JAKE’S TAKE: MIAC sets a bad precedent

MARSHALL – If you can’t beat ’em, boot ’em?

It’s an approach rarely, if ever, seen among collegiate conferences in the face of unrivaled dominance by a league member, but it’s one that the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference chose to employ in combating the University of St. Thomas’ dominance in athletics.

Of all sports, perhaps nowhere was their athletic superiority more apparent than in 2017 on the football field when the Tommies traveled to Hamline and beat the Pipers 84-0. Weeks later, the team traveled to St. Olaf and beat the Oles 97-0.

As frustrating as it may be to lose by such a wide margin, the vast majority of teams and programs would respond by looking internally to try to come up with ways to become better. Instead, the MIAC members took the easy way out and shifted their frustrations to the opposing team. This sets a bad precedent.

With football or any other sport, there will always be a top dog and bottom feeders, but rarely do they stay the same on a year-to-year basis. In fact, there was a time when the Oles were the ones handing out the lopsided defeats, as in the case of the 2005 season when they beat St. Thomas 53-27 and finished the season 8-2. The Tommies finished 4-5.

Around that same time, the Tommies’ biggest rival in St. John’s University was in the midst of one of its best runs in program history on the gridiron with six MIAC titles in eight years. They even won a national championship under legendary coach John Gagliardi in 2003. That season, SJU steamrolled MIAC opponents like Hamline 74-7, Augsburg 63-9 and Carleton 44-0.

So, now that UST has taken over as the cream of the crop in the MIAC, why is there such an outcry that was absent during the Johnnies heyday? My guess is the low-hanging fruit of higher enrollment rates didn’t apply to St. John’s then like it does to the Tommies today, which has provided the other schools with leverage to make this “involuntary removal” happen.

However they choose to rationalize it, the sad fact is a founding member of a historic conference was kicked to the curb for simply being too good. As a result, some of the most cherished football traditions like the Tommie-Johnnie game will likely cease to exist in the coming years.

Where St. Thomas elects to go from here is still up in the air, but it’s fair to say no matter where it ends up, it simply won’t bring about anywhere near the same level of excitement found in the rivalries built over time in the MIAC.