The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) announced on Tuesday that the University of St. Thomas — one of its founding members — would be “involuntarily removed” for the sake of “athletic competitive parity.”
In short, the Tommies won too much for their own good. Or, framed another way, they had outgrown their conference competitors to the point where their inclusion in the league was creating a problem.
The Pioneer Press reports that St. Thomas’ enrollment of 6,300 is more than twice that of its nearest MIAC partner, and that the school’s athletic dominance over the league caused rumblings among other conference members.
“The MIAC would have collapsed in a year if this action didn’t occur,” MIAC commissioner Dan McKane told the Pioneer Press.
According to the paper, the Tommies have won more than half of all MIAC championships in the past five years across all sports; racking up at least a share of the league title in the eight biggest sports 57 times over the past 10 years. In that same 10-year period, St. Thomas’ nearest competitor won a total of 15 championships.
“Today is a difficult day for our community,” St. Thomas University president Julie Sullivan wrote in a statement.
“St. Thomas expended tremendous effort to remain in the MIAC and stabilize the conference. However, the presidents came to a consensus that the conference itself would cease to exist in its current form if St. Thomas remained. The primary concern cited by the other MIAC presidents is the lack of competitive parity within the conference, across many sports. They stated that St. Thomas has not violated any MIAC or NCAA rules and leaves the conference in good standing.
While this decision is extremely disappointing, we will continue to prioritize the welfare and overall experience of our student-athletes. They embrace and represent both academic and athletic excellence and are important contributors to our university’s culture. Additionally, our coaches share the values of advancing comprehensive excellence and are among the best in the country.
Although our athletic conference will change, one thing will not: our commitment to continued academic and athletic excellence. I am confident in our campus leadership who will guide us forward and optimistic that we will continue to celebrate great success.”
St. Thomas will still be able to compete in the MIAC until spring 2021, unless it settles on a new solution before then. AD Phil Esten said that all options — including going independent, joining a new D-III conference, or leaping up to Division-II — are on the table.
“We’ll sit down and take a look at all of our options and really assess where we are and where we’d like to be,” he told the Pioneer Press.
Tommies athletes, meanwhile, expressed mixed opinions on the move.
“I mean, if you can’t beat them, I guess you have to kick them out,” hockey player Nicole Knudson told KARE.
“The general thing that I’ve heard is that people don’t like going to the second half of games, just because the score will run up against a lot of the smaller teams we play,” said rower John Mikkelson.