Tommie head football coach Glenn Caruso made history today: He was introduced in New Orleans as the first two-time recipient in the six-year history of the elite national Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year honor.

After a record-setting season marked by St. Thomas’ first trip to the semifinal round of the NCAA playoffs, Caruso was named Liberty Mutual’s Division III winner for 2011. The program is among the top college football honors and recognizes coaches for sportsmanship, integrity, responsibility and excellence, on and off field. 

In January 2011, at age 36, Caruso became the youngest recipient of the award. This year he again rose above a group of four other Division III coach finalists – Bethel’s Steve Johnson, Lance Leipold of UW-Whitewater, Keith Emery of Western New England, and Stan Sweifel of Dubuque.

For the second year in a row, the St. Thomas community helped elevate Caruso as he received the most fan support in the Dec. 6-22 online voting at CoachoftheYear.com. Fan votes contributed 20 percent to each coach’s final score, and the media and College Football Hall of Fame ballots accounted for 25 percent and 55 percent, respectively. 

Caruso will again be honored in the permanent Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year display at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind. In addition, Liberty Mutual will make a $50,000 charitable donation on his behalf, which Caruso has designated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; Bucky’s Pride; and the Ronald McDonald House Charities, Upper Midwest, in Minneapolis. Liberty Mutual also will make a $20,000 scholarship donation to the St. Thomas Alumni Association in his name. 

The 2011 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year winners from other NCAA football divisions are Les Miles, Louisiana State (FBS); Rob Ash, Montana State University (FCS); and Tim Beck, Pittsburg (Kan.) State University (Division II).

Coach grateful

Caruso and his wife, Rachael, are in New Orleans and as part of the festivities will be guests at tonight’s FBS championship game between Alabama and LSU. He said he’s proud and humbled to receive the honor again in 2011.

“My thanks go to Liberty Mutual and the Coach of the Year organization for this amazing honor,” Caruso said. “My thanks also go to my wife, Rachael, and our family, but moreover, to the coaches’ and players’ families, whose selfless commitment and sacrifice for our passions allow us to chase our dreams. It’s such an honor to accept this award primarily because it has such extensive and absolute criteria. Beyond on-field success, it’s well-balanced by recognizing excellence in the classroom as well as effect and reflection that a team has on its community.

“The fact that we have been blessed to win this award twice is a function of the community here at the University of St Thomas. I believe it speaks less about an individual  and more about the village.”

At age 5, Caruso was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood disorder. He credits the doctors at Yale-New Haven Cancer center for helping save his life at that time. In appreciation, he previously set up a living trust with that hospital as the beneficiary, and in 2011 established Bucky’s Pride – named after his late father, Frank “Bucky” Caruso – to support families of children affected by cancer and blood disorders.

“Through this award and the genuine goodness and generosity of Liberty Mutual, we can further support some great organizations like Bucky’s Pride, St Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House of Minnesota,” Caruso said. “These organizations help families in unfortunate situations without asking for anything in return.

“As I get older, I realize more and more how much one’s community and environment play a role in anyone’s success; so it allows me to accept this award not as an individual, but rather as a part of the greater UST community of families, coaches, staff, administration, fans and alumni.”

Another honor

This is Caruso’s second national award for 2011, as he recently was chosen as Division III Coach of the Year by American Football Monthly.

This marks the fourth time in the last three years – and eighth time in the last 11 seasons – that a St. Thomas head coach has been named a national Coach of the Year.

“Being named the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award winner for the second consecutive year is a testament to Glenn’s significant impact and positive influence on our students and our community,” said Steve Fritz, UST athletics director.

Another turnaround

Caruso has done something unheard of in college football coaching – he has improved his record in each of his first six seasons as a head coach. He inherited a Macalester football program that was 0-9 the previous fall and guided the Scots to records of 2-7 and then 4-5. He took over a St. Thomas program coming off a 2-8 season and has posted records of 7-3, 11-2, 12-1 and 13-1 in four seasons here.

This year, Caruso led St. Thomas to a school-record 13 wins, the Division III semifinals, and earned a season-ending D3football.com ranking of No. 4 in the nation. UST had a record five All-America honorees and also had two players named to the Capital One Academic All-America team. The No. 3 national ranking during the season was St. Thomas football’s best ever.

St. Thomas now has claimed back-to-back conference championships, the school’s first since 1948 and 1949. It became the first team in MIAC history to post back-to-back 10-0 records in the regular season.

“For us, this journey has always been about the kids and the opportunity to add value to their lives, so I find it appropriate to dedicate this award to our senior class who has very special place in my heart,” Caruso said. “This is a group of young men that came to play for us four years ago before the championships, undefeated MIAC seasons, facilities and national rankings. They came to UST on the belief and faith that we would be able to make this program better and bring it to national prominence, and they did that. This award is both for and because of them, and I thank them for adding value to our lives.”

In four seasons under Caruso, UST football has won CoSIDA Academic All-America honors five times; had one National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete; has had two Gagliardi Trophy finalists; had two AFCA Good Works Team honorees; and on the field has had two conference Player of the Year recipients and eight players who combined to win 12 All-America honors.

Caruso was voted the 2010 and 2011 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year – the first such honors for a UST football coach since 1993. In his 43-7 overall record at St. Thomas, his Tommies have been a model of consistency as they’ve led in the second half or overtime in 48 of the 50 games.

Off the field, Caruso and his program make a great impact in St. Paul and beyond.  With his award from the 2010 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year, Caruso founded “Bucky’s Pride.” He is a founder of a Reading Recess program, and the Tommie players and he participated in the Up ‘Til Dawn Benefit writing 2,000 letters to raise funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

“When Liberty Mutual created this award in 2006, we set out to establish an award that is more than an acknowledgement of a great season, but rather the highest recognition of the responsibility coaches have to their schools and their communities, on and off the field,” said Greg Gordon, Liberty Mutual senior vice president, Consumer Marketing. “Every year our winners use their award to positively impact so many people in their communities, and we are excited to help extend the reach of Coach Caruso’s favorite charities in 2012.”

With this year’s awards, Liberty Mutual now has donated more than $1.5 million to nearly 85 charities on behalf of the 21 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year winners since the program was initiated in 2006.

St. Thomas national Coach of the Year recipients

  • 1956: Frank Deig, Football (National Small College Coach of the Year)
  • 1991: Ted Riverso, Women’s Basketball
  • 1992: Dave Orren, Volleyball (AVCA)
  • 1995: Joe Sweeney, Women’s Track and Field (USTFCCCA)
  • 2001: Dennis Denning, Baseball (ABCA)
  • 2004: John Tschida, Softball (NFCA)
  • 2005: John Tschida, Softball (NFCA)
  • 2005: Terry Skrypek, Men’s Hockey (ACHA)
  • 2009: Dennis Denning, Baseball (ABCA)
  • 2010: Glenn Caruso, Football (Liberty Mutual)
  • 2011: Steve Fritz, Men’s Basketball (NABC)
  • 2011: Glenn Caruso, Football (Liberty Mutual)