St. Thomas head football coach Glenn Caruso made history today: He was introduced in Miami as the first three-time recipient in the seven-year history of the elite national Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year program.

After a record-setting season marked by St. Thomas’ first trip to the NCAA championship game, Caruso today was announced as Liberty Mutual’s Division III winner again in 2012. He has received the elite honor three consecutive seasons.

The program is among the top college football honors and recognizes coaches for sportsmanship, integrity, responsibility and excellence, on and off the field.

For the third year in a row, the St. Thomas community helped elevate Caruso as he received exceptional support in the December 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 another $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.

Off the field, Caruso and his program make a great impact in St. Paul and beyond. With his funds from the 2010 and 2011 Liberty Mutual awards, Caruso founded “Bucky’s Pride.” He is a founder of a Reading Recess program at local elementary schools. He joined Tommie players and in the Up ’Til Dawn Benefit writing 2,000 letters to raise funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. He also holds an annual youth football camp and is active in state and national coaching organizations.

Liberty Mutual also will make another $20,000 scholarship donation to the St. Thomas Alumni Association in Caruso’s name as part of the award.

The other 2012 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year winners are Brian Kelly, Notre Dame (FBS); Willie Fritz, Sam Houston State (FCS); and Peter Rossomando, New Haven (Division II).

Previous winners, from all divisions, include Minnesota Gopher Coach Jerry Kill (2007, Southern Illinois); ex-St. John’s coach John Gagliardi (2007); Alabama’s Nick Saban (2008); Mount Union’s Larry Kehres (2008); and ex-Minnesota-Duluth coach Bob Nielson (2010).

Coach Grateful

Caruso and his wife Rachael are in Miami and as part of the festivities will be guests at tonight’s FBS championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame. He said he’s proud and humbled to receive the honor again in 2012.

“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.

“The fact that we have been blessed to win this award again is a function of the community and confluence 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 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 in the memory of 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,” Caruso said, “we can further support some great organizations like Bucky’s Pride, St Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House of Minnesota. 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 plays 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.”

“Being named the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award winner for the third 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.

Caruso accomplishments at St. Thomas

Caruso has improved his record in each of his first seven seasons as a head coach. He inherited a Macalester program that was 0-9 in 2005 and guided the Scots to records of 2-7 and 4-5. He took over a St. Thomas program coming off a 2-8 season in 2007 and has posted records of 7-3, 11-2, 12-1, 13-1 and 14-1 in five seasons here, voted MIAC Coach of the Year the last three seasons.

This year, Caruso led St. Thomas to a school-record 14 wins and the Division III finals and earned a season-ending AFCA ranking of No. 2 in the nation, a program best. UST had four All-America honorees. St. Thomas has won three consecutive conference championships and became the first team in MIAC history to post three consecutive 10-0 records in the regular season.

In five seasons under Caruso, UST football has won CoSIDA Academic All-America honors five times; one National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete; three Gagliardi Trophy semifinalists; three AFCA Good Works Team honorees; two conference Player of the Year recipients and 11 players combine to win All-America honors a total of 16 times.

UST national coaches of the year

This marks the fifth time in the last four years — and ninth time in the last 12 seasons — that a St. Thomas coach has been honored as a national Coach of the Year. Recipients are:

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 and American Football Monthly

2012: Glenn Caruso, football (Liberty Mutual and AFCA)

UPDATE: Caruso also named American Football Coaches’ Association Division III National Coach of the Year

On Jan. 8, Caruso was named Division III National Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches’ Association (AFCA). The elite award is voted on by fellow Division III coaches.

He is the third Division III honoree in the 30-year history of the AFCA award to lead the voting without winning the NCAA championship.