I have a new mantra for the MIAC athletic conference: strive to be average.
The MIAC definitely fumbled the communications ball when it decided to oust the University of St. Thomas from the conference basically because the University has gotten too good in sports. It’s true that St. Thomas has dominated the conference for several years now, so it appears that the reward for excellence in the MIAC is to be booted out of the conference.
The reason given by the MIAC for expelling St. Thomas was about “competitive athletic parity.” So, rather than inspiring schools to be more competitive, they should just get rid of the schools that get too good.
By numerous news reports, the discussions to eject St. Thomas occurred in secrecy by several members of the conference that were threatening to leave and potentially break up the conference as a result.
With rare exception, the decision has been a public relations nightmare for the conference, which has been deservedly lambasted by local and national media alike for punishing an institution for being too good.
Some make the argument that St. Thomas, with an undergraduate enrollment of roughly 6,000, has gotten too big for the conference, at double the size of the next largest school, St. Olaf. I wonder what perennial Division III national champion Mount Union, with an enrollment smaller than St. Olaf, would have to say about being competitive. And how does MIAC member St. John’s consistently compete with St. Thomas, beating them last season and twice in the past five years? To its credit, St. John’s was opposed to having St. Thomas leave the conference because, unlike some of its conference brethren, the Johnnies like the competition.
While the MIAC completely failed the communications test due to secrecy and less than transparent information, from the top of the administration on down, St. Thomas played it like, well, like the winners that they are. From the President of the University to the Athletic Director, the communications from St. Thomas were a perfect balance of expressing disappointment about the decision with a graciousness of acceptance. They once again showed the MIAC the way the game should be played.
Disclaimer: I am an adjunct instructor at the University of St. Thomas and the opinions expressed here are solely my own.