Frank Caruso was an attorney in Greenwich, Conn., and so admired by his son Glenn that the young man’s intention after Ithaca College was to get into law school.
Consultation with Frank sent Glenn into another direction — football coaching — but he did take along his dad’s dedication to planning. Since 2008, he has been the head coach for St. Thomas’ return to football potency.
“I start every year with a daily calendar,” Caruso said. “I write notes on what occurred daily during a year and then, over the Christmas break, I go through that and write out a calendar for the next year.
“It’s similar to my father’s briefing for a case. For me, it’s a plan for what can be accomplished on each day.
“Obviously, there are going to be adjustments. In the past, I’ve had maybe 12 or 13 iterations of the calendar by the time our players get back on campus in August.’’
And what’s the number of new versions in 2020, the year the pandemic changed the world, and the year the NCAA in historic fashion approved an immediate jump from Division III to Division I for St. Thomas in 2021-22?
“I counted 64 iterations on the calendar before our first team meeting in September,” Caruso said. “I had to give up. Right now, as I told the team, we’re planning in 14-day hunks and can only hope things don’t change drastically in that time.”
You want an example of Caruso’s preferred preciseness as a coach? Q: “How many players did you have in fall practice?” Caruso: “Anywhere from 128 to 130.’’
Wide range there, Glenn. Let’s get organized.
Here are the highlights on the Caruso calendar now:
Dec. 16 — Start of three-day early signing period for Division I football, both FBS (with its limit of 85 scholarships, all full) and FCS (63 scholarships distributed among 85 players).
Except, there are no football scholarships in the Pioneer League, where the Tommies are headed in the fall of 2021, or the Ivy League. Football players can receive academic scholarships.
Caruso expects to have the Tommies sign 25 players in mid-December. It’s not the letter of intent that binds a player receiving a scholarship to a school. It’s an admissions letter, similar to the proverbial “preferred walk-on” at scholarship schools — basically, a non-binding commitment.
“We’ve had two kids in 13 years decommit after assuring us they were coming to St. Thomas,’’ Caruso said. “With the level of work we do to make sure this is the right place for both us, the athlete and the school, I don’t expect that to change in FCS.”
MIAC Mini-season: The pandemic wiped out fall sports for the MIAC. Carleton and St. Olaf have announced they will not participate in athletics for the 2020-21 school year. There remains hope for a spring football season — four or five games among seven teams — spread out across a number of weeks, perhaps March to May.
“We truly want to be able to play our 100th season in the MIAC,” Caruso said. “We have Tommies who have put tremendous effort into being students and athletes. And they are people that want to play very badly, as do we, as coaches.
“Division I can wait. We want to go out with full pride as an original member of the MIAC.”
The pre-pandemic plan was for St. Thomas and St. John’s to play for the 90th time on Nov. 7 at U.S. Bank Stadium. There was strong sentiment that the crowd could approach 50,000 for that Johnnies home game.
Now, if there’s a mini-season this spring, and the pandemic is more under control, it’s very unlikely that a wrap-up game — say, in early May — would be allowed to assemble that many people. It seems sensible to plan to have the last one in Collegeville, in a college setting.
PIONEER PREPARATION: St. Thomas and Presbyterian (Clinton, S.C.) will be new members of the Coast-to-Coast Pioneer Football League, bringing the number of teams back to 11.
There is no schedule yet. As for recruiting, Caruso said the Tommies’ footprint has gotten more widespread with the move to non-scholarship FCS.
“We’ve had a large number of players who would do very well at this level,” Caruso said. “To name one, a running back like Josh Parks, great for us, and he would’ve been great in FCS. Our top 10 players from recent teams could play FCS.
“As a whole, the profile of the athlete we’re recruiting has changed. I’d be shocked if our roster doesn’t remain strongly Minnesotan and Upper Midwest. But we do have a bigger megaphone now for the national group of recruits.”
One thing Caruso has learned in the pandemic: the existence of Zoom.
“I had never heard of it,”’ Caruso said. “I’ve found out there are many things than can be accomplished with Zoom, including as a time-saver.
“When we started doing it, I was complaining about not being able to get a look at an athlete’s face to read if he was getting the message.
“So our offensive linemen — including a future engineer — went to work and came up with cloth mask that includes a clear shield for the mouth and nose.
“It’s great. These young people are so smart, it amazes me."