The decision of an institution to move their athletic departments to the division I level is almost always motivated by the almighty dollar. As a result, some basketball programs really struggle to find their footing against the tougher competition. For some, getting settled in can take years, and for others, it never comes and some of those institutions find themselves dropping back down to a lower level.
In years past schools like Birmingham Southern, Winston Salem State, and probably most famously Morris Brown College are among the schools that tried their hand at the Division I level but ultimately dropped back down to Division II. In recent years, however, that trend has begun to shift, as teams transitioning to Division I have had more success right out of the gate.
First, Merrimack won the Northeast Conference in 2020 but was ineligible for postseason play. California Baptist showed early on in their WAC tenure that they wouldn’t be a cakewalk, finishing 21-10 in 2020 and second in the conference. Last season Bellarmine earned the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Sun tournament after going 14-8 but was upset in the quarterfinals.
This season another program will try to get their Division I life off to a good start as St. Thomas joins the Summit League. The Tommies have a long history of success at lower levels and will now get their chance to carry that success over to the Division I level. Here is a look at the newest program to join the Division I ranks.
There is one big difference between the Tommies and those other teams. After decades of dominance in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, St. Thomas is bypassing Division II and moving straight to Division I from the ranks of Division III. No matter the sport, people always talk about how there can be a very discernable difference in play when you move from one level to another. St. Thomas is ready to test that theory this season.