Decision on University of St. Thomas’ Jump to Division I Coming Soon

ead Coach Glenn Caruso celebrates with his team after winning the Tommie Johnnie football game at Target Field in Minneapolis on September 23, 2017. The University of St. Thomas defeated Saint John’s University by a final score of 20-17. The school is a founding-member of the MIAC, but was “involuntarily” ousted from the conference per an announcement on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of UST athletics)

The University of St. Thomas has been anxiously awaiting an answer from the NCAA, for their request to jump from Division III athletics to Division I. After more than a year of waiting, a decision is finally coming this week.

The Tommie’s current conference, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), voted almost unanimously to remove St. Thomas from all athletic competitions. The MIAC cited the university’s “competitive” advantages as the reason. I’m citing, bullshit.

Sources on the boards of MIAC member schools Gustavus and St. Olaf mentioned the move was a strong-arming, from college presidents, over unsubstantiated fears that they couldn’t compete. The presidents didn’t even gather input from their stakeholders.

Yet St. Thomas has taken it in stride.

The NCAA planned to discuss St. Thomas’ reclassification back in April. But ever since COVID-19 paused nearly all NCAA operations, St. Thomas has been in limbo.

The NCAA’s Division I council, made up of 40 representatives from Division I schools, will vote on whether Division III schools can immediately reclassify to Division I. The traditional route involves jumping to Division II before Division I.

“There’s not an hour that’s gone by that this hasn’t been on my mind at some point. We’ve spent an incredible amount of time assessing the options available to us. It ultimately came down to membership in the Summit League, which gives us a great chance to accomplish things we’d like to pursue as a university.”

Phil Esten, St. Thomas Athletic Director


St. Thomas has been dominant in the MIAC and willing to spend unlike other DIII schools ($1.1 million on football alone). They’ve also won hundreds of titles. The history they leave behind will be the worst part.

This includes their storied rivalry with historic rival, St. John’s University. The annual Tommie-Johnnie game, as its known, has become one of the most attended events in Division III athletics. It is so popular that the schools moved the game to Target Field and Allianz Field in 2017 and 2019. In 2020, the game is scheduled to be played at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Losing out on 500 MIAC championships and 16 national championships across all sports is a shame, as is losing storied rivalries. It’s the right move for both sides, though.



St. Thomas should know more about their future this week with the council meeting Tuesday and Wednesday. If approved, St. Thomas is poised to join the Summit League in most sports, excluding football. That league includes the likes of both NDSU and SDSU.

For football, St. Thomas’ most dominant sport, they appear to be looking at the Missouri Valley Conference or the Pioneer League. If they join the former, you know our staff here at Minnesota Sports Fan can’t wait to see sad NDSU fans flood our mentions in the coming years.


Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan

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