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UNO has a new conference rival as St. Thomas gets approval to join Summit League
ATHLETICS

UNO has a new conference rival as St. Thomas gets approval to join Summit League

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The Summit League has a new member.

The University of St. Thomas, located in St. Paul, Minnesota, received approval from the NCAA on Wednesday that will allow the school to jump to Division I from Division III. The Summit invited St. Thomas to the conference in October pending approval of that waiver.

Previous NCAA rules specified that a D-III school must stop at Division II before climbing to D-I, a process that normally took 12 years. Last month, the NCAA Division I Council introduced legislation that would allow D-III schools to reclassify directly to D-I in a process that would take a minimum of five years.

“We are very excited about this positive development for St. Thomas and look forward to welcoming it into the Summit League,” UNO Athletic Director Trev Alberts said in a statement. “The school has a strong tradition in athletics, and we have no doubt that will continue with its reclassification to Division I.”

St. Thomas will officially join the Summit League on July 1, 2021, and begin its five-year transition to D-I. The addition brings the number of full-time Summit members to 10, joining UNO, Denver, UMKC, North Dakota, North Dakota State, Oral Roberts, South Dakota, South Dakota State and Western Illinois.

St. Thomas currently sponsors 20 teams: baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, football, men’s and women’s hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s track and field, and volleyball.

The football team will join the Pioneer Football League. The women’s hockey team will join the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Women’s League. A conference decision for men’s hockey is pending.

St. Thomas had been a member of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for nearly 100 years, but was voted out in August. Reasons cited were its size and a lack of competitive balance.

The Tommies have won 15 NCAA team championships since 1982. The teams that will be joining the Summit League combined for more than 400 regular-season and postseason conference championships in the MIAC.

“St. Thomas will further strengthen our league footprint by adding the Minneapolis/St. Paul market,” Alberts said. “It provides our members another cost-effective travel destination that also will help to minimize the amount of time student-athletes spend out of the classroom. With 10 members beginning in 2021-22, the Summit League will be further strengthened by the addition of St. Thomas.”

hunter.paniagua@owh.com, 402-444-1201​

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