MIAC conference says bye-bye Tommies

Enrollment and spending differences are among the reasons for St. Thomas’s ouster from conference membership.

Lydia Hansen, Editor-in-Chief

The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) will “involuntarily remove” St. Thomas from its membership, according to a statement released by the MIAC in May of this year.

The MIAC is composed of 13 private colleges and universities in Minnesota: Augsburg University, Bethel University, Carleton College, Concordia College, Gustavus Adolphus College, Hamline University, Macalester College, the College of Saint Benedict, St. Catherine University, Saint John’s University, Saint Mary’s University, St. Olaf College and the University of St. Thomas. The conference sponsors championships for NCAA Division III teams in 22 sports.

St. Thomas was one of the MIAC’s seven original founding members in 1920 and has been a continuous member except for a brief stint from 1925-1927. The university is currently in a transition period but is eligible to continue competing in the MIAC until the end of spring 2021.

The MIAC statement cited only “athletic competitive parity” as the reason for St. Thomas’s removal. Disparities in athletic performance between St. Thomas and other MIAC schools have existed for many years.

On the field, St. Thomas teams have performed significantly better than the 12 other MIAC members for over a decade. Their victories include:

  • 12 consecutive men’s and women’s MIAC All-Sports Awards (2008-2019)
  • 155 MIAC championships in team and individual sports or 47% of championships between 2003-2018 (56% or 62 championships when looking at just the last five years)
  • 67 of 210 or 32% of MIAC’s Automatic Qualifiers for NCAA Postseason between 2003-2018 (36% or 25 Automatic Qualifiers when looking at just the last five years)

Numerous factors contributed to this difference in athletic performance, including financial spending on athletic facilities and enrollment differences. St. Thomas’s enrollment for 2018-2019 was 6,395 according to the US News and World Report. That’s twice the size of the next largest MIAC school, St. Olaf, which had 3,048 students

The decision to remove St. Thomas was made collectively through discussion by the presidents of all 13 MIAC schools. 

“No vote was ever taken to remove St. Thomas from the MIAC,” said Jeff Papas, Hamline’s director of communications. “They left of their own accord.”

According to MIAC Commissioner Dan McKane, St. Thomas’s removal was necessary to preserve the conference. 

“Our members felt this was the only option to keep the conference intact in order to provide an exciting future for the thousands of student-athletes that compete each year,” McKane said.

An FAQ posted on the St. Thomas website stated that although St. Thomas “expended tremendous effort to maintain membership,” that was not an option.

“While St. Thomas was committed to staying, other MIAC presidents communicated their intentions to leave the conference if St. Thomas remained,” the FAQ stated.

Hamline never took a public position on whether or not to remain in the conference. “It was always our intention to remain in the MIAC, and we are happy to remain in the MIAC far into the future,” Papas said.

St. Thomas will leave the conference in good standing. The university is currently exploring other conferences to determine where to go when their last two years with the MIAC are up. St. Thomas’s association with the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities (ACTC) is independent of MIAC membership and will not be affected.