalry.

The Tommies are the first football program in the last 90 years to win four consecutive times on the Johnnies’ home field (2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016).

Another loss at Saint John's in 1966, 0-21. But that is an impressive crowd stacked up in the bleachers.

At St. John’s in 1966.

This will be the first Tommie-Johnnie football game played on a grass field since 2003 and will be the seventh Tommie-Johnnie meeting not played on campus. The other six are: 1901 and 1908 at Lexington Park in St. Paul; 1909 at Hamline University’s Norton Field; 1945 at St. Cloud Tech High School; and 1996 and 1997 in the Metrodome.

It is believed that this will be Minnesota’s first outdoor college football game played in a pro baseball venue since November 1965 when Saint John’s beat West Virginia’s Fairmont State in a playoff game in the old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington.

And while Target Field doesn’t have a roof, only one of the last 26 Tommie-Johnnie games was played in the rain. Some light showers fell on and off in 2005 at O’Shaughnessy Stadium.

For Target Field’s first football game, one end zone will stretch between home plate and first base. The other end zone will stretch along the left-field fence, with the St. Thomas sideline stretching along the third-base and left-field line. The Saint John’s sideline will be placed in right center field.

Ticket information

Tickets for the game will be made available at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6, for St. Thomas football season ticket holders (and Twins season ticket holders) and at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, for the greater St. Thomas community. They go on sale to the general public starting Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Seats are assigned and ticket prices range from $15 to $35 depending on the seat location.

Tickets are purchased through the Twins ticket office online, or by calling (612) 33-TWINS or (800) 33-TWINS.

There also will be designated student sections for each school. Tickets for these sections will cost $10 and will be available at Tommie Central in the Anderson Student Center beginning in the fall of 2017. Premium seating is planned; price and availability is being finalized and will be announced later.

Last 11 Tommie-Johnnie football games

Date/Location/Winner/Score/Attendance

Oct. 27, 2007 – Collegeville, St. John’s wins 51-34 (12,123)

Oct. 18, 2008 – St. Paul, St. John’s wins 12-9 (7,711)

Oct. 17, 2009 – Collegeville, St. John’s wins 20-17, OT (12,903)

Oct. 2, 2010 – Collegeville, St. Thomas wins 27-26, OT (16,421)

Oct. 1, 2011 – St. Paul, St. Thomas wins 63-7 (10,421)

Sept. 15, 2012 – Collegeville, St. Thomas wins 43-21 (14,280)

Sept. 21, 2013 – St. Paul, St. John’s wins 20-18 (10,800)

Sept. 27, 2014 – St. Paul, St. John’s wins 24-14 (12,483)

Sept. 26, 2015 – Collegeville, St. Thomas wins 35-14 (17,327)

Nov. 28, 2015 – St. Paul, St. Thomas wins 38-19 (8,025) (NCAA Playoffs)

Sept. 24, 2016 – Collegeville, St. Thomas wins 33-21 (16,514)

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5 Responses

  1. Paul

    I think it is a great idea to hold the game here maybe once every 5 years or so but the games should return to campus as the atmosphere on both campuses is fantastic and the best part of the tradition of this great rivalry. I think both schools would be missing the mark if this turns out to be the permanent venue for this rivalry.

  2. Carey

    I have a son on the team and what a great memory they will all make. The fact that 25k or more fans can enjoy this rivalry puts d3 football on the map! Hope if they can draw those big crowds that they always play it here. I went to the last 2 so I get the joy of playing on campus.

  3. Kathleen Cooke

    Agreed! purple on the plaza is great! Target field will be a great venue for D3 football for all fans to celebrate. Can’t wait GO TOMMIES!!!

  4. Michael '78

    St. Thomas’ decision to play next year’s Tommie-Johnnie game at Target Field is “penny-wise but pound-foolish”. Much of the fun and excitement of this tradition-filled game comes from actually being on campus (St. Johns or St. Thomas).

    Playing the game at Target Field may have some short-term appeal in regaining the D-III attendance record, but the benefit will be fleeting and, in the long-term, this stunt will diminish the appeal of the rivalry .

    Keep it on campus!

  5. Lee Javorski ('73)

    The electricity of the game will be swallowed up by Target Field. A beer at Target is a lousy substitution for Purple on the Plaza.

    My son in law, a long time Gopher Football Season ticket holder, commented that the excitement in the air at the Tommie/Johnnie event at UST a couple years ago far surpassed that at Gopher games.