College football: Johnnies rally to beat rival Tommies in 'bittersweet' game for fans
St. John's rallied to a big win over St. Thomas on Saturday before a sellout crowd at St. Paul's Allianz Field.
But what's to come of the long-standing, spirited rivalry between the two Minnesota schools? That remains up in the air.
After Saturday's 38-20 Johnnies win, the two schools will play again next fall in Collegeville, Minn. But then St. Thomas will be leaving the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference - and not by choice. It's unclear whether the Tommies and Johnnies will continue the annual rivalry game after that.
"It's definitely bittersweet," said Tommies fan Chris Coyne of Apple Valley. "I mean, St. Thomas was horrible in the '70s and '80s and '90s and then we started getting good and it was a true rivalry - so it's sad, very sad."
Coyne attended Saturday's game with a group of Johnnie and Tommie friends he's known for decades. He said he will miss the bragging rights his team earns when they win.
Earlier this year, the NCAA Division III MIAC announced it was booting St. Thomas after years of concerns from other conference members. St. Thomas is the largest school in the league and often dominated competition in recent years; officials at other schools said the Tommies had an unfair competitive advantage.
St. Thomas announced in September that it had received an invitation to the Division I Summit League, but that league does not sponsor football or hockey - so the future home of those St. Thomas programs remains to be decided.
Lori Grahms from Inver Grove Heights attended Saturday's game with a group of Johnnie and Tommie friends.
"It is very sad. I think once you hear that there is a possibility of it going it takes on kind of a different tone and then you get a little melancholy about it," she said.
Saturday's game drew a sellout crowd of 19,400 fans to Allianz Field, which is set to host a Major League Soccer playoff game between Minnesota United and the L.A. Galaxy on Sunday night.
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