University of St. Thomas named as tenth member of Summit League


Jack Hoover

The logo of St. Thomas, a team competing against Omaha athletics in the Summit League. Image courtesy of KIMT.

Omaha athletics will have a new foe in the Summit League starting in 2021-2022. All the way from St. Paul, Minnesota, the University of St. Thomas Tommies will begin competing in Summit League sports.

The announcement from the Summit League came on July 7, after the NCAA Division 1 council made the decision to allow St. Thomas a waiver that would grant them the ability to make the large leap to Division I from Division III, where the Tommies have been since 1973. St. Thomas is the first university to make such a significant jump since the NCAA’s current rules were put into place in 2010.

“They are an outstanding addition bringing another successful and growing academic and athletic program to our conference,” UNO Chancellor Jeffrey Gold said in a press release. “The Summit League is well positioned and excited to provide support to the Tommies during their transition process.”

In coming to the Summit League conference, St. Thomas brings with them a rich history of success. The Tommies were one of the most athletically dominant schools in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference where they previously were a member of. In total, the school won 15 DIII national titles across 8 different sports. Of the 22 varsity sports that the schools, only three will not be competing in the Summit League: football and men’s and women’s hockey.

This news will come as good news to the Summit League for a number of reasons, one being that it adds an additional team to Summit League sports that are in need of one. Summit League baseball looked to be in danger of losing an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. With Purdue Fort Wayne no longer being a part of the conference this season, only five teams in the Summit League would have fielded baseball teams. However, the addition of Northern Colorado as a baseball-only member solved that problem temporarily. With the addition of St. Thomas in 2021-2022, that will be one less worry for the Summit League.

As a part of their move to DI, St. Thomas will have to go through a four-year transition period where they will be ineligible for the postseason, much like UNO had when they made the move to DI in 2011. In the meantime, it will remain to be seen whether St. Thomas will capable of replicating the success they had in DIII in the Summit League.