MIAC ousts original member St. Thomas for being too strong

Published 7:51 am Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference has decided to oust St. Thomas, the largest school in the NCAA Division III league and the most successful in recent years in sports.

The MIAC announced Wednesday the Tommies will be “involuntarily removed” in two years by the conference they helped found with six other schools in 1920.

The conference presidents, who met about the issue last month without taking action, cited athletic parity as their primary concern. The private Catholic liberal arts university has about 6,200 undergraduates, double the enrollment of the next-closest schools in the league.

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The Tommies have won 12 consecutive MIAC all-sports trophies on both the men’s and women’s side, based on conference finish in each event.

St. Thomas will remain eligible for full-fledged membership through the end of the 2020-21 school year, unless it is able to secure a new home first. The league, in a statement released Wednesday , said the Tommies would leave “in good standing with a long and appreciated history of academic and athletic success.”

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported last month that rival MIAC presidents sought to expel St. Thomas with amended league bylaws to enact an enrollment cap. St. Olaf, which lost to St. Thomas 97-0 in football in 2017, was the only institution to publicly acknowledge the process after the newspaper brought it to light.

“We are participating in those discussions in good faith,” the school said last month. Of the 13 institutions currently in the league, St. Thomas is one of four in the state’s capital city, St. Paul.

So what happens to St. Thomas sports now?

Athletic director Phil Esten has said the Tommies were committed to maintaining a non-scholarship Division III program, but they’ll never find a better fit than the league they must leave.