The St. Thomas/St. John's football rivalry has officially reached the end.
St. John's announced this week that its football team will not play games this spring and will instead focus on getting ready for the fall season.
St. Thomas is moving to Division I this fall, so this spring would have been the final chance to hold a Tommie/Johnnie finale.
"It's unfortunate they're not on our schedule," St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso said. "And I have to respect that other schools are going to make choices that are best for them."
The original plan was for the Johnnies and Tommies to play their finale on Nov. 7 at U.S. Bank Stadium, but their fall seasons were canceled because of the pandemic.
"I would have loved to have played them in front of maybe 50,000 fans last fall at U.S. Bank Stadium," Johnnies coach Gary Fasching said in the news release. "That's what we were hoping for. But because of COVID, it didn't happen."
The rivalry dates back to 1901, and St. John's won the all-time series 53-35-1. The teams squared off at the Metrodome, Target Field and Allianz Field. The game at Target Field in 2017 drew an announced crowd of 37,355.
Schools in the MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) had the option of playing four games this spring. Fasching said in the news release that it was "not an easy decision" to forgo that chance.
He wanted to wait through three weeks of spring practice before making a final decision.
Among the factors, Fasching noted that several St. John's players also play spring sports or are seniors who are taking the semester off with the NCAA now allowing them an extra season of eligibility. All told, the Johnnies are down 40 players this spring, including several starters.
The MIAC is not awarding a conference football title this spring and there are no Division III playoffs. And then there are the pandemic's logistical challenges.
"We witnessed first-hand what happened with our basketball and hockey teams this winter," Jonnies AD Bob Alpers said in the news release. "Although we did not have a single positive case in our winter sports, both basketball and hockey each had to pause for two weeks due to positive cases from schools we played.
"There is a very real possibility that we, or one of the schools we play, will have positive cases that will force our football team to pause."
Instead the Johnnies are pointed toward their fall schedule, which is scheduled to start Sept. 4, in Collegeville, against Aurora.
St. Thomas scrimmaged against Concordia (St. Paul) last Saturday and has a game scheduled against Augsburg at O'Shaughnessy Stadium on April 17.
"There's no question it's difficult, but shoot, in my opinion, I believe we owe it to our guys to make every effort to give them the opportunity to compete," Caruso said. "And I'm grateful and blessed there's a lot of people who are doing that at St. Thomas."