St. Thomas football coach Glenn Caruso again is a finalist for Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year in NCAA Division III, it was announced Tuesday.
Caruso won the honor in 2010 and finished second this month in fan voting, which helped to determine the five finalists for the 2011 competition. Fans can vote again to help determine the winner, once per day until Dec. 22, at coachoftheyear.com.
The other finalists are Steve Johnson of Bethel, Lance Leipold of UW-Whitewater, Keith Emery of Western New England and Stan Sweifel of Dubuque.
Fan voting accounts for 20 percent of the tally in determining the winner, with 55 percent from the College Football Hall of Fame selection committee and 25 percent from a national media panel. The winner will be announced Jan. 9 before the BCS title game in New Orleans.
Last year at age 36, Caruso became the youngest winner of the Liberty Mutual Award, which was first presented in 2006. The program has honored 17 coaches from FBS, FCS, Division II and III based on their on-field leadership and achievements as well as community service and charity involvement.
Since his 2008 hiring at St. Thomas, Caruso has guided the best four-year turnaround among all 640 NCAA football programs. He took over a team that finished 2-8 in 2007 and has a 43-6 record: 7-3 in 2008, 11-2 in 2009, 12-1 in 2010 and 13-0 this year heading into the Division III semifinal game Saturday at Whitewater.
The 2011 Coach of the Year Award again will include a $50,000 gift to the winner’s designated charities and a $20,000 donation to the St. Thomas Alumni Association.
Last year, the alumni funds went to scholarships and Caruso designated his charity funds to the Yale-New Haven Cancer Center, as well as a local charity, Bucky’s Pride, that he created with his wife Rachael to support families of children affected by cancer and blood disorders.
Caruso was diagnosed at age 5 with a life-threatening blood disorder. He credits the doctors at Yale-New Haven for helping save his life, and in appreciation he previously set up a living trust with the hospital as the beneficiary.
He met his wife at a Special Olympics volunteer event and volunteered in that organization for six years. He also initiated a reading in the schools program this fall at an elementary school, speaks to local youth sports organizations and schools, has assisted with Toys for Tots and works with National Football Foundation events.
His 2010 and 2011 Tommies became the first team in MIAC history to compile back-to-back 10-0 regular seasons and won their first consecutive conference titles since 1948-1949. This season, they have been ranked No. 3 in Division III since Sept. 18, behind two-time defending national champion Whitewater and Mount Union. Last month, Caruso’s peers voted him the MIAC Coach of the Year for the second straight year.
The 2010 Liberty Mutual award marked the sixth time in the last 10 seasons that a St. Thomas coach received national Coach of the Year honors, but it was the first award of its kind for a Tommie football coach since Frank Deig was named National Small College Coach of the Year in 1956.