The future of St. Thomas as a member of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference could be announced as soon as Wednesday. The Tommies, in their 99th season as an original member of the MIAC, have been facing removal from the conference by a vote of conference school presidents.
St. Thomas coaches and athletic department employees had not been informed as of Tuesday night about an announcement, although they could learn officially that the Tommies are leaving the MIAC at a meeting scheduled early Wednesday morning.
Nine votes among the 13 member schools would be required to remove St. Thomas.
The college presidents who favored removing the Tommies from the conference apparently had those nine votes secured this week, with only St. Thomas, St. John’s, St. Benedict and possibly Bethel said to be against this move.
On Tuesday, an MIAC athletic director responded to a text by stating he was not aware of a planned announcement for Wednesday, and that this matter was being handled strictly at the “presidential level.”
The Star Tribune reported April 5 that some MIAC schools wanted to expel St. Thomas, citing its large enrollment and athletic dominance, particularly in football. 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.
St. Thomas’ undergraduate enrollment is 6,199, about twice that of the next-largest MIAC members that play football.
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 in mid-April, via a statement from St. Olaf that said all 13 MIAC presidents were “engaged in a discussion of membership.”
Also in April, 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.”