Football Coach Caruso quits Mac for neighborhood rival St. Thomas

By Nate Wilson-Traisman

After only two seasons at Macalester, former head football coach Glenn Caruso has moved on down the road. Literally. Caruso officially accepted a job offer from St. Thomas on Jan. 24, in the wake of former St. Thomas football coach Don Roney’s resignation. Caruso announced the news over Macalester’s winter break, which made it increasingly more difficult for players to bear.

“One of the things that really bugged me was the timing,” Jake McDonnell ’10 said. “Everyone was home on break and all of a sudden we got this e-mail saying when we come back we wont have a coach anymore. It would have been better if he could have told us in person.”

With the move, Caruso finds himself in a rebuilding situation. At 2-8, the Tommie’s 2007 finish marked their worst season in 37 years. Still, the storied Tommie program ranks top 25 all-time in Division III winning percentage.

“It was an unbelievable opportunity for my family,” Caruso said. “That’s pretty much why we ended up here [St. Thomas].”

Former Macalester assistant coaches Travis Walch and Joe Lepsche will follow Caruso to St. Thomas.

Meanwhile, Macalester defensive coordinator Tony Jennison has been named interim head coach.

“I hope to name a new coach by the end of the week,” athletic director Travis Feezell said.

Meanwhile, Jennison has shown interest in removing the “interim” from his current title.

“I’ve demonstrated my desire to be the head football coach at Macalester College,” Jennison said.

Caruso took over the then 24-man Macalester team in 2006 following a 2-25 stretch. Caruso, who prior to coaching at Macalester was an offensive coordinator at North Dakota State and later South Dakota, was hired by Macalester in an attempt to bring energy to the struggling program. In his two seasons he led Macalester to a much-improved 7-12 record while doubling the roster size.

“Glenn really did two things that stand out,” Feezell said. “First, he changed the culture around football and injected some excitement into that program. Second, he upgraded recruiting. Our recruiting classes were deeper and we were getting towards that goal of having a larger roster.”

Players, though, expressed discontent regarding Caruso’s departure, some of which stemmed from a recent press conference at St. Thomas where Caruso implied that he knew he wanted to coach at St. Thomas when he read its mission statement nine months ago.

“It seems like he had his mind made up before the season had even started when a lot of the freshmen were making up their minds to come here,” quarterback Trevor Miehe ’11 said. “It seems like when we were deciding to come here he was making up his mind to leave.”

Others expressed resentment that Caruso not only left, but also that he took a job in such close proximity to Macalester.

“It hurts worse because he moved so close,” McDonnell said.

Caruso was quick to note that he never sought out the St. Thomas job, and he remained adamant about his initial plans to remain at Macalester for the long-term.

“The intention was not to only be there for two years in any way, shape or form,” Caruso said. “That was not the plan going in but it is the way it worked out.”

McDonnell displayed some understanding for the move although he was admittedly upset. He mentioned that St. Thomas’ larger roster and higher acceptance rate create an easier environment for recruitment.

“My first feeling was anger that he ditched us, but now I respect the decision,”
McDonnell said. “It’s almost a good thing that he’s gone because it gives our team something to rally around.”

Macalester will play next season’s first game at St. Thomas, a game that will undoubtedly be packed with passion for both squads.

“It’s going to be very emotional,” Miehe said. “Hopefully we actually come out and make a statement.”

Caruso also acknowledged that strong sentiments should be apparent come next season’s opener.

“No matter what happens at 1:00 on September 6, I think there’s going to be a little piece of me that’s gonna feel sad in some way, but that’s the nature of the beast,” Caruso said.

He went on to say that despite how individuals may interpret his departure, he still cherishes his stint at Macalester.

“I want to give a very sincere thank you to the players on the Mac team because even though they may not understand this now, I do value our relationship,” Caruso said. “I’m one way or another gonna take a lot of pride in their future success over the coming years.”

Regardless, Macalester coaches and players alike expect little change for the future. With Jennison still on staff, defensive schemes and play calling should remain exactly the same.

“Nothing will change on the defensive side of the ball,” linebacker Jeff Wankel ’08 said.

Additionally, it is clear that despite whatever resentment Caruso’s exit may have caused, the football program is ready to pick up where Caruso left off. With their 4-5 finish in 2007, the Scots are coming off their best season since 2002.

“Our coaches and players have made a conscious decision to keep moving forward,” Jennison said. “And that’s really a testament to their character and their belief in one another.