The MIAC sponsors 20 sports, unless you want to count indoor and outdoor track for both men and women separately, which I don't. There are nine team sports that have conference playoffs: men — soccer, basketball, hockey and baseball; women — soccer, volleyball, basketball, hockey and softball.
There are 13 schools in the conference, including St. John's as men only, and St. Benedict and St. Catherine as women only. Macalester plays football in the Midwest Conference after years of gridiron suffering in the MIAC.
St. Thomas is the titan and spends its time counting championships. St. John's, its soul mate St. Ben's and Gustavus Adolphus have had traditionally strong all-around programs. And Bethel seems to keep getting better top to bottom.
Jason Verdugo, the creative athletic director at Hamline, said a couple of years ago: "We want to finish in the first division of the MIAC, and pop up as a title contender once in a while."
Augsburg has dealt with the same issue of playing catch up in recruiting and with facilities in the new, higher-spending world of Division III athletics. The Auggies have been dynastic in wrestling, but with only four MIAC schools still participating, it's not a conference-sponsored sport.
Jeff Swenson put together the national wrestling powerhouse at Augsburg. He added athletic director duties in 2001. In 2005-06, Augsburg went 1-9 in football and made the MIAC playoffs in only one of nine sports.
Swenson became a full-time AD a year later. "Until then, if a coach and a wrestler happened to come to my office at the same time, I'd ask the coach to come back later," he said.
Improving facilities was going to take time, so the first initiative was a fellowship program to add young coaches to the staffs. "It's a program to make young coaches better, and also to help us recruit — to make us an option with more student athletes,'' Swenson said.
The 2016-17 results have been excellent: The Auggies are 7-for-7 in reaching the MIAC playoffs in fall and winter sports, with baseball and softball to come.
"We couldn't be happier with seven,'' Swenson said. "St. Thomas also has seven. I think the next school has five.''
Read Patrick Reusse's blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.