Off the Record: You could see UST ouster coming

This week the presidents of the schools in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) voted to oust one of its charter members, the University of St. Thomas. St. Thomas had grown too big and was much too successful in sports, especially in football, to peacefully co-exist with the smaller, weaker, schools.

I am an alumnus of St. Thomas, so you’d think I’d be outraged. Nah.

I am a bit bemused, of course. I’ve seen St. Thomas growing and getting too big for its britches for a long time now.

When I graduated in 1973, St. Thomas was the College of St. Thomas, and a men’s college at that. Sure, there were plenty of female students from the College of St. Catherine and from other colleges, like Hamline and Macalester and Augustana, who took classes at St. Thomas through a cooperative college program. But they were just visitors.

St. Thomas was similar to other schools in the MIAC in its student enrollment and its liberal arts curriculum. And like other schools in the MIAC, when it came to football it kicked Macalester’s butt every year and got its own butt kicked by St. John’s University. That’s just the way it was.

In 1974, however, the college started getting big ideas. It added a Business Administration program. Three years after that it started admitting women.

In 1990, the College of St. Thomas became the University of St. Thomas, and the year after that it opened a Minneapolis campus, which now houses is Opus College of Business, its School of Education, its School of Law (ethical law, of course) and the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship.

Its athletic program started getting better, too. Its basketball team was always decent, but over the past dozen years or so the Tommies football team has gotten so good it has been playing on a par with St. John’s, beating it most years, but never by much. That rivalry, always a strong one, has grown into one of the most watched in Minnesota among small colleges.

Its other athletic programs are good, too, especially the women’s programs. They are so dominant overall that St. Thomas has had a lock on the MIAC all-athletic title for a long time.

But that doesn’t hurt as much as the drubbings that UST has been handing out to schools like St. Olaf, which was dispatched 97-0 in 2017. When St. John’s was slaughtering its foes back in the 70s and 80s, at least its loveable, legendary coach John Gagliardi was able to shake his head apologetically and say he couldn’t figure out how that coiuld have happened.

So most of the other presidents in the MIAC voted this week to kick out St. Thomas for being too good. They get to stay in the conference through the spring of 2021, then they are on their own.

Is that right or wrong? As a CST alumnus, I say, “Meh, who cares?”

And, it will be interesting to see what kind of scores the Tommies football team runs up in the two seasons it has left.

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Kevin Sweeney has been the managing editor of The Journal since May 1985. A native of St. Paul, he worked at newspapers in LeSueur and Albert Lea before moving to New Ulm. Contact him at ksweeney@nujournal.com.

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