St. Cloud Orthopedics Feature: Recruiting and the Search for a Second Non-Conference Opponent
By Frank Rajkowski, SJU Writer/Video Producer
COLLEGEVILLE, Minnesota — The season has been over for a few months now, but that doesn’t mean things have slowed down for the Saint John’s University football coach Gary Fasching ’81 and his associates.
The dead of winter is at the heart of recruiting season, which means many hours a day are spent fielding future Johnnies in an environment that is becoming more competitive with each passing year.
“Every day at this time of year we have children on campus,” Fasching said this week. “I go out and watch some of our recruits play basketball or any winter sport that they are involved with. It keeps us all pretty busy. Our entire workforce is involved, led by Damien Dumonceaux ’05, our recruitment coordinator. We all have a part in it.”
So far, Fasching is satisfied with the progress that has been made.
“I think it went really well,” he said. “The whole process started last spring when we first compiled our roster and those players were juniors. We’ve had about sixty players up here for game day programs this fall and that continues with campus visits.
“Our goal is to hire 50 to 60 people and we believe we are on track to do that at the moment.”
Some of Fasching’s time will also be devoted to a second non-conference game next fall. The Johnnies are scheduled to play as early as Sept. 9 in the second year of a home-and-home deal at Wisconsin-Whitewater (SJU defeated the Warhawks 24-10 to open the 2022 season at Clemens Stadium). But the team still has open dates on September 2nd and 16th and would like to find an opponent for one of those Saturdays.
SJU hosted Wisconsin-River Falls in their second non-conference game last season. But that game – which wasn’t scheduled until later in the offseason – was a one-year deal.
“I probably work on it for a few hours every day,” Fasching said of the hunt for a second non-conference opponent.
The head coach said the goal is to find a home game. With the MIAC Championship weekend games that end the regular season being scheduled at the home grounds of Skyline Division teams (SJU plays in the Northwoods Division), the Johnnies currently only have four home games scheduled — the first of which didn’t come until the September 23 when they host Bethel for Family Weekend (the team the Johnnies faced in the MIAC title game for the last two years).
“That’s our goal,” said Fasching. “As it stands now we only have four home games and none until the end of September. We would like to bring another team over here first because we know the economic impact our home games have not only on our football program but on the whole campus.”
Complicating factors, however, are that SJU 2024 is scheduled to play at Aurora, Illinois as the second half of a two-game deal that saw the Spartans come to Collegeville to open the 2021 season. So if you are planning a one-game home-and-home series this year, the following season would be two non-conference road games.
As it stands, Fasching said he’s open to playing twice on the road to start this season but doesn’t want his team to have to fly a game to play it.
“It’s kind of the catch for us and other teams,” he said. “For us to fly somewhere, or for another team to fly here, it would cost about $50,000. Most teams cannot afford that economically.”
There is also the option to play only nine games, but Fasching wants to avoid that if possible.
“Teams have done that in the past,” said Fasching. “But we’d prefer not to. If you look at last season, we played 10 games and Linfield (Ore.) played nine. They were unbeaten and we had one loss. But I think the fact , that we had 10 games gave.” us the nod at them when it came to the NCAA deciding who would be the top seed (in our section of the bracket).”
Fasching said there are still opportunities he will pursue. Meanwhile, his team is scheduled for spring training on March 27. MIAC rules allow teams 16 practice opportunities – four of which can be in pads, although tackling and scrimmage are not allowed.
“I don’t know if we will use all 16, but we will be very close,” said Fasching. “Our plan is to walk three days a week for five weeks and then finish.”
Here’s a look at SJU’s 2023 schedule so far:
2 Sept – Open
September 9 – in Wisconsin-Whitewater, 1 p.m
16 Sep – Open
Sept 23 – vs Bethel, 1pm (Family Weekend)
Sept. 30 – in Augsburg, 1 p.m
7 Oct – vs Concordia, 1pm
Oct 14 – vs Carleton, 1pm (homecoming)
Oct. 21 – at Gustavus Adolphus, 1 p.m
Oct 28 – vs St Scholastica, 1pm
November 4 – at St. Olaf, 1 p.m
November 11th – at MIAC Championship Week, 1pm