St. Olaf St. Thomas

In a 2017 football game, St. Thomas blasted St. Olaf 97-0, thanks to a touchdown with seven seconds remaining in the game. Wednesday, St. Thomas announced it was “involuntarily” leaving the MIAC. (Screenshot from St. Olaf webcast)

After a month of speculation, the news became official Wednesday morning: St. Thomas is leaving the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference by the spring of 2021.

With a vote among the other conference college presidents scheduled for Wednesday morning, as was reported by the Star Tribune, it was announced St. Thomas is “involuntarily” leaving the conference.

“As a founding member, St. Thomas expended tremendous effort to maintain membership in the MIAC,” a St. Thomas press release read.

A representative from Carleton College said no one from the school would be speaking on the subject, while representatives from St. Olaf College and Gustavus Adolphus College had not responded to requests for comment as of Wednesday afternoon.

It’s been widely speculated that motivations for the ouster stem from the enrollment gap between St. Thomas and the rest of the conference, and the football program’s propensity to win by lopsided margins. In 2017, the Tommies blasted the Oles 97-0, a score that was extended when St. Thomas scored its final touchdown with seven seconds left to play.

That win didn’t help win a conference title though, as St. Thomas finished third last year behind Saint John’s and Bethel. The Tommies recently snapped a 20-year title drought by winning the crown in 2010.

“After extensive membership discussions, the University of St. Thomas will be involuntarily removed from membership in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC),” a joint statement from the conference and St. Thomas reads. “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.”

In an informational supplement to the press release, the MIAC cites St. Thomas having won 47 percent of team and individual conference championships from 2003-18 and the school accounting for 32 percent of the conference’s automatic qualifying spots into NCAA postseason competitions.

The Tommies have also won 12 straight men’s and women’s MIAC All-Sports Awards, which are handed out to the school that cumulatively performs the best across all sports through the athletic calendar.

“After extensive discussions, the Presidents’ Council determined that there was no path forward that preserved the MIAC in its current form,” said Gustavus Adolphus College President Rebecca Bergman, who is chairwoman of the MIAC Presidents’ Council. “For that reason, we have come to this agreement. Throughout this process, our goal has been to preserve the MIAC as a well-respected Division III athletic conference for the sake of our more than 7,000 student-athletes. Supporting the experiences and well-being of those student-athletes will continue to be our primary focus moving forward.”

Prior to Wednesday, MIAC membership had remain unchanged since Saint Benedict joined in 1985, the fourth-longest streak in all of college athletics behind only the Ivy League (D1, 1954), the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (DIII, 1982) and the New England Small College Athletic Conference (DIII, 1982).

St. Thomas was a founding member of the MIAC in 1920 along with Carleton College, Gustavus Adolphus College, Hamline University, Macalester College, Saint John’s University and St. Olaf College, and is the first school to leave the conference since the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 1975.

“Like every other collegiate athletic conference, we consistently evaluate membership,” MIAC Commissioner Dan McKane said in a release. “We have been fortunate to avoid membership changes for 35 years, which really is extraordinary. The attention and passion displayed over the past several months demonstrate how much this conference means to so many people.”

Reach Sports Editor Michael Hughes at 645-1106. Follow him on Twitter @NFNSports.

Sports Editor for the Northfield News. Also a California native looking for tips on surviving the winter and an Indiana University grad on the quest for a good breaded pork tenderloin.

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