With the fall sports seasons underway, there are events for students, family and alumni to enjoy before games all throughout the fall. While teams’ lineups may change every year, certain traditions always return for St. Thomas fans to enjoy.
You’ll see them at every home football game at St. Thomas. As the crowd roars, they charge into O’Shaughnessy Stadium chanting and singing, primed and ready for Saturday’s game. No, I’m not talking about St. Thomas football players, but rather the team’s biggest fans, a group of seminarians known as Caruso’s Crew.
After taking over the St. Thomas football program in 2008, coach Glenn Caruso approached the men of St. John Vianney undergraduate seminary and asked if they’d be willing to organize a group to regularly attend home football games and lead the crowd in supporting the Tommies. The men of SJV were happy to oblige. With the construction of the Anderson Student Center and Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex going on around O’Shaughnessy Stadium at the time, the seminarians settled on a construction crew theme for their new pep squad.
The crew shows up to games wearing white hard hats and painted-on beards, equipped with a 6-foot cardboard hammer, saw and T-square, and clad in denim with muscle shirts and suspenders (or flannel shirts for cold-weather games). While the crew members change from year to year, the costumes are handed down after each season, so as the students come and go, it appears as though the same crew returns each fall to cheer on their St. Thomas football team.
South Campus Tailgating
During the 2009 season, a few parents with sons on the football team would meet and cook out along Summit Avenue before games. It wasn’t long before they approached the university about designating a parking lot on campus for tailgating to facilitate more alumni and family involvement at football games. University administration then allocated Lot M between Loras Hall and O’Shaughnessy Science Hall for alumni and family use, and the tailgates took off.
What started as just a few families who liked to gather along Summit Avenue before each game has grown into a full-blown tradition among alumni and the families of current players. On football Saturdays you can expect to see dozens – and oftentimes hundreds – of Tommie football fans on south campus preparing to watch their team take the field.
Purple on the Plaza
Cookouts on the quad before the first home game of the season and before the homecoming game always have been popular among students; however, construction of the Anderson Student Center and the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex prevented those events from being held during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Starting in fall 2011, after the construction of the buildings had been completed, pregame events returned to campus in the form of Purple on the Plaza. Held in the area between the two Anderson buildings, and just outside of O’Shaughnessy Stadium, Purple on the Plaza offers students, alumni and St. Thomas fans a place to enjoy the gameday atmosphere. Fans who attend Purple on the Plaza can expect to meet Tommie, the St. Thomas mascot, hear live music, see performances from both the dance team and cheer squad and – of course – get plenty of food.
For the biggest fans of St. Thomas athletics, there’s Fanamaniac. No matter the sport and no matter the season, Fanamaniac raises school spirit before and during games.
The Fanamaniac program helps to raise student enthusiasm for St. Thomas athletics by offering everything from free T-shirts and gear during games to free meals before events. Fanamaniac also helps students attend select hockey games by offering shuttles to Saint Thomas Ice Arena in Mendota Heights. Fanamaniac is a program of the Student Activities and Recreation board and is supported by the Undergraduate Student Government.