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NCAA ‘Receptive’ to St. Thomas’ Division I Waiver Request

Though rinks are still mostly quiet, this was a big week for Division I men’s and women’s college hockey, especially in the upper Midwest. One of the levels of NCAA Bureaucratic Hell, this time The Division I Strategic Vision and Planning Committee, met via teleconference this week, with one of the topics discussed being the waiver application of the University of St. Thomas to move directly from Division III to Division I.

St. Thomas publicly announced their intentions of moving to Division I after being booted from the Division III MIAC conference. Typically, a Division III school would need to undergo a 12-year, graduating to Division II and then ultimately moving to Division I.

On Wednesday, the NCAA committee announced, however, that they will be looking into a new process where, if certain benchmarks are set, the process could take as little as five years. The proposal will formally be voted on in April of 2021, but in the press release, the NCAA said they would be receptive to a formal waiver release from St. Thomas that would allow the Tommies to begin the re-classification process.

The implications of St. Thomas moving to Division I are huge on both the men’s and women’s side for college hockey. On the men’s side, the CCHA, set to begin play in 2021-2022, is sitting at seven programs, and would love to add another team for an even number. It also provides geographical balance, with three Minnesota schools, three Upper Peninsula teams, and two teams in the south of the Mackinac Bridge.

On the women’s side, the women’s WCHA has struggled to fill schedules since the league dropped to seven members when North Dakota dropped their women’s hockey program in 2017. A new team that would be within a five-hour driving radius of six of the seven teams in the league would be welcome eagerly.

There is still a lot of work to be done before St. Thomas is capable of fielding a Division I men’s and women’s hockey program. But today’s message from the NCAA was a clearing of a major hurdle to making that happen.