So Many People Want to See the Tommies and the Johnnies

The 10th-ranked Tommies (2-1) were scheduled to host the No. 6 Johnnies (3-0) this year. But the St. Thomas president, Julie Sullivan, said the game had outgrown her campus, and the attraction of a major-league stadium with plentiful parking proved irresistible to both colleges’ alumni.

McDonough and Fowler only wish they could go.

Fowler, a 1966 St. Thomas graduate who served five years on its board of trustees, had planned to attend until three weeks ago, when his staff asked him to host a group of local sports dignitaries in his suite during the Padres game on Saturday. “I’ll either be online catching the game, or if I’m asked to do something else, I’ll have someone monitor it and keep me appraised,” Fowler said in a telephone interview. He said Sullivan was still holding two tickets for him, just in case.

McDonough, St. John’s Class of ’92, was a three-year starter at defensive back for the famed Johnnies coach John Gagliardi. But he said he has a more pressing engagement at home in suburban Maryland: this weekend is his wife Kari’s birthday.

“One thing John taught me was to marry up and honor my wife,” McDonough said of Gagliardi. “If I told her I was going, it might not be keeping with that tradition.”

But McDonough wouldn’t be a Johnnie if he didn’t keep track. The last few years, he said, have found him in one of two places on Saturday afternoons — in his West Wing office, where he listened to Johnnies broadcasts on a laptop, or at his children’s soccer games. At the latter, he used his phone to track his alma mater.

If either technology falters, McDonough has been known to call the St. John’s reception building, known as the Great Hall, for updates.

“I will draw on all my tricks to make sure I keep abreast of developments in the game,” he said. “Count on that.”

The St. John’s-St Thomas rivalry, which began in 1901, features a cute origin story, a long stretch of one-sided domination, and a recent reversal of fortune. Minnesotans describe it as the city rich kids (Tommies) versus the outstate farmers (Johnnies), and each side revels in its own collection of inside jokes and risqué T-shirts.

Since 2001, the teams have played for a trophy known as the Holy Grail, though the original vanished several years ago, reportedly while in St. John’s custody. (That’s the St. Thomas version of the story, anyway.)

St. John’s won the first game of the series handily,…

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