As mentioned in a previous post, there was a rumor of another school entering the NCAA Division III exploratory process, which is the first step towards gaining eligibility. This school (made official today) is the University of Saint Thomas – Houston.
St. Thomas is currently a member of the NAIA and the Red River Conference. With the announcement today, St. Thomas will most likely remain in the NAIA for the upcoming year while exploring the benefits of NCAA Division III. If the NCAA accepts St. Thomas in 2019 to move forward, then the school would move into the provisional process, which, if things go well, will take 4-years to complete. This means that St. Thomas would be a full Division III member by 2023. During this provisional process, St. Thomas will be ineligible for NCAA Championships.
Announced with the move to Division III was the acceptance of St. Thomas into the SCAC in 2019. With JWU Denver joining this upcoming year and St. Thomas joining next year, this would bring the SCAC up to 10 teams.
The University of Saint Thomas Houston is a private Catholic institute that has approximately 1600 undergraduates. It also has another 2000+ postgraduates. One issue St. Thomas will need to resolve is that it currently doesn’t field enough conference sponsored sports. The SCAC requires 12 for their conference members and St. Thomas currently offers only 9. The article linked above makes mention that St. Thomas will explore adding men’s and women’s tennis as well as baseball. Obviously, because I’m posting about it, St. Thomas already fields a women’s volleyball team.
As for my take, this is a good get for the SCAC. St. Thomas will be the southern most school in the conference but is easy driving distance from four other SCAC members – Trinity, TLU, Schreiner and Southwestern. This also opens up Houston to the entire SCAC for recruitment. I know during my daughter’s time at Southwestern, we had a young lady from Houston and the coach made sure that we played at St. Thomas so friends and family could attend. With 10 teams in 2019, this will also mean a change to the SCAC scheduling. My guess is that they will go back to two pods of 5 teams and maybe stretch the crossovers to three days. Regardless, knowing how the SCAC is very thorough I’m sure they’ve already got this mapped out.