University of St. Thomas Magazine Fall/Winter 2020

That same entrepreneurial spirit drove the path to D-I. While the athletics transition wasn’t exactly planned (up until May 2019, St. Thomas intended on remaining a D-III MIAC school), it did fit the direction outlined in the St. Thomas 2020 strategic plan aimed at achieving a long-term vision for the university. Among the priorities in that plan was a commitment to enhancing the university’s visibility and profile. In May 2019 – as St. Thomas heard its name on national sports talk shows – it became very clear the circumstances surrounding the Tommies’ departure from the MIAC would have the unintended benefit of national visibility. Esten called the national attention “quite remarkable.” “I wasn’t surprised it was of interest to many in college athletics, as the conditions were unprecedented,” he said. “The coverage beyond our industry was both humbling and inspiring at the

same time. We had now piqued the interest of many across the country, and our story had become one with momentum and great support for a positive resolution.” A bigger footprint The Tommies’ new D-I conferences immediately provide an expanded geographic footprint. The Summit League, Women’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) will have the Tommies traveling across the Midwest on a regular basis. The Pioneer Football League goes broader – with competition as far west as San Diego (the University of San Diego) and as far east as Poughkeepsie, New York (Marist University). That means audiences in all those areas will begin to see the St. Thomas name – and become aware of its story – on a regular basis. Considering the vast majority of the university’s students currently come from the immediate region (Minnesota and neighboring states within driving distances of the Twin

Cities), going D-I provides another avenue to reach a wider audience. Long term, this could lead to a more geographically diverse student body. This is particularly important considering the Minnesota state demographer reports a peak in graduating high school seniors in the 2024-25 school year, followed by a sharp decline. Considering that Minnesota exports more high school graduates to other states for college than almost every other state in

St. Thomas Division I reclassification in 2021. Division I conferences include Summit League, WCHA, Pioneer Football League and CCHA.

S T T H O M A S . E D U

2 1

Powered by