St. Thomas Gets “Encouraging News”, Closer to Division I

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Although St. Thomas did not receive final approval on Wednesday for his proposed move to Division I, the NCAA pushed him a step further towards this goal.

The NCAA Strategic Vision and Planning Committee recommended a proposal to Division I Council that would allow qualified schools to reclassify directly from Division III to Division I. Council put the plan into the NCAA legislative pipeline Wednesday, with a vote scheduled for April 2021. In the meantime, Council has said it “will accept a formal request for waiver” from St. Thomas to begin the process sooner.

St. Thomas has been waiting months for NCAA approval to go directly from D-III to D-I, which is not allowed by current rules. A statement from the school called Wednesday’s action “encouraging news”, adding that sports director Phil Esten would immediately start working on the waiver request.

The Tommies were eliminated from the Minnesota Interuniversity Sport Conference last May and will leave the league in July 2021. The Summit League, which invited the Tommies to join, will assist the school in submitting the waiver request.

“While I know we are all looking forward to a final word on the destination of the competition starting in the 2021-2022 season, we need to be patient a little bit longer,” said Esten in the release. “As always, I remain optimistic about the future of Tommie athletics, and we look forward to continuing to work with the NCAA on the reclassification process. “

Over the next 10 months, Division I members will review the proposal and provide feedback to the NCAA before the April vote. League commissioner for the summit, Tom Douple, said Wednesday’s decision was “a positive step” for the Tommies and the league.

“We will work with the NCAA and UST to make the formal waiver request and move the process forward as quickly as possible,” said Douple in a statement.

The transition from D-III to D-I currently takes 12 years, including a mandatory stop of five years at D-II level. The plan presented on Wednesday shortens the deadline to at least five years, without stopping D-II.

According to the proposal, D-III schools wishing to go directly to D-I must spend at least one year in a pre-application process. Meanwhile, schools would present a strategic plan; get a conference invitation; establish policies that reflect D-I principles in areas such as diversity and academic integrity; and conduct feasibility studies on how they will meet D-I requirements, including compliance and sports awards.

St. Thomas has already done some of this work. He has an invitation from the Summit League, which includes all sports except football and hockey, and Esten has laid the groundwork in other areas.

After meeting the requirements of the pre-application period, the school would apply and begin the four-year reclassification process already in place for D-II schools moving to D-I. The NCAA will review the progress of the school each year to decide if it can continue to move forward or if it should repeat a year of the process.

Rick George, Colorado sporting director and chair of the strategic vision and planning committee, said the group had spent months examining the essentials for a successful D-I transition. The pre-application year is supposed to give D-III schools more time to start working towards D-I standards in these areas.

“The current process of transitioning from Division II to Division I schools has successfully prepared these schools for meaningful membership in Division I,” said George in a statement. “We believe that with more time to reach certain criteria, Division III schools could be just as well placed to make this transition. “

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