MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Within the next few years, Minnesota may have another Division I school in sports.
After involuntarily leaving the MIAC league last spring, St. Thomas is set to join the Summit League with the NCAA’s approval.
The Summit League is an athletic conference that includes nine schools. St. Thomas would be the tenth. Border rivals would include North Dakota and North Dakota State along with South Dakota and South Dakota State.
“It’s certainly exciting. It’s exciting to know that we may have the opportunity to compete in one of the most competitive mid-major conferences in the country,” said Phil Esten, VP and Director of Athletics.
After involuntarily leaving the MIAC in May, St. Thomas became a Division III free agent looking for a home. And from the start, interest between the school and the Summit League was mutual. The league then voted unanimously to accept the Tommies move from Division III to Division I.
“From what we can tell this has never been done before so there’s not a precedent that had been set,” said Esten.
And it would mean that 19 of the schools 22 sports would compete in the Summit League. The league does not sponsor men and women’s hockey, or football.
The hockey teams could join seven other schools that are set to leave the WCHA.
The football team has plans too.
“There are some options out there for football. Missouri Valley is certainly one that’s thriving. And certainly, I think, one of the best FCS conferences in the country,” said Esten, adding that the Pioneer League is another option for football.
Jordyn Glynn and Madi Schirmer are freshman basketball players. They believe the University is ready to make the jump.
“It’s exciting. It’s crazy. I think it would be nice these next two years to get adjusted to the coach, get adjusted to the program and take that huge step,” said Schirmer.
The NCAA is expected to make a decision sometime this school year. If they sign off on this, St. Thomas would start playing in the Summit League in the Fall of 2021.
St. Thomas would join the U of M as the only other Division I basketball program in the state.
To put that in perspective, Iowa and Wisconsin each have four Division I basketball programs.
North and South Dakota each have two.