On Wednesday, May 22, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) in Division 3 announced that the University of St. Thomas will be “involuntary removed” from the conference. St. Thomas Tommies will begin a multi-year transition immediately and will compete as a member of the MIAC through the end of spring 2021, but can leave earlier if they find another conference. The main reason for St. Thomas removal is that they are “too good”. In my opinion, this is a bad move kicking out one of the founders of the conference– St. Thomas has been in the conference for almost 100 years. According to Per school officials, St. Thomas was told the league would be disbanded if the school remained a member.
The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) would be the best fit since it will have an opening as St. Thomas looks to move up to Division 2. Augustana announced in December that it will move to Division I, which would leave a spot open for St. Thomas. Augustana is a member of the South Division, which includes Minnesota State Mankato, Concordia-St. Paul, Southwest Minnesota State, and Winona State. Which would be a perfect fit for travel and budget cost for the Tommies.
Another option would be to join the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) to stay at the Division 3 level, which could work but the WIAC has their own powerhouses which have won more D-III national championships than any other conference. It will help the Football schedule with only having 8 teams, as well as hockey (5 teams) and baseball (7 teams). They could also stay Division 3 as an independent but will be difficult scheduling with only a few open dates
The MIAC has other reasons then that St. Thomas is “too good”. They state that St. Thomas enrollment is too large compared to other schools in the conference. St Thomas enrollment is nearly twice to the MIAC’s next-largest enrollment, of 2,900 each at St. Olaf and Bethel. Even though Division 2 conference-NSIC undergraduate enrollments range from 755 (Upper Iowa) to 15,110 (MSU Mankato) and no one is trying to kick Mankato out. St. Olaf has led the charge for St. Thomas getting kicked out after losing 97-0 in 2017. The concern is that St. Thomas enrollment is too big and modern facilities give them an unfair advantage. Another reason is St. Thomas is in the Twin Cities and gets recruits from big high school, as well a big number of Division 1 transfers. They can’t get kicked out just because how successful they are, the conference can make an enrollment cap in which St. Thomas will be over that cap. 9 of the 13 schools would have to agree to St. Thomas getting removed.
- Last season, The Tommies beat Augsburg, Carleton, Hamline and St. Olaf (MIAC Schools) by a combine 263-14, but finished third behind Bethel and St. John
- Last season, St. Thomas scored at least 60 points in 4 conference games and posted 4 shut-outs
- In 2017 beat Hamline 84-0 and then two weeks later beat St. Olaf 97-0
- won 15 national championships since 1973
- 118-19 in 11 years under coach Glenn Caruso
- In six seasons under Caruso, St. Thomas went undefeated in conference play
- 2 Division 3 national championship appearance
- In the past five years, St. Thomas has won more than 50 percent of all MIAC championships
- Ranked 10th nationally in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings for Division III schools, a measurement of an athletic program’s overall success.
- Prior to Caruso’s arrival in 2008, St. Thomas hadn’t won a MIAC title since 1990 and Saint John’s was the league’s biggest force.
Blame the other schools
You can’t beat them, kick them out! That’s the MIAC reasoning to remove St. Thomas from the conference for being too dominant. The MIAC should be forcing other programs to find better talent or improve on the field. It’s not St. Thomas fault that the bottom schools can’t keep up with the Tommies and Johnnies. By St. Thomas leaving how are schools like St. Olaf or Hamline going to improve. Every Conference in college football have a powerhouse and no one else is kicked out for being too dominant. ACC teams in Division 1 aren’t saying Clemson has to leave for being too good. For the smaller teams in the conference, they should look at the opportunity to defeat the powerhouse. In 2016, when I played for the University of Minnesota Morris we beat the powerhouse of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) St. Scholastica and will be a game, my teammates and I will always remember, Roll Cougs! The other schools in the conference need to build up there facilities and programs to dethrone the powerhouse.
Hurts the MIAC
There are a few reasons why this will hurt the MIAC, first is the strength of schedule will get weaker. In Division 3 football you make the playoffs by winning the conference or receiving an At-large bid. Without the Tommies, it will hurt teams that are trying to get into the playoffs with a bid. With the St. Thomas gone it will increase the chances of St. John chances at winning the conference, how long until they are “too good” and get kicked out.
Another reason is, it is just dumb to kick out a team for being “too good”. St. Olaf being upset because they lost 97-0 isn’t St. Thomas fault. St. Olaf needs to get better or they leave the conference. St. Thomas didn’t even make the playoffs this season and was 3rd in the conference. With St. Thomas gone, what is it going to do for St. Olaf, schedule a non-conference game with one of the worse teams in D3. The only thing it will do for the bottom teams in the conference is to move up one spot. Is finishing 9th in the conference or 8th in the conference that big of a difference.
The last reason is it will hurt the MIAC will be the Tommies-Johnnies rivalry. The rivalry began in 1901 and will leave a big void on both schedules. This rivalry is so big they played on Target Field and saw a D3 record 37,355 fans. As, well as playing in the Allianz field in 2019, and ESPN college gameday came to Collegeville, MN in 2015 to showcase D3 biggest game of the year. Even if this rivalry still continues, it won’t be the same. If St. Thomas stays D3 it won’t have the importance it once did, for the Conference Championship. If St. Thomas goes D2, it won’t make sense for them to play St. John and will hurt their strength of schedule playing a lower level school.