Editor’s note: St. Thomas was approved in July 2020 to move from Division III to Division I beginning with the 2021-22 season.
The University of St. Thomas is currently attempting to move from Division III to Division I, but a decision on whether that will be allowed won’t happen until June.
The NCAA has decided to postpone the decision on the double division leap originally scheduled for later this month. The NCAA is focusing on issues related to the current coronavirus pandemic.
The NCAA banned schools from making the double jump in 2011 due to the scholarship differences between the two division. Division I allows scholarships to be given to athletes while Division III does not.
Saint Thomas is now looking at joining the Summit League starting with the 2021-22 season after receiving an invitation from the conference. The Summit League does not sponsor football leaving the Tommies to find yet another home within Division I for their gridiron program. The Pioneer Football League and Missouri Valley Football Conference have been cited as possible destinations though nothing has been confirmed by UST.
The circumstances around St. Thomas’ attempted move are unique. The Tommies were removed by the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) citing “competitive advantages” for UST. The Tommies were champions or co-champions of the MIAC 7 times in the last decade under the direction of head coach Glenn Caruso.
It is worth noting that the MIAC is also has Saint John’s as a member. The Johnnies dominated the conference in the 1990s and 2000s; they were champions or co-champions 7 times in the 1990s and another 7 times in the 2000s. The hypocrisy has been explored elsewhere, though it has also been reported that Johnnies would have voted against kicking out UST.
While football is the top sport for the majority of colleges and universities, the Tommies rule over the MIAC extended to other sports as well.
The normal process for St. Thomas to move from Division III to Division I would include a 5 year stop at the Division II level. The entire process would take 12 years (3 years transitionining to Division II, a 5 year stay in Division II, and then a 4 year transition process to Division I). The Tommies could conceivably have to wait until the 2030s to be fully eligible to participate in Division I and be able to reach the postseason if their waiver fails, but they are still intent on moving to Division I.
St. Thomas also has options to stay Division III or consider moving up to Division II. The move to Division I would require a larger investment to facilities, scholarships, and travel costs as well as potential scholarship costs to meet division eligibility.
We’ll find out how the NCAA views the viability of the Division III to Division I path in June. Hopefully.
Photo courtesy of the University of St. Thomas Athletics.