St. Thomas will remain a member of the MIAC for at least the short term, after the league’s Presidents’ Council decided Thursday not to take immediate action to force the Tommies out.
In a statement, MIAC spokesman BJ Pickard said presidents of all 13 member schools met Thursday to discuss “philosophy, competition and membership” but did not vote on any changes.
The Star Tribune reported April 5 that some schools wanted to expel St. Thomas, citing its large enrollment and athletic dominance, particularly in football. St. Thomas has been a member of the MIAC for 99 years, dating to the league’s founding.
“The presidents of all 13 MIAC institutions attended and agreed to continue discussions at future meetings,” the statement said. “No action was taken and no further details will be provided at this time.”
Sources told the Star Tribune earlier this month that the presidents seeking to oust St. Thomas would push the MIAC to change its bylaws, instituting a cap on enrollment. The limit would be set at a level that would exclude the Tommies. League rules state that nine of the 13 presidents must approve changes to the bylaws.
St. Thomas’ undergraduate enrollment is 6,199, about twice that of the next-largest MIAC members that play football — St. Olaf has 3,023 undergraduates and Bethel has 2,904. A St. Thomas spokesman said the school’s current undergraduate enrollment is similar to what it was 20 years ago, when the Tommies were in the middle of the MIAC standings in football.
The Tommies finished third in the MIAC football standings in 2018 with an 8-2 overall record and 6-2 conference mark. They outscored league opponents 358-95. MIAC champion St. John’s (12-1, 8-0 MIAC) outscored league foes 380-70.
The effort to push out St. Thomas has been conducted in secret, with officials of the MIAC and its schools declining to comment. The first public confirmation that the presidents were meeting to talk about the Tommies’ future came Wednesday, via a statement from St. Olaf that said all 13 MIAC presidents were “engaged in a discussion of membership.”
Earlier this week, St. Thomas athletic director Phil Esten reiterated that the Tommies have no desire to leave the MIAC or move up from Division III.
“As a founding member of the conference, we are proud of our history and heritage in the MIAC, and are committed to the league values and D-III ideals,” Esten said in a statement. “We are very interested in doing what we can to stabilize conference membership now and into the future.”
Current MIAC bylaws allow for members’ status to be reviewed at any time for any reason, though membership can be terminated only for reasons including violation of bylaws or “any action or inaction which reflects poorly upon the reputation and integrity of the Conference.”