Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple announced his retirement this Wednesday morning after leading the conference for 16 years. Douple’s retirement is effective Oct. 1 of this year.
We have been pretty tough on Summit League Comissioner Tom Douple, especially as it relates to his special relationship with Sanford Health and former CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft. Along with this conflict of interest, moving offices onto the Sanford Campus and trying to move select championships from regular-season winners to Sioux Falls were some of his other ham-handed moves. Early efforts to add Augustana to the Summit League were derailed by the league university presidents who clearly saw the folly in adding such a small school to the Summit League.
However, Douple also made a few good moves by adding non-Dakotas members UMKC and St. Thomas University to the mix after IUPUI (Still can’t figure out what that stands for) and Fort Wayne bailed for the better-fitting Horizon League. Basically, the Summit League is now the I-35 conference with a few outliers such as Oral Roberts (Oklahoma), Western Illinois, and, of course, Denver.
The conference is stable for now. The basketball tournament in Sioux Falls appears to be a relative success and an ‘even number’ of conference members this season allows for travel partners and reduced cost. The St Thomas addition is a good move and adds the Twin Cities market for the Summit League.
Sponsorship will continue to be a major focus by a new commissioner. Krabbenhoft left Sanford Health after refusing to wear a mask during COVID-19 and the entire corporation was almost purchased by Intermountain Healthcare. Another suitor could surface or this deal may be restructured in the future, dealing a blow to the unusually close relationship between Sanford Health and the Summit League Conference. It was no secret within the conference that Douple was seen as no more than a caretaker at best.
Augustana is still lurking in the wings with additional plans to add D1 hockey to their D1 ambitions. Western Illinois is always at risk of bolting to the more geographically logical Ohio Valley Conference for all their sports and maybe, even football. Omaha courted the Missouri Valley Conference with a campus tour several years ago. Should Denver or Oral Roberts decide to exit the Dakotas heavy conference, there are few geographical institutions within the Summit League boundaries to fill the gaps. Even Douple, the master at converting D2 institutions to DI, would have trouble finding new conference members.
We wish Commissioner Douple well. It is time.