MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota didn’t make it to the “big dance” this year, but three of the four Division 1 schools from Iowa did: Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa.

Our neighbor to the south has a little over half the population of Minnesota, but four times the number of D-1 schools.

That had John from Maple Grove wondering: Why aren’t more Minnesota schools Division 1?

Robert Bruininks was the president of the University of Minnesota from 2002 to 2011.

“I think there are a lot of reasons for that. Some of them are historic and go back more than 150 years,” Bruininks said.

In 1862, President Lincoln signed the Land Grant Act, and some states decided to split their public universities into two.

“So you have Michigan, Michigan State. You have Iowa, Iowa State,” he said. “Those campuses grew in size and as they grew in size, they were kind of automatically pretty much in line to be Division-1 schools.”

Minnesota decided to combine its land grant and research institutions.

“We put ours together. It was a smart decision way back in my judgment. If you go to Iowa and you ask them, they’ll say it was much smarter to do it the other way,” Bruininks said.

Division-1 schools must sponsor 14 sports, split between men and women. Division 2 only requires 10. Larger D-1 schools can give 85 football scholarships. At D-2 schools, it’s 36.

When the University of Nebraska-Omaha moved to Division 1 in 2011, it dropped wrestling and football.

“UNO said they couldn’t afford the programs, especially football in Division 1,” Bruininks said.

An athletic director at the University of Minnesota Duluth estimates to go Division 1, it would cost $3 million in scholarship, travel and coaching expenses.

That doesn’t even include the cost of a new stadium. D-1 football requires a minimum attendance of 15,000 people.

“It depends on the appetite of the institutions, the appetite of the alumni, the size of the student body,” Bruininks said. “It’s really hard to run very many Division 1 sports if you have a small campus because the dollars that are required are quite considerable.”

Minnesota State Mankato, UMD, Bemidji State and St. Cloud State are all D-2 schools, but play Division-1 hockey.

Those schools are allowed to “play up” in that sport because there is no longer Division-2 hockey classification.

Heather Brown

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