Updated 5:16 p.m. | Posted 11:16 a.m.
The University of St. Thomas, one of seven founding members of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, will be "involuntarily removed" from the league in 2021, MIAC leaders said Wednesday.
Other schools in the conference have long been concerned about the competition from St. Thomas, its largest school. The university's dominated the conference in football and other sports in recent years.
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"The MIAC Presidents' Council cites athletic competitive parity in the conference as a primary concern," the conference said in a statement, adding St. Thomas "will leave the conference in good standing with a long and appreciated history of academic and athletic success."
The 13-member league is made up of mostly small private colleges and universities in Minnesota, including St. John's, Augsburg, Bethel, Hamline, Macalester and Carleton.
Football games between St. John's and St. Thomas have been a staple of fall collegiate life for thousands of students and alumni at the schools.
Commissioner Dan McKane said the other school presidents felt the size of St. Thomas' student body made it harder for small schools to compete athletically.
"If you have a larger institution you have more student athletes to choose from. You're able to utilize enrollment in different ways. And typically, enrollment brings more funding. So I think that was another catalyst as well."
In a statement, St. Thomas president Julie Sullivan called it a "difficult day" for the university.
"St. Thomas expended tremendous effort to remain in the MIAC and stabilize the conference," said Sullivan. "However, the presidents came to a consensus that the conference itself would cease to exist in its current form if St. Thomas remained."
While the decision was "extremely disappointing," Sullivan said St. Thomas would begin looking for other options beyond the MIAC.
"The strength of our athletic programs, our institutional commitment to excellence and our location in the metro area will make us an attractive candidate to other conferences," she said.