St. Thomas to make Division I football debut at Northern Iowa Sept. 18

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- Wide receiver Vinny Pallini carries the ball at Allianz Field on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. The Johnnies of St. John's University earned a 38-20 victory over the Tommies of the University of St. Thomas. (Jack Rodgers / MediaNews ((Jack Rodgers / MediaNews Group / St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images))

The University of St. Thomas football team announced Monday the first Division I opponent in the history of its program.

Seven months ago, the former MIAC school announced it had been approved to make the leap from Division III to Division I, and would join the FCS Pioneer League in football. The Tommies will make their Division I debut on the road, Sept. 18 at Northern Iowa. That game will be played in Cedar Falls, Iowa, at the UNI Dome.

The Tommies also announced a 2024 game against Northern Iowa, a 2023 game at South Dakota and a 2026 game at North Dakota.

Northern Iowa had its fall season canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Panthers are making their 2020 debut this Friday against South Dakota State.

St. Thomas would’ve had its final season in the MIAC last fall, but the football season was canceled due to concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic. Northern Iowa, a Missouri Valley League team, is perennially a top-25 FCS team.

"I've been able to witness the character and growth of teams exemplified in how they decide to propel themselves forward, and who they choose to play," St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso said in a statement. "We're not a team that shies away from elite competition. We have much work to do, and we also have a proud family of players, staff and administration who are equipped with the focus, mental toughness and passion to tackle that work."

St. Thomas and Northern Iowa have faced off twice before, the last time being a 6-6 tie in 1926. The Panthers have been to the FCS Playoffs in five of the last six seasons.

The Tommies will have an eight-game Pioneer League schedule, which will be announced at a later date. They'll have four home and four away games among 10 league opponents: Butler, Davidson, Dayton, Drake, Marist, Morehead State, Presbyterian, San Diego, Stetson and Valparaiso.

St. Thomas will have 19 of its 22 sports in the Summit League. The women's hockey team will play in the WCHA.