NCAA Grants Waiver for St. Thomas to Make Historic Jump From DIII to DI


In a historic move, the University of St. Thomas has been granted a waiver, allowing them to jump straight from Division III to Division I, for their athletics programs. The NCAA approved the motion, today, granting St. Thomas the ability to make such a jump.

Today, we received long-awaited news from the NCAA that St. Thomas has been approved to begin reclassification to Division I athletics. This announcement paves the way for our St. Thomas student-athletes, coaches, fans and community to build Minnesota’s first private D-I collegiate athletics program and just the second D-I program in the state.

St. Thomas is the first university that has been approved to transition directly to D-I from D-III in the modern history of the NCAA. This approval recognizes St. Thomas’ growing reputation and academic and athletic success and will help us expand our mission and impact beyond Minnesota.

St Thomas President – Julie H. Sullivan

Unprecedented Jump

Prior to this unprecedented jump by St. Thomas, schools had to go through a years-long process to just go up one division. St. Thomas was struck by extenuating circumstances, however.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that St. Thomas was near unanimously kicked from their current conference back in 2019 because other member schools of the MIAC didn’t like how often they were winning. They cited a competitive imbalance, stating that St. Thomas’ 10,000+ students wasn’t comparable to fractions of that at other schools in the league.

With the MIAC forcing them to leave the conference by the 2021-22 school year. Leaving little time for one of Minnesota’s premier athletic programs to find a new home.

Thankfully, the NCAA recognized the tricky situation St. Thomas was in and granted them the waiver to jump up. That’s after the vote was delayed for months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


As for what is next, St. Thomas had a few options regarding their conference landing sports. It’s a very tricky situation for everyone involved and some sports are yet to be announced, including men’s hockey.

Outside of football and women’s hockey, the Tommies have accepted an invitation to join the Summit League. This is a smart move, for their first steps into a more competitive atmosphere.

St. Thomas will join the Pioneer League for football (their most dominant sport) and the WCHA for women’s hockey.

“St. Thomas brings the full package – an excellent academic reputation, experienced leadership, a massive alumni network and a winning culture. With their values-based mission and status as Minnesota’s largest private university, we know the Tommies will represent the Summit League well and we’re proud to welcome them.”

Tom Douple, Summit League Commissioner

“The Tommies were one of the NCAA’s most successful football programs at any level over the past decade and they live their university mission off the field, which makes them an outstanding institutional fit for us. We are thrilled to expand to the Twin Cities, and proud to welcome a program with a track record for graduating players, winning conference titles and playoff games, and serving its community.”

Patty Viverito, Pioneer Football League Commissioner


While it is awful St. Thomas is losing storied histories and rivalries, their dominance was never in question.

According to their press release, they have

  • 15 NCAA team championships since 1982.
  • 21 different sports with top-five national team finishes
  • The only NCAA school to have at least one team championship in baseball, softball, volleyball, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.

In football alone, the Tommies have gone 108-16 since 2010, including six years of undefeated conference play. Some of the scores during those seasons could be seen as “wallopings”: 76-7, 62-0, and 73-14… just to list a few.

It will be interesting to follow how St. Thomas performs in their new leagues, starting in 2021-22. Whatever happens, I am sure they are glad to be out of the grips of the tyrannical MIAC clutches and they should be proud of such a historic jump.

Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan