One of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) top performers, the University of St. Thomas, is rumored to be potentially expelled from the conference.
The Presidents of the other MIAC schools will meet to discuss St. Thomas’ expulsion from the conference on April 18, with a final vote scheduled for some time in May.
The MIAC is a NCAA Division III athletic conference comprised of small private colleges. The MIAC, along with its Wisconsin counterpart, the WIAC, hold prestige and often possess some of the nation’s best sports teams across a variety of sports.
St. Thomas has dominated the other Minnesota private colleges in athletics for years. This may be due to their well-known business school and proximity to the Cities. The school possesses an undergraduate student body of over 6,000 students, almost doubling the St. Olaf student body, which is the next largest in the conference.
Currently, the 12 other schools may not kick out any member, as the only basis for expulsion is for illegal and/or unethical behavior. In order to boot the Tommies, the other schools would have to vote to change the conference’s bylaws.
This decision, if made, would first take effect in 2021.
Ryan Bowles, St. Olaf’s Athletic Director, wrote an email to St. Olaf’s student-athletes regarding the school’s role in discussions.
“Membership in the MIAC is determined by the member institutions. St. Olaf, along with the presidents of all of the institutions, is engaged in a discussion of membership,” Bowles wrote. “We are participating in those discussions in good faith … committed to providing all student-athletes with a quality, equitable and competitive NCAA experience consistent with the excellence in all other areas of the college.”
St. Thomas has been eyeing a potential Division I move for some time now. With the University’s financial and recruitment resources, facilities and winning traditions, St. Thomas could move to the Summit League, Big Sky, Missouri Valley or Pioneer Conference to compete with Division-I teams across the country.
This potential transition could also be a multi-level division move, with some sports competing on a different level than most. The University of Minnesota Duluth, Mankato State and St. Cloud State’s hockey teams, for example, which compete Division I, while otherwise being members of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).
St. Thomas has previously looked at moving into D-I, once hiring a consulting firm to help with their decision.
Regardless, a MIAC expulsion of St. Thomas and a transition to Division I would be extremely beneficial for evening the playing field and raising the level of quality competition for all involved parties.