Raising our excellence, impact and reputation
Hailing from 16 states and four countries, St. Thomas’ first class of Division I athletes is its most geographically diverse recruiting class ever. The 150 total recruits, coming from as far away as Switzerland, Sweden and Canada, will help boost recognition for St. Thomas as the university makes its debut in the nation’s top intercollegiate division.
“They all have different backgrounds and life experiences, but they share a few common threads,” football head coach Glenn Caruso said of his recruiting class that has players from big and small cities in 10 states, including Las Vegas, Nevada; Birmingham, Alabama; and Naples, Florida. “I think that our program, our team and our school are well served by that diversity of experience.”
In scouring the country, the coaches looked beyond each recruit’s athletic prowess to ensure the students would also be a good fit across the university. For one, the incoming athletes have an average 3.65 GPA.
“Our student-athletes are incredibly academic,” women’s soccer coach Sheila McGill said. “We’re really proud of who they are as people, as much as they are students, as much as they are soccer players.”
Vice President and Director of Athletics Phil Esten agrees. “Reclassifying to Division I helped us successfully attract a more geographically diverse cross section of accomplished students who will add value to classroom discussions, campus life, cocurricular activities and virtually every aspect of St. Thomas.”
It is important to St. Thomas that it continues to emphasize comprehensive excellence to meet its strategic goal to become a top 10 Catholic university.
“This is a significant, historic opportunity as we capture national attention for St. Thomas through intercollegiate athletics,” Esten said. Others also recognize that significance. Athletics secured philanthropic commitments of approximately $10 million last fiscal year. The department also identified new sources of revenue through strategic partnerships with the top multimedia rights and licensing company in the country.
“When you're applying those same expectations of all-around excellence and then looking for someone who might be taller or run faster or tackle harder … you have to expand the footprint of where you're looking,” Caruso said. “The core values and mission of our school is something I’m simply not willing to bend on.”Glenn Caruso, football head coach
McGill has experienced firsthand how moving to D-I has generated new excitement and broader interest in St. Thomas. Her class of 12 signees represents five states and includes the program’s first-ever recruit from Montana.
"We want the right fit, not just a good player, and you can’t always see that from a game film,” McGill said. “We love the academic piece, we love the athletic piece, and we love that personality piece, but it's got to all come together.”
To find athletes who are as skilled on the field as in the classroom, the football coaching staff evaluated film, academics, community involvement and other characteristics of 600 student-athletes before landing on 30 signees.
“When you're applying those same expectations of all-around excellence and then looking for someone who might be taller or run faster or tackle harder … you have to expand the footprint of where you're looking,” Caruso said. “The core values and mission of our school is something I’m simply not willing to bend on.”