The MIAC named its first conference football champion in 1920. In the 101 years since, there likely hasn't been a season with such unprecedented change.

The conference has seen the departure of St. Thomas, one of its charter members, welcomed the return of Macalester and added St. Scholastica, split into two divisions for football and revamped the format to determine the conference champion.

In all the drama, one familiar theme remains: St. John's is the favorite to win the conference title.

The Johnnies, who have won or shared seven conferences titles since 2005, are ranked as high as No. 6 in national preseason Division III polls.

"Between our offense and our defense, we had to replace 17 starters, so it is almost like starting over," Johnnies coach Gary Fasching said. "Having five of our first six games at home certainly helps."

The Johnnies, who shared the 2019 title with St. Thomas, are led by wide receiver Ravi Alston, a preseason second-team All-America. Alston, a senior from Lake Elsinore, Calif., caught 88 passes for 1,444 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2019.

Bethel, the 2013 MIAC champ and only team other than St. John's or St. Thomas to win the conference title since 2008, is ranked No. 16 the preseason Top 25.

Among the returners for the Royals, who were 8-2 in 2019, is offensive lineman Jack Fiedler. Fiedler, a senior from St. Michael, was a preseason third-team All-America pick. Fiedler anchored an offensive line in 2019 that allowed the fewest sacks among all Div. III teams.

The conference favorites won't have to contend with St. Thomas, which made the jump to the Division I Pioneer League and is scheduled to open at Michigan Tech on Sept. 11.

"It will be interesting with the changes in our conference schedule," said Fasching, in his ninth season as Johnnies coach. "We will miss playing St. Thomas, a great rival and a top-notch program, but we have great rivalries with every other team in our league."

The Scots return

Macalester, which left the MIAC in football after the 2001 season, has rejoined the league.

Since 2002, the Scots spent 12 seasons as an independent and six seasons in the Midwest Conference. The Scots went 34-27 while in the Midwest Conference. They won the conference title in their first season in the league (2014) to earn their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Div. III playoffs.

KiJuan Ware, who joined the program as the offensive coordinator in 2019, is the Scots' interim head coach. He replaced Tony Jennison, who resigned in May after 12 seasons and had a 60-59 record.

St. Scholastica joins

St. Scholastica has joined the MIAC after 12 seasons in the UMAC, where it won five conference titles and made five Division III playoff appearances in its final seasons in the league.

The Saints started their football program in 2008. They were 5-13 overall and 2-6 in the UMAC their first two seasons. In the final 10 seasons in the UMAC, they were 80-25 overall and 73-12 in the UMAC.

The Saints were 0-5 against MIAC teams during their 12 seasons in the UMAC.

St. Scholastica gives the MIAC a school in Duluth for the first time since 1975. Minnesota Duluth was a member of the MIAC from 1951 to 1975.

New divisions

The 10 teams are split into two divisions.

The Northwoods Division will have Carleton, Gustavus Adolphus, St. John's, St. Olaf and St. Scholastica, while the Skyline Division features Augsburg, Bethel, Concordia (Moorhead), Hamline and Macalester.

The final week of the regular season will be "championship week" with each team playing against the corresponding seed from the other division.