The St. Thomas/St. John’s football rivalry has officially reached the end.
St. John’s announced this week that its football team will not play games this spring and will instead focus on getting ready for the fall season.
St. Thomas is moving to Division I this fall, so this spring would have been the final chance to hold a Tommie/Johnnie finale.
The original plan was for those two teams to meet last fall at U.S. Bank Stadium, but their fall seasons were canceled because of the pandemic.
“We are all disappointed that COVID means there won’t be one final football game with the Tommies,” St. John’s athletic director Bob Alpers said in the news release. “We’ve enjoyed the great competition and relationships our schools, our players, fans, alums and coaches have had in all sports.”
Johnnies coach Gary Fasching added, “I would have loved to have played them in front of maybe 50,000 fans last fall at U.S. Bank Stadium. That’s what we were hoping for. But because of COVID, it didn’t happen.”
Schools in the MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) had the option of playing games this spring. Fasching said in the news release that it was “not an easy decision” to forgo that chance.
He wanted to wait through three weeks of spring practice before making a final decision.
“We have seniors on this team who are planning to graduate and won’t be coming back next fall,” Fasching said. “We know what we do this spring is it for them, and we’re heartbroken about that. But ultimately, we had to make the decision we felt was best for our football program and our campus community overall.”
Among the factors, Fasching noted that several St. John’s players also play spring sports or are seniors who are taking the semester off with the NCAA now allowing them an extra season of eligibility. All told, the Johnnies are down 40 players this spring, including several starters.
The MIAC is not awarding a conference football title this spring and there are no Division III playoffs. And then there are safety and logistical challenges involved with competition during the pandemic.
“We witnessed first-hand what happened with our basketball and hockey teams this winter,” Alpers, the AD, said in the news release. “Although we did not have a single positive case in our winter sports, both basketball and hockey each had to pause for two weeks due to positive cases from schools we played.
“There is a very real possibility that we, or one of the schools we play, will have positive cases that will force our football team to pause. With our large squad size, we can’t take the chance of having that many young men placed into quarantine or isolation, disrupting not only our season but also our residential program and in-person classes.”
Instead the Johnnies are pointed toward their fall schedule, which is scheduled to start Sept. 4, in Collegeville, against Aurora.