Save the Tommies – From a Bethel Alum

The MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) is a NCAA Division III conference that has been around since 1920. The original five members include: St. Thomas, St. John’s, Hamline, Macalester and Gustavus Adolphus. Over the course of the past 99 years, the prestigious conference would add the following schools to the fold: Bethel, Augsburg, St. Olaf, Concordia (Moorhead), Carleton and Saint Mary’s as well as women’s colleges Saint Benedict and St. Catherine.

That makes 13 participating MIAC schools in the current state, but that might be changing soon. Some grumblings have emerged among schools about a movement to force St. Thomas out of the MIAC. Unfortunately, the grumblings appear to be closer to threats than slight disturbances.

The first question for the average person would be how? How can the MIAC just kick out one of the founding schools after almost 100 years in the conference?

Well, the reasoning is being hidden under the guise of enrollment differences, which is an embarrassing cop-out. The only way that St. Thomas could be kicked out would be if 9 of the 13 schools voted to create a new  “Enrollment Restriction” by-law to participate in the conference.

It is true that St. Thomas is the largest MIAC school. At over 6,000 undergrads, UST has been twice the size of the next largest school for over a decade…. But why is this suddenly so important?

The follow up question naturally is; Who is forcing this decision and what is the true reasoning for the abrupt change of heart?

The primary reason is not for academics, not for geography and not for a difference in philosophies, but rather because some schools can’t compete in certain athletics, particularly football… Which is clearly the most important factor for being in the MIAC (This is heavy sarcasm for those who don’t know my writing style. I use sarcasm to battle stupidity.)

Historic rival St. John’s doesn’t seem likely to ever vote St. Thomas out, so that is already 2 of the 4 votes needed to keep UST in. According to Patrick Reusse in the Star Tribune, pressure is being applied to Bethel, Concordia, and Gustavus (the other competitive football programs) to support the movement.

That leaves the teams threatening to drop out of MIAC football if UST isn’t booted as Augsburg, Hamline, St. Olaf and Carleton as Macalester is already out. It is always a noble deed to go with the philosophy: “If you can’t beat them, kick them out so you don’t have to play them” (more sarcasm).

The funny thing is that although St. Thomas is perennially the cream of the crop of the MIAC, they aren’t the only school to dominate. Since 2013, UST has won three MIAC titles to St. John’s two and Bethel’s one. Just last year in the 2018 season:

- St. John’s was 8-0 (outscored opponents 380-70)

- Bethel was 7-1 (300-69)

- St. Thomas was 6-2 (358-95)

Why not kick out all of these schools for beating up on the bottom of the MIAC?

As Reusse so keenly pointed out on Twitter this past Monday, Gustavus won it’s 31st consecutive MIAC regular season men’s tennis title and 313th consecutive MIAC match…  Where are the calls to abolish Gustavus from the MIAC due to their supreme tennis talent?

Reusse also noted that he has since heard more whisperings that 9 of the 13 presidents are ready to expel St. Thomas from the MIAC soon. If this is true, I am embarrassed for those presidents.

I am a Bethel alumni and am proud of that fact. I coached for the Men’s Basketball program in 2016/17 and we enjoyed the challenge that UST presented each time. We tied the Tommies for the regular season title and won the MIAC Playoffs that year.

I’m not pretending to know all the details of this story. I’ve only been able to read the reports that media members like Reusse and others have done, so if there is a major detail being left out, I haven’t seen or heard it.

Based on these reports and my personal experiences, however, nothing has ever been clearer in my mind. It pains me to say this because everyone jokes about hating the Tommies but…

St. Thomas belongs in the MIAC – and that is a fact.


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