MINNEAPOLIS - The St. John's-St. Thomas rivalry game always draws a big crowd. This was an all-timer, with official attendance of 37,355 to obliterate the NCAA Division III record.
The Tommies used a stingy defense to hang on for a 20-17 victory over the Johnnies on Saturday at Target Field, the home of Major League Baseball's Minnesota Twins, who played on the road. The only bigger Twins crowd this season was the opener on April 3 that drew 39,615 fans.
St. John's vs. St. Thomas is the biggest rivalry in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), and Saturday it was also the first football game at Target Field.
"This has been a year in the making," said St. Thomas University Associate Athletic Director Michelle Morgan.
Early in the day, she was hopeful about breaking the attendance record.
"We've worked with the Twins, we've had a great partner in St. John's to make this thing happen and crush a national record with D-III and we'll see probably about 37,000 people at Target Field today."
Kickoff was at 1:10 p.m., but fans were downtown early getting ready for the game.
Shots fired. pic.twitter.com/YOUaEUEcOD— Ryan Shaver (@RShaverSports) September 23, 2017
KARE 11's Lee Valsvik visited the breakfast crowd at Cuzzy's in the North Loop, where plenty of Johnnies were already gathering in bright red attire.
"Our alumni and our parents are our fans are just rallying around this opportunity," said Adam Herbst, director of alumni relations for St. John's University. "There will be a lot of red in the stands today."
The NCAA does not officially recognize attendance records. The website d3football.com tracked St. John's-St. Thomas games as four of the five biggest crowds in Division III history. The previous mark was set on Oct. 8, 2016, with 17,535 fans watching Wisconsin-Oshkosh play at Wisconsin-Whitewater.