Students walk through the Arches May 5, 2017.

Athletics Conference Update

Dear St. Thomas students, faculty and staff,

Four months ago, it was announced that St. Thomas would be involuntarily removed from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), which we have called home for nearly 100 years. Since then, we have thoughtfully considered several options for the future.

Over the summer, Vice President and Director of Athletics Phil Esten, Ph.D., led an advisory committee to methodically examine several options for a new conference home. The top priority in this process is maintaining our student-centered focus. We are proud of our strong record of athletic performance and even prouder that our student-athletes are recognized for their great work as scholars in the classroom and as good citizens in our community. Those values will remain paramount no matter which athletics conference we ultimately join.

I am pleased to update you that late yesterday, following a decision by our Board of Trustees to submit an application, St. Thomas officially received an invitation to join the Summit League, a Division I athletics conference.

Our membership in the Summit League will require an approval from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). We have submitted a request for a waiver to the NCAA from their current rules which state that Division III schools can only reclassify to Division II. Our waiver seeks an exception to this rule and requests permission to enter the NCAA Division I reclassification process directly from Division III.

Joining the Summit League would be a unique and exciting opportunity for St. Thomas, allowing us to significantly expand our impact and reach. It is a strong Midwest Division I conference that includes both public and private competitors. Under the direction of Commissioner Tom Douple, the conference has grown in strength and success over the past several years.

If the NCAA ultimately grants the waiver request, St. Thomas will begin competing in the Summit League in fall 2021, after two full final years in the MIAC.

Answers to some questions about this update can be found here. As more information about the process becomes available, we will share it with our community.

Regardless of the outcome, I want to assure you that our core university mission and convictions will continue to guide us through the transition process. I extend our deepest thanks to the entire Tommie Athletics Department and our athletics advisory committee members for their work completed to date and the work to come on our ongoing journey.


Julie H. Sullivan, Ph.D.