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St. Thomas 'involuntarily removed' from MIAC

The University of St. Thomas will "involuntarily" leave the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference by the spring of 2021, the conference announced on Wednesday. ESPN Radio host Patrick Reusse

MIAC will release statement at 11 a.m. announcing that St. Thomas will "involuntarily'' leave conference no later than spring of 2021. Apparently, Tommies bowed to certainty of being voted out by the needed nine of 13 conference school presidents.

— Reusse (@Patrick_Reusse) May 22, 2019

" target="_blank" rel="noopener">first reported the news. After extensive membership discussions, the University of St. Thomas will be involuntarily removed from membership in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). The MIAC Presidents' Council cites athletic competitive parity in the conference as a primary concern. St. Thomas will begin a multi-year transition immediately and meanwhile is eligible to compete as a full member of the MIAC through the end of spring 2021.St. Thomas is one of seven founding members of the MIAC and will leave the conference in good standing with a long and appreciated history of academic and athletic success.

The move is the culmination of years of political maneuvering between St. Thomas and the conference, which came to a head last month. St. Thomas is easily the largest school in the conference; its 6,200 undergraduates more than doubles the next closest MIAC school.

The Tommies have used that size to their advantage, particularly in football. Under head coach Glenn Caruso, St. Thomas is 78-10 in MIAC play with six league championships. St. Thomas has won multiple league games over the past two seasons by scores of 60-0, 68-0, 84-0 and even 97-0.

It's not just football, though; St. Thomas easily outpaced the rest of the conference in the department-wide Learfield Directors Cup in 2017-18, winning by more than 250 points.

MIAC presidents met last month and took no action, but the anti-Tommie faction gathered the votes necessary to remove St. Thomas from the league.

"While this decision is extremely disappointing, we will continue to prioritize the welfare and overall experience of our student-athletes," St. Thomas president Julie Sullivan said in a letter to UST stakeholders. "They embrace and represent both academic and athletic excellence and are important contributors to our university’s culture. Additionally, our coaches share the values of advancing comprehensive excellence and are among the best in the country.

Although our athletic conference will change, one thing will not: our commitment to continued academic and athletic excellence. I am confident in our campus leadership who will guide us forward and optimistic that we will continue to celebrate great success.

In an FAQ on the school's website, St. Thomas says its future is largely up in the air.

What’s next for St. Thomas?

Led by Vice President and Director of Athletics, Phil Esten, and involving members of our community, we immediately begin a deliberative process to explore other conferences. The strength of our athletic programs, our institutional commitment to excellence and our location in the metro area will make us an attractive candidate to other conferences. While our athletic conference will change, one thing will not: our commitment to both academic and athletic excellence.

How will St. Thomas determine which conference to join?

Our commitment is to continue to provide excellence in our athletic programs while maintaining our academic standards, as well as prioritizing the student-athlete experience. An advisory committee led by Vice President and Director of Athletics Phil Esten will review all options, and ultimately, President Julie Sullivan will make a recommendation to our Board of Trustees for their consideration and approval. Once we have a sense for what might be the best fit for St. Thomas, we will need to secure an invitation from that particular conference before we can proceed. We will keep our community informed of our progress.

Even the future of the Tommie-Johnnie game, the school's rivalry with St. John's that dates back to 1901, is in the air. "We look forward to hosting St. John’s this fall at Allianz Field," St. Thomas said. "We would like to find a way for this historic rivalry to continue into the future."

The 2020 season will be St. Thomas' last in the MIAC. That season will also mark the 100-year anniversary of the MIAC's founding.

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.