St. Thomas's first Division I football schedule will begin with a jump. The program's unprecedented D3-to-FCS inaugural season will begin with a home game against St. Francis, an NAIA program from Joliet, Ill.
It may not sound like much, even a step down, for an FCS program to take on an NAIA opponent. But NAIA programs are allotted 24 scholarships apiece while St. Thomas, despite their newly-minted FCS membership, still has none.
Following the opener against St. Francis, the Tommies will visit Michigan Tech, a Division II team with 36 scholarships.
On Sept. 18, St. Thomas will visit Northern Iowa, an FCS playoffs mainstay with 63 scholarships among their arsenal.
The Tommies will then begin their first Pioneer Football League season, eight games in nine weeks against fellow non-scholarship programs, but ones that are accustomed to playing a Division I schedule.
St. Thomas previously completed in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, a league that, as the name implies, consists of 12 teams all located in Minnesota. Close to half the conference lies near the Twin Cities, a short drive from the Tommies' St. Paul campus.
The PFL is a coast-to-coast conference, and the 2021 season will see St. Thomas hop on airplanes to San Diego, Florida and North Carolina, plus a road trip to Iowa.
All in all, it's a challenge unlike any in recent college football history.
"Most people don't understand how difficult it is to put together a comprehensive Division I schedule in such a short period of time. I'm very proud of our efforts to do so," St. Thomas head coach Glenn Caruso said. "At this level, many people are scheduling out for in five years, so to pull something together with this type of national recognition and regional exposure is a huge tip of the hat to and our administrative team.
"As I've said before, we'll never shy away from competition, and this schedule personifies that. Much like when we arrived here 13 years ago, we felt strongly that we had to have an understanding of where we stand as a program in relation to the established programs in order for us to be able to set the vision for where we are going."
The full schedule is below:
Sept. 4 -- vs. St. Francis (Ill.)
Sept. 11 -- at Michigan Tech
Sept. 18 -- at Northern Iowa
Sept. 25 -- vs. Butler
Oct. 2 -- at San Diego
Oct. 9 -- Valparaiso
Oct. 16 -- at Stetson
Oct. 23 -- Off
Oct. 30 -- Marist
Nov. 6 -- at Davidson
Nov. 13 -- at Drake
Nov. 20 -- Presbyterian