MIAC can’t beat ’em, so it throws St. Thomas out

It was a short and sweet announcement from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference today. The University of St. Thomas is out.

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.

It sounds like so many firings in which the employee is “resigned to pursue other interests” (finding a job), but “best of luck” (get out).

It’s so… Minnesotan.

It’s a bad look for MIAC, most agree, since all St. Thomas did was be really good at sports, and also be a school that people wanted to attend, which made it tough on other schools in the conference who couldn’t compete on the field.

“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,” St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan said in a statement.

Last month, Forum Communications’ Jeff Kolpack suggested a move to Division I in two years, after St. Thomas finishes running up the scores against other MIAC teams.

At nine schools, the Summit League could use another member and the St. Paul location is well within the Summit footprint. Some have suggested Missouri-Kansas City coming back into the league, but if I were Summit commissioner Tom Douple, I’d take St. Thomas over UMKC. Easy decision.

St. Thomas has money, facilities and tradition — three things UMKC does not. UST football could glide into the Pioneer League, the non-scholarship, football-only conference. Granted, the travel budget would have to be enormously boosted, but as NDSU found out, there’s something about being in Division I that opens a donor’s wallet.

In the Pioneer, there would be a bus trip to Drake (Iowa) and maybe Augustana University (S.D.) will take the Pioneer plunge. But everything else would be a flight. So what? It’s 5.3 miles from St. Thomas to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Total travel time to most of the Pioneer wouldn’t be much more than taking a bus to Moorhead.

Pioneer Press columnist Bob Sansevere doesn’t buy the idea that the Twin Cities location giving St. Thomas a competitive edge over other MIAC schools, he said in a column a few weeks ago.

If the Tommies go, it wouldn’t be shocking if these other MIAC schools start scouring for reasons to get rid of the Johnnies, then Bethel. It’s hardly a new concept. Losers want to be winners.

Nine of the MIAC member schools play football. Several haven’t been in the mix for a MIAC title since, well, ever. That stings.

It is not the fault of St. Thomas or Caruso that some MIAC football programs are terminally lousy. There’s an argument that Caruso runs up scores. It’s an argument once lodged against legendary Johnnies coach John Gagliardi, who won more football games than any college football coach.

In any event, the conference and the remaining schools look like cowards.