A meeting 1,500 miles away Friday could have a major impact on Creighton’s athletic future.
The presidents of the seven Catholic schools that are leaving the Big East will meet in New York, the Hartford Courant reported. The seven schools — Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova, Providence, Seton Hall, Marquette and DePaul — announced last month that they were leaving the Big East as a unit and will form a new conference.
There has been considerable speculation that Creighton would be one of the schools that the seven might approach to bring membership in the new league to 10 or 12 schools. Creighton officials have refused to discuss any interest the school might have in the new conference.
Earlier this week, the Rev. Timothy Lannon, Creighton’s president, declined an interview request by The World-Herald. Through a spokesperson, Lannon said it was premature to talk about the matter. That’s been his stance since news first broke about the seven schools’ decision to break from the Big East on Dec. 13.
Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen also has declined interview requests. It is generally believed that while Rasmussen and other athletic department officials would have some input on the matter, any decision about Creighton’s conference alignment would be made by Lannon.
The Courant reported that Friday’s meeting will likely focus on an exit strategy and time frame. The schools also are expected to discuss future television-media package and potential expansion targets.
Among other schools that have been mentioned as potential targets are Butler, Xavier, Gonzaga, Dayton and Saint Louis.
Creighton was a member of the Missouri Valley from 1928 to 1948, then withdrew and played as an independent. The Bluejays rejoined the conference in 1977.
Missouri Valley Commissioner Doug Elgin, who attended Wednesday’s basketball game involving Creighton and Illinois State in Normal, Ill., has been guarded in his comments involving the Bluejays’ future in the league.
He dearly wants to keep Creighton as a Valley member but knows that the school would find it difficult to refuse an offer to join the new conference, mainly because of the finances involved.
The Valley’s 10 schools receive between $300,000 and $400,000 annually in television money and NCAA tournament revenue from the conference. It has been speculated that each member of the new conference could command $2 to $3 million annually in television revenue. NCAA tournament revenue would further sweeten the pot.
Some of that potential revenue would be eaten up by increased travel costs to transport athletic teams to venues. Five of the seven schools leaving the Big East are on the East Coast, with Marquette located in Milwaukee and DePaul in Chicago.