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The 2011 and 2016 NCAA Division III men's basketball champions are joining the Division I ranks starting in the 2021-22 season. The University of St. Thomas announced Wednesday that it received NCAA approval for the jump, making it the first university in the modern history of the NCAA to go from non-scholarship Division III directly to Division I, according to the school's announcement.

St. Thomas is a private university in St. Paul, Minnesota and will be only the state's second Division I school, joining the University of Minnesota. The Tommies will compete in the Summit League in 19 of their 22 sports, including basketball. The school's football program is expected to join the Pioneer League at the Football Championship Subdivision.  

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"Our St. Thomas community is excited to embark on this journey of building Minnesota's first private D-I collegiate athletics program and the second D-I program in the state," St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan said. "St. Thomas has a long history of academic and athletic excellence and embracing change with an entrepreneurial spirit. This move continues that trajectory."

Reclassifying schools are typically required to undergo a four-year transition period during which they are ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. That would mean St. Thomas will first be eligible for the NCAA Tournament in 2026. 

"Today, as much as ever, I'm proud to be a Tommie as we look to our university's future," St. Thomas athletic director Phil Esten said. "I thank the leadership at the NCAA, the Summit League, Pioneer Football League, WCHA (Western Collegiate Hockey Association) and all who have supported our efforts. This decision aligns with our university's bold vision to ever press forward. I am excited to compete in Division I, while ensuring conditions for our student-athletes to pursue comprehensive excellence."