The college has a long a notable history and has long been a major part of Toronto culture. Most famous, for many years, was the college's sports program which was one of the best in Canada. The St. Michael's students were known as the Fighting Irish of Bay Street, in reference to the Catholic sports powerhouse of the University of Notre Dame in the United States. Toronto's current OHL franchise, the St. Michael's Majors, is a descendant of the college's once elite hockey team.
In recent years however, the college's prestige has diminished. The school has remained staunchly religious, all St. Mike's residences are segregated by sex, priests and nuns still continue to supervise college activities, and the church still dominates the campus. As Toronto and Canada as a whole have grown more secular, many top students no longer wish to attend such an institution. As a result, St. Michael's admission standards have fallen.
St. Michael's has also run into financial problems. It does not have the large land holdings of Victoria College or the wealthy alumni of Trinity College and has not been able to build nearly as large an endowment. Thus many facilities such as the meal halls and library are archaic compared to those of other colleges.
In recent years St. Michael's opened a storm of controversy when it accepted a large donation from Imperial Tobacco for the college's department of business ethics. Many critics saw this donation as questionable and pushed St. Mike's to reject it. St. Michael's refused at first, but is now reconsidering its decision.
St. Michael's specializes in Celtic Studies, Medieval Studies (at the famed Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies), and religious studies.