Yesterday the NCAA approved an unprecedented move, allowing the University of St. Thomas to move all the way from Non-Scholarship Division III to the top flight of Division I across all sports. This saga of course began just over a year ago in May 2019 when the MIAC “involuntarily removed” St. Thomas with the MIAC Presidents’ Council stating “athletic competitive parity in the conference as a primary concern.” This immediately began the Tommies transition out of the conference for 2021 and speculation that they may attempt to go D1 rather than jump to the DII NSIC.
And unlike any other school before them, that’s exactly what just happened with the NCAA granting St. Thomas the waiver request.
The Tommies will stay Non-Scholarship in football by joining the FCS’ Pioneer Football League, consisting of: Butler (Indianapolis, IN), Davidson (NC), Dayton (OH), Drake (Des Moines, IA), Marist (Poughkeepsie, NY), Morehead (KY) State, (University of) San Diego (CA), Stetson (DeLand, FL) , and Valparaiso (IN). Presbyterian College (Clinton, SC) will also join the PFL in 2021 with UST. The Women’s hockey team will join the Women’s WCHA while the Men’s team has not decided on a conference. All other sports will join The Summit League.
The Summit League is where things become interesting with all sports including the Men’s and Women’s Soccer teams the school has. This means that the Tommies will have the second D1 Women’s program in Minnesota (the Golden Gophers have the other) and the only D1 Men’s Program (though St. Cloud State will be the only other scholarship D1 Men’s program as they are adding a DII team to replace football).
The Men’s team will face competition from the Denver (CO) Pioneers (which most will recognize from their time in the WCHA and NCHC), Eastern Illinois Panthers (Charleston, IL), Omaha (NE) Mavericks (another former WCHA and now NCHC school), Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (Tulsa, OK), and Western Illinois Leathernecks (Macomb, IL). The Tommies will be the league’s 7th Men’s Soccer Program after Purdue Fort Wayne (IN) left for the Horizon League for 2020-21.
The Women’s program will have more and closer opponents to play though as 8 of the leagues 9 current members have programs. Denver (CO), North Dakota (Grand Forks), North Dakota State (Fargo), Omaha (NE), Oral Robers (Tulsa, OK), South Dakota (Vermillion), South Dakota State (Brookings), and Western Illinois (Macomb, IL) all have programs women’s soccer programs. The lone exception to having any sort of soccer team in The Summit League is UMKC, better known as the Kansas City Roos.
The question now is how the teams will fare with the jump in competition. In the last 3 years (2017-19) the Tommie Men have a 50-10-5 (W-L-D) record with two NCAA DIII Tournament Appearances and one MIAC Championship. The Tommie Women have managed to be just as good with a 49-8-9 (W-L-D) record over those same three seasons with three NCAA DIII tournament appearances and two MIAC Championships.
Stay tuned over the next week as we have more coverage of our state’s newest Division I programs!!