St. Thomas will not be finding out about their future this month after all.
The NCAA recently confirmed that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, their upcoming Division I Board of Directors meeting in late April will no longer include discussions on reclassification of athletic programs. The news was a blow to really only one school in particular as the Tommies were hoping to hear more about their potential shift from Division III to the FCS ranks.
“We fully understand and support the NCAA’s reasons behind shifting their agenda for their April meeting,” athletic director Phil Esten said in a statement. “Our primary focus right now is making sure our student athletes have the resources they need from a physical and mental health perspective, while completing their spring courses and making academic progress towards their degrees during the unprecedented challenges we’re all facing this semester with COVID-19. We are continuing to assess the best transition path for St. Thomas into Division-I, if the NCAA allows us to make the move. I remain optimistic about our future.”
The university made headlines last year when the MIAC kicked them out for being too good at athletics — particularly football. That prompted a series of questions over just where the Tommies would play in the near future. A lifeline was provided by the Summit League in the form of a tentative invitation but that came with the caveat that the school could make the transition up two levels in the NCAA structure.
Though others had made such a move before, it typically took over a decade. The tiny Minnesota-based program was looking to do it all in one swoop, thus needing the NCAA to step in and make a few tweaks to the process.
The hope had been to have the groundwork laid during April’s meeting with the D1 Management Council. Now that’s no longer the case given the pressing issues brought about by the coronavirus.
It sounds like an answer will come at some point in the summer but until then, you can file this under the unexpected consequences from a pandemic that has upset pretty much every aspect of college athletics from the on-field to other more mundane administrative tasks.