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Forum New Service columnist Mike McFeely

McFeely: MIAC presidents are profiles in cowardice

MOORHEAD - Gutless to the end, presidents of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schools that decided to boot St. Thomas from their league refused to defend their decision.

This includes the leader of our local institution, Concordia College of Moorhead. As he's done throughout this sad saga, William Craft again had a school spokesperson reply to a Forum request for comment with a brief written statement directing queries to the MIAC office, which in turn had its own written statement that ended by saying the league would have no further comment. It's believed Concordia was one of the schools that wanted St. Thomas out of the conference.

Concordia's motto is the Latin phrase "Soli Deo Gloria," which loosely translated means "When the going gets tough, run and hide."

Not that Craft deserves singling out in this debacle. The MIAC's motto could be, "If you can't beat 'em, boot 'em." It appears St. Thomas' exit was precipitated by enough schools threatening to leave the league that presidents saw their only option to preserve the MIAC was to gas the Tommies.

"Competitive parity" was cited as the reason other MIAC schools wanted St. Thomas gone, which is an academic way of saying the Tommies were kicking everybody's butt and everybody was sick of it. It never occurred to the have-nots that lopping off the dominant team in the league will simply allow another school to take over the dominance. Look out, St. John's, you're next.

This situation should be viewed less through a lens of athletic juxtaposition than through one of life lessons. This is NCAA Division III, after all, where varsity sports are supposed to be an extracurricular activity and not the be-all, end-all. There might be valid reasons why MIAC presidents believe St. Thomas no longer fits the conference profile in terms of facilities, talent, enrollment, budgets or academic mission. If they so chose to actually use their mouths to speak, they might be able to lay out a case to win converts.

That might be unlikely, since every athletic conference from the Big Ten to the Northern Sun to the Missouri Valley to the MIAC has Porsches and Pintos. Anybody check on what North Dakota State has done to the Missouri Valley Football Conference the past eight seasons? Anybody want to compare that to Indiana State? But explaining might help the understanding.

Instead, the MIAC presidents chose secrecy and subterfuge over open debate and accountability. Considering they are allegedly leaders of institutions of higher education, you'd think this goes exactly against what is supposed to happen on college campuses, particularly small private ones specializing in liberal arts.

A class suggestion for Concordia next fall: Foregone Conclusion 101 — The Value of Stifling and Ignoring Public Discourse.

Followed by: Adequacy 202 — Self-Improvement Through the Elimination of Superior Competition.

The new bar for students at MIAC schools isn't to strive for a higher standard and battle through adverse life circumstances, knowing that at times your job or marriage or health is going lay an 60-0 whipping on you, it's to realize the surest way to success and happiness is to take the easiest path and avoid confronting anything or anybody that might make things arduous.

Struggling in that economics class? Don't study harder, just drop it.

Having a tough time with your roommate? Don't talk out your problems, just leave.

The boss at your new job is demanding? Don't gut it out, just quit.

And when your parents ask how you're going to pay back those massive student loans without a paycheck, just say you're not going to by claiming competitive disparity.

Sure, the banks will come after you. No sweat. Follow the MIAC model by issuing a two-sentence written statement deferring to your parents, who can issue their own written statement supporting you and declining to make further comment.

The keys here are avoiding difficult things while shirking accountability, the recipe for success in the MIAC. All at the low, low cost of $50,000 a year.

The MIAC presidents tried to boot a founding league member in secrecy, refused accountability and accessibility while doing it, and issued gag orders on their coaches and staff to stifle any opposition. Profiles in cowardice, every one of them.