The St. Thomas athletic department has shown it is among the nation’s best Division III programs in large part because of the success of its recruiting over the last few years.
Tommie’s athletics was ranked 13th out of the 435 NCAA Division III colleges in last spring’s Director Cup all sport standings. The athletic program has had a tradition of prestige, placing in the top 40 every year of the competition, including six top 16 finishes.
According to athletic director and men’s basketball coach Steve Fritz, a large part of the St. Thomas’ success is a result of the innovative recruiting techniques that Tommiesports.com adds for the program to use.
“Having a tool like Tommiesports.com is important,” Fritz said. “What I like about it, I think, is the University of St. Thomas has good name recognition and a site to go on that is well done, very colorful, and easy to get to and gives you a lot of parts that you don’t have to do individually by referring people to Tommiesports.com.”
With aspiring collegiate athletes in mind, Tommiesports.com offers more than just rosters and coaching breakdowns, it follows each team in depth and this can spark interest with high school athletes.
In addition to these features, some coaches have used the site as a way to personally acknowledge their possible recruits with interviews and letters to interested players.
Football coach Glenn Caruso’s use of Tommiesports.com includes a brief video of him talking to potential recruits and acknowledging a program that is moving to a new age of football. In addition to the video, a recruiting checklist gives potential players an easy to follow guide to signing up for campus visits or a way to get in touch with Caruso himself.
Not all the coaches have been using this recruiting tool but some others have, including men’s soccer coach Aaron Macke and women’s basketball coach Ruth Sinn.
Fritz knows the narrow field of recruiting that exists for Division III programs. It is narrowed first by the students who are actually planning on going to college, then further by students who have the ability and desire to play.
“We have to go after a lot more people,” Fritz said. “Where Division I, they can start a little bit wider but obviously have to find people they think can play at that level. But they also have scholarships involved so they do not have to worry as much about the name recognition.”
St. Thomas recruiting is highly influenced by the academic options the institution offers and the tradition of excellence that comes with being a student-athlete.
In 2008-09, St. Thomas had six Academic All-American student-athletes. Junior football player Ben Wartman and junior soccer player Elliot Amundson have received academic honors already this season, giving St. Thomas more than 65 all-time Academic All-Americans.
“The nice thing about [the athletic program] is that athletics is part of the education, it is not separate,” Fritz said. “At the end of four years a student is going to have something that serves them the rest of their life and athletics can only enhance that.”
The future of the Tommie athletic program in the Director’s Cup seems promising with the fall sport teams all finishing their seasons off strongly, highlighted by football’s deep push into the NCAA playoffs.
The new Anderson Athletic facility will be another major recruiting tool for the future.
“We have to be able to track the type of good student athletes we have and we have to be able to retain good coaches that can put you there,” Fritz said. “Things like TommieSports as well. Who knows what the future of that is, that and TommieMedia can be a real positive for us in the future.”
Brian Matthews can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org