The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) has voted to remove founding member St. Thomas after 99 years in the conference, citing competitive parity.
The Minnesota-based conference comprised 13 Division III athletic programs. The University of St. Thomas has been a member of the conference since it was established in 1920, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The St. Thomas Tommies will compete in the MIAC through the spring of 2021. The conference announced that St. Thomas was “involuntarily removed from membership.”
The other schools in the MIAC have struggled to keep up with St. Thomas, which has an enrollment more than double the next-biggest schools in the conference. KSTP news reports that St. Thomas had an undergraduate enrollment of 6100 in the fall of 2017, compared to 3100 for St. Catherine (an all-women’s school) and 3030 for St. Olaf. St. Thomas has dominated many sports within the conference – the Star-Tribune reports that St. Thomas has won the men’s and women’s all-sports titles in the conference for each of the past 11 seasons. The most publicized run has been in football, where St. Thomas has won six conference titles since 2008 and have regularly blown out conference opponents, including a 97-0 drubbing of St. Olaf in 2017.
St. Thomas has won the last four women’s MIAC titles in swimming & diving, and had won four straight men’s titles from 2014-2018 before losing to Gustavus last year. Their dominance hasn’t crossed over as much into swimming historically, with St. Olaf leading all schools with 30 MIAC men’s titles and 15 MIAC women’s titles. Gustavus has won 22 men’s and 10 women’s titles, and St. Thomas is third, with 15 men’s and 4 women’s titles.
The Star-Tribune reports that if St. Thomas stays at the Division III level, they could potentially join the WIAC – the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletics Conference. St. Thomas could also choose to move up to Division II, potentially joining the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. One issue there is hockey, which isn’t offered at the Division II level. That would force St. Thomas to jump all the way to Division I in hockey, which would be a much bigger financial commitment, as well as a 12-year transition period from Division III to Division II to Division I.