St. Thomas athletics approved to make transition to Division I

St. Thomas quarterback Tommy Dolan stands behind a row of blockers as he pulls back for a short throw to the flat. Dolan threw for two TDs off only 15 attempts as his running backs dominated the game.

The University of St. Thomas is officially headed to Division I for athletics.

The NCAA Division I Council announced Wednesday it has approved St. Thomas to transition directly from Division III to Division I, starting in the 2021-22 academic year. The Tommies will remain in Division III and the MIAC for the 2020-21 year, pending ongoing concerns due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The St. Thomas athletic department made the announcement offiical on Wednesday with a video posted to social media.

St. Thomas will have 19 of its 22 sports in the Summit League. The football team will compete in the Pioneer League, and the women’s hockey teams will compete in the WCHA. The men's hockey team is conference appointment is to be announced, pending approval.

“Today, as much as ever, I’m proud to be a Tommie as we look to our university’s future,” said Dr. Phil Esten, St. Thomas vice president and athletic director, in a statement. “I thank the leadership at the NCAA, the Summit League, Pioneer Football League, WCHA and all who have supported our efforts. This decision aligns with our university’s bold vision to ever press forward. I am excited to compete in Division I, while ensuring conditions for our student-athletes to pursue comprehensive excellence.”

St. Thomas is the first school in the modern era of the NCAA to make the jump from Division I directly to Division III. The move comes after MIAC presidents voted last year to change a bi-law capping undergraduate enrollments for participating schools in athletics, effectively eliminating St. Thomas from the league.