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Kevin Schnepf, Published November 03 2012

Schnepf column: Ex-Bison assistant Caruso has found a home at St. Thomas

Moorhead - Back in 1997, about the time the Red River was swallowing up Grand Forks, Glenn Caruso was in Ithaca, N.Y., soaking up his father’s advice.

“Go as far away as you can and find out who you are,” Frank Caruso told his 23-year-old son, who was contemplating becoming an attorney like his dad.

Caruso packed up his Volkswagon Golf and headed to North Dakota State. That’s where he discovered he was a football coach.

Saturday afternoon at Concordia’s Jake Christianson Stadium, a 38-year-old Caruso was coaching St. Thomas to a 21-7 victory.

In the showcase game of Division III, the win further solidified St. Thomas as the team to beat in the MIAC. In his fifth season at St. Thomas, Caruso now sports a 52-8 record, a 26-game MIAC winning streak and a 33-game regular season win streak.

“I would say this is the most impressive program win we’ve had here in my five years,” said Caruso, who due to injuries, played five freshmen on the offense. “It truly showed the heart of our program, plus it was a win against a great football team.”

Caruso, now 5-0 against the Cobbers, always considers a game at Concordia a homecoming of sorts. As an NDSU assistant coach under Bob Babich for five seasons, Caruso met his wife, Rachael, from Mandan, N.D.

He also fell in love with the Midwest.

“My friends back East always ask me when I’m coming back home,” Caruso said. “No way I’m leaving here. If you can’t coach an Upper Midwest kid, you have to get out of coaching. It is the best crop of mentally tough and just good kids.

“I love where we are because football is so woven into the culture down here … much like it was at NDSU. This place has been fantastic. This could absolutely be my last job.”

When Caruso came to St. Thomas, he took over a 2-8 team – rapidly improving from a 206 national ranking to its current No. 3 ranking.

Equipped with a 4,500-square foot football locker room, a 10,000 square-foot weight room and an indoor practice facility, Caruso maintains St. Thomas was ready for success when he arrived.

Caruso has also cashed in on St. Thomas’ location in the heavily populated Twin Cities area. More than 70 players on his roster come from Twin Cities high schools. He’s sprinkled in a few players from Florida, California, Wisconsin and Illinois.

For good measure, he has six transfers who were once Division I walk-ons.

“There’s just a perception that we are loaded with Division I transfers,” Caruso said. “At the end of the day, the hearty mass of our team is the four-year players from the Upper Midwest.”

At the end of Saturday, Caruso and Concordia head coach Terry Horan extended a lengthy hug.

“I think the world of Terry and I love the way he runs that program,” Caruso sadi. “For whatever reason, we play well against Concordia … probably because our guys know how good they are.”

At the end of Saturday, St. Thomas was once again the MIAC champion. If it closes the regular season with a win over St. Olaf, it will become the first team in the MIAC’s 92-year history with three straight unbeaten seasons.

“That’s a pretty special distinction,” Caruso said.

A distinction that says Caruso made the right career choice back in 1997.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

or kschnepf@forumcomm.com