A lot has been written, spoken, tweeted, and posted since the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference announced on May 22 that the University of St. Thomas would be transitioning out of MIAC within the next two years. There has been indignation that St. Thomas would be led to leave for “winning too much,” and indignation that the MIAC presidents haven’t been willing to say more than what appeared in the press release and on the MIAC website.
I want to address the second issue first: We let the MIAC media statement stand without further comment because we understood that we had agreed to do so. We would speak with one voice. A look at the full-page statement available on the MIAC website can be helpful now.
The full MIAC statement notes that “while no formal vote was held, all 13 MIAC presidents agreed to a transition that will end St. Thomas’ membership in the conference.” In other words, we all, St. Thomas included, ultimately agreed to this transition plan, which was negotiated in good faith by MIAC leadership on behalf of the conference as a whole.
Most of the protest about our action has been focused on the conference statement that “athletic competitive parity” was “a primary concern.” All those familiar with the MIAC will know that it was not the only concern: some were troubled about problems with sportsmanship; some about the safety of students in contact sports; still others about the approach to varsity sports in the first place. Different member schools were influenced by different considerations to different degrees. Yet the concern about competitive opportunity was real. Over the last 15 years, St. Thomas won 47% of the conference championships across all sports; over the last five years, it won 56% of those championships: 62 of them. The next closest school won 14.
The MIAC presidents acted to preserve our conference. Presidents’ Council Chair Rebecca Bergman notes in her remarks on the full-page statement that “after extensive discussions, the Presidents’ Council determined that there was no path forward that preserved the MIAC in its current form.” Had the presidents not negotiated an exit for St. Thomas, it was clear that the MIAC, one of the very best Division III conferences in the U.S., would soon no longer exist in anything like its current form, and a great strength for our schools—and more important, our students—would be lost.
Concordia College prizes the focus of the MIAC on the education and well-being of our students who play varsity sports. We value the opportunity for our students to play sports for the love of it, seeking competition among peers who will test them and build their skills, as they develop the team identity and pride that is one of the greatest joys of Division III athletics. Athletics in the MIAC are a wonderful source of school spirit for fans and families, yet they exist, first and last, for the students who play.