St. Thomas’ Move to DI Steeped in Positivity Even After NCAA Delays Vote

Wednesday brought promising news for the University of St. Thomas, relating to their potential jump from NCAA Division III athletics to Division I. As I discussed earlier this week, they were waiting on the NCAA Division I Council to rule on the matter.

St. Thomas is looking to forego the traditional reclassification route. Instead of going from Division III to Division II, they hope to skip Division II and go straight to Division I.

The council decided to postpone the reclassification voting until April 2021s so as of now, there won’t be a decision on the jump to DI. That doesn’t mean it’s dead, though… in fact, quite the opposite. As the committee mentioned in their release, they would be receptive to a formal waiver request (to skip DII) from the school.

Phil Esten, St. Thomas’ Athletic Director, was very positive on the matter:

The Waiting Game

This is an important step for the Tommies, as they up against the clock. They’d like to make the move before the 2021-22 academic year.

St. Thomas hopes to join the Summit League, who will also need to provide a waiver to the NCAA. This can be an arduous task, as the process to forego a division can take up to five years. The pre-application process, alone, can take a year.

Nonetheless, the belief surrounding this situation seems to favor St. Thomas. Most expect the NCAA to fast-track their process, due to the extenuating circumstances. It’s a pretty easy case to make, too.

Remember, this comes on the heels of the MIAC’s nearly-unanimous decision in 2019, to boot St. Thomas from their league. The reasoning? Supposed competitive advantages for St. Thomas. AKA: All of the other teams were sick of losing to the Tommies every year.

An approved waiver to skip Division II, would be the first of its kind granted by the NCAA. Every other school has only went up one division. You can tell why fans are anxious over the recent decision.

Bureaucracy at its finest!

“The existing process for Division II schools transitioning to Division I has been successful in preparing those schools for meaningful membership in Division I. We believe that with additional time meeting certain benchmarks, Division III schools could be equally well-­positioned to make that transition.”

Rick George, Colorado Athletic Director and Chair of the NCAA Strategic Vision and Planning Committee


As mentioned, St. Thomas is looking to join the Summit League for the majority of their sports. The Summit doesn’t sanction football or ice hockey, though, which are two of St. Thomas’ most popular and profitable sports.

There are rumors about where these sports will land. For hockey, both the men’s and women’s WCHA commissioners have been warm to the idea of the Tommies joining. The new CCHA commissioner (and former University of Minnesota men’s hockey head coach), Don Lucia, also said they could be a candidate.

“If they do come through with that announcement, they’re obviously going to be looking for a home, and that’s somebody we certainly would have an interest in, as I’m sure other conferences would as well. They would be a nice candidate, and I look forward, if this goes through, being able to sit down and talk to them.’’

Don Lucia, CCHA Commissioner and former University of Minnesota Men’s Hockey Head Coach

The football program has its eye on the FCS Pioneer League, too. Neither the Summit League nor the Missouri Valley Conference host NDSU or SDSU. That’s a shame… Minnesotans would all love to see the Tommies compete with those two programs on the regular.

Wherever they land, this will be a monumental shift from what Minnesotans know. Not only would the move to Division I mean the loss of the historic Tommie-Johnnie game, but it would also mean the University of Minnesota would no longer be the sole Division I school in-state.

I, for one, am excited to see what St. Thomas can do in a higher level of collegiate athletics. With nothing left to prove in Division III, let them prove their game against the top dogs.

Jack Kewitsch | Minnesota Sports Fan