St. Thomas will have to wait at least two more months to learn whether it will be allowed to move directly to Division I, after the NCAA postponed a decision on the matter.
The Division I Council was expected to decide at an April 23-24 meeting whether to create a direct pathway for Division III schools to reclassify to Division I. NCAA spokesperson Meghan Durham confirmed Friday that the decision will be put off because of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“A decision is not expected before June at the earliest, as NCAA members continue to work through issues arising as a result of the coronavirus,’’ Durham said.
The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference voted last May to remove the Tommies from the Division III league. St. Thomas plans to move to Division I and play in the Summit League beginning with the 2021-22 season, pending NCAA approval. The NCAA currently requires schools to reclassify to Division II first.
St. Thomas athletic director Phil Esten issued a statement saying school officials “fully understand and support’’ the reasoning behind the delay, adding that his department also is grappling with the “unprecedented challenges’’ of the pandemic.
“Our primary focus right now is making sure our student athletes have the resources they need from a physical and mental health perspective, while completing their spring courses and making academic progress towards their degrees,’’ Esten said. “We are continuing to assess the best transition path for St. Thomas into Division I, if the NCAA allows us to make the move. I remain optimistic about our future.’’
In a statement, the NCAA said it will table most of the legislation that was to be voted on in April, so the council can focus on addressing the pandemic and on recommendations regarding the use of athletes’ name, image and likeness.