MIAC can’t beat ’em, so it throws St. Thomas out

It was a short and sweet announcement from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference today. The University of St. Thomas is out.

After extensive membership discussions, the University of St. Thomas will be involuntarily removed from membership in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC).

The MIAC Presidents’ Council cites athletic competitive parity in the conference as a primary concern. St. Thomas will begin a multi-year transition immediately and meanwhile is eligible to compete as a full member of the MIAC through the end of spring 2021.

St. Thomas is one of seven founding members of the MIAC and will leave the conference in good standing with a long and appreciated history of academic and athletic success.

It sounds like so many firings in which the employee is “resigned to pursue other interests” (finding a job), but “best of luck” (get out).

It’s so… Minnesotan.

It’s a bad look for MIAC, most agree, since all St. Thomas did was be really good at sports, and also be a school that people wanted to attend, which made it tough on other schools in the conference who couldn’t compete on the field.

“The strength of our athletic programs, our institutional commitment to excellence and our location in the metro area will make us an attractive candidate to other conferences,” St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan said in a statement.

Last month, Forum Communications’ Jeff Kolpack suggested a move to Division I in two years, after St. Thomas finishes running up the scores against other MIAC teams.

At nine schools, the Summit League could use another member and the St. Paul location is well within the Summit footprint. Some have suggested Missouri-Kansas City coming back into the league, but if I were Summit commissioner Tom Douple, I’d take St. Thomas over UMKC. Easy decision.

St. Thomas has money, facilities and tradition — three things UMKC does not. UST football could glide into the Pioneer League, the non-scholarship, football-only conference. Granted, the travel budget would have to be enormously boosted, but as NDSU found out, there’s something about being in Division I that opens a donor’s wallet.

In the Pioneer, there would be a bus trip to Drake (Iowa) and maybe Augustana University (S.D.) will take the Pioneer plunge. But everything else would be a flight. So what? It’s 5.3 miles from St. Thomas to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Total travel time to most of the Pioneer wouldn’t be much more than taking a bus to Moorhead.

Pioneer Press columnist Bob Sansevere doesn’t buy the idea that the Twin Cities location giving St. Thomas a competitive edge over other MIAC schools, he said in a column a few weeks ago.

If the Tommies go, it wouldn’t be shocking if these other MIAC schools start scouring for reasons to get rid of the Johnnies, then Bethel. It’s hardly a new concept. Losers want to be winners.

Nine of the MIAC member schools play football. Several haven’t been in the mix for a MIAC title since, well, ever. That stings.

It is not the fault of St. Thomas or Caruso that some MIAC football programs are terminally lousy. There’s an argument that Caruso runs up scores. It’s an argument once lodged against legendary Johnnies coach John Gagliardi, who won more football games than any college football coach.

In any event, the conference and the remaining schools look like cowards.

  • Jeff

    I expect the Tommies will be running up the score in the next couple of seasons.

    • J Allen

      How could you tell though? And there’s the rub, which is why this decision is for the best for everyone.

  • Another factor may be that the enrollment size is larger by far than any of the other MIAC schools. It’s not even close.

    • Jim in RF

      This is an enormous thing that the seamheads don’t talk about.

      • Jim in RF

        Not to get in the weeds with really important things.

      • “Seamheads”??

        • Brian Simon

          No idea what it means; adding to my vocabulary regardless.

          • The only time I’ve heard the phrase, it’s defined baseball fans.

          • theoacme

            For all those Tommies-haters in the MIAC, I have a memory of my best friend hitting 3 home runs in one playoff game for UW-Oshkosh against the Tommies…

            …MIAC athletic directors that voted the way they did today are seamless…

          • Apparently it means “baseball fans”.

    • QuietBlue

      They also have one of the highest acceptance rates too IIRC.

    • Jack Ungerleider

      According to Wikipedia UST undergrad enrollment is: 6,111
      The closest school that would compete is St Olaf: 3,040
      (St Kate’s has 3,176 but I don’t think the would compete would they?)

      I don’t think St John’s (1,754) or Bethel (2,965) would be run out. Their enrollments are in line with the other schools in the conference.

  • Barton

    UST should really be a DII school: they are big enough to meet the qualifications I think.

  • Joe

    Of course Chip Scoggins is going to be mad. He’s a St. Thomas grad who believes sports are the most important part of a school. He also wrote an idiotic article saying it would be the same as kicking out St Olaf for having a great choir.

    At the end of the day, St Thomas was not a fit for the conference, in it’s size, focus, or temperament.

    Do these people also believe that UMD should still be in the MIAC? They were in the conference for 25 years.

  • JoNo

    Kind of interesting how everyone is portraying the MIAC as the only bad actors here. I tend to think St. Thomas is acting pretty poorly too.

    25 years ago they had an athletics budget in line with the rest of the conference. They decided to pursue sports excellence and poured money into the athletics department. They now have a budget that is 5x most other schools in the conference (and an enrollment 3x larger). Their athletics budget is more than most D2 schools, in fact more than all of the schools in the NSIC, where they will likely end up.

    And yet, instead of moving up to D2, as they should have done, they just continued crushing the academics focused schools by 100 pts per game. The conference justifiably called out their behavior as that of a D2 school and said they don’t belong anymore. Which they don’t.

    • QuietBlue

      All of this is true, but as an outsider, I have to ask — so? How does UST winning so much affect the other schools; is it a recruitment thing? It’s not like anybody attends Carleton for the athletics.

      • J Allen

        It takes the fun out of it, basically. It’s like having a high school with a growing enrollment staying in a small town conference and dominating all the sports.

        • QuietBlue

          St. Thomas certainly wins a lot, but other schools are able to hold their own across various sports too. Are St. John’s and Bethel going to get kicked out next?

      • Katie I

        In terms of things that are actually important in the world, this is pretty low in the rankings, but it does have some effect on annual fund donations and alumni engagement. And you’re right that nobody goes to a Carleton for the athletics; however, they continue dedicating the time and effort to play sports, which is all the harder at an academically rigorous school, because they enjoy competing. So for St. Thomas to pretend that they’re still a DIII school in anything but name just to keep facing mostly schools they know they’ll crush is a d*ck move.

        • QuietBlue

          Is anything stopping the other schools from strengthening their programs, though? Personally, I don’t think colleges and universities should be focused on sports as much as they are. But these are choices these schools have made to focus on different things.

          UST seems like they are really being punished for going against the flow and violating an informal agreement, and this being Minnesota, being ambitious is a terrible sin, or something.

          • Katie I

            What’s stopping them is that the philosophy of the MIAC is (or is supposed to be, at least!) exactly as you prefer it, designed to emphasize academics over athletics—they budget small for their sports programs as a result. UST has grown much bigger and budgeted much bigger for their athletic department than the small schools of the conference are comfortable doing with that academic emphasis in mind… which is totally okay, it just also means they’re not a great fit for the MIAC (or really DIII at all) anymore. Nothing wrong with ambition, if that’s what UST wants, but it’s time to move up to the appropriate league for it if that’s what they want to do.

            This is like recruiting Mike Trout to join your Parks Dept. beer-league softball team: nobody’s saying he shouldn’t be allowed to play at all, but this is not the right venue for that dude, you know?

  • Katie I

    St. Thomas is that kid on the U12 all-star team who has clearly been shaving for 5 years already but the coach swears the date on the birth certificate checks out. It’s fine that they’ve grown bigger; more power to them! But they haven’t belonged in DIII for years now and they need to admit it.

    • Katie I

      Actually, now that I think about it, the best metaphor here is probably wrestling: when the MIAC started, they were all in the same weight class, but now St. Thomas has grown to be a heavyweight and they’re still insisting on competing against 105-pounders. The tradition and history they had when they were at 105 is great stuff, and they can be proud of it, but that doesn’t mean they belong there anymore.

  • annie500

    Carsou did not run up the scores. My Grandson played for the Tommies. At ome games they had as many as one hundred players suited up and Caruso tried to play as many as he could.My Grandson was 1st string by his sophmore year. There were many games when the score was high, Caruso started playing as many players as he could. Away games were harder toply more playes because they could only so many players to away games.