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December 13, 2012

Could Creighton be headed to the Big East?

After years of hoping, some might say praying, for a legitimate opportunity to join a basketball-only conference consisting of like-minded Catholic universities, that time may have finally come for Creighton.

According to multiple media reports, 7 Big East schools are leaving to form their own conference. The pending move is being reported by SI.com as "inevitable", that Georgetown, St. John's, Providence, Marquette, Seton Hall, Depaul and Villanova will break away from their football playing brothers and start a search for 5 new additions in order to form a 12-team league. The new formation would maintain an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and become one of the strongest basketball conferences in the country.

Edit: a report in Milwaukee is speculating that the league may be a 10-team league as opposed to a 12-team league.

Going to St. Louis for Arch Madness is amazing, but what about playing the conference tournament in New York, at Madison Square Garden? Sure makes Sundeckers look like a pretty average bar huh?

With all due respect, I am not Chip Brown of OrangeBloods.com, but I feel like I have uncovered information involving Creighton and expansion that is worthy of sharing with Bluejay fans. Tonight, I have multiple sources telling me that Creighton is very much in the conversation for this new league and thus, I believe we need to take a look at the potential for this move.

For the record, I contacted Creighton for comment for this story and was directed to Father Lannon's office, which issued a "no comment". I was also told that all public comments on the subject will be made by Father in the near future, yet nothing is planned at the moment.

Here's what I know tonight:

Would Creighton leave the MVC for the new Catholic league?


However, that's not to say that CU is unhappy in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Jays are happy in the MVC and would not look to jump to just any league. But, the opportunity to play in a higher profile basketball conference with a better television deal would be too good to pass up.

This is a move for all sports - not just basketball. Matching up with like-minded schools with similar commitments to academics and athletics is exactly what CU officials have talked about publicly for years now. It's the dream situation to get into if given the chance.

I have been told Creighton is prepared to act if given an invitation from the new league.

Is Creighton a realistic option for the new league?

Of course.

Creighton has strong academics in the Jesuit tradition and is led by Father Tim Lannon, who is close to the leaders at Marquette and other members of the new league. It's a perfect fit from a philosophical standpoint.

With TV money being important to the 7 Catholic schools, Omaha being in the Top 75 for television markets is attractive plus, CU is a top 10 program for basketball attendance. The Century Link Center will rival any venue in the new league and CU's fan base has a great reputation across the country.

The Bluejays may not have had the NCAA Tournament success as some other non-BCS schools, but this move is about the long term. You cannot debate the history of Creighton basketball as not worthy of this opportunity to move up.

I was told "Creighton is very much in the conversation" from a source covering the story and they are being talked about as a realistic option to be given an invitation once the 7 Catholic schools finally separate.

Who else is being considered?

What I have been told is that Xavier and Butler are wanted in the new league by the 7 Catholic schools. So, if that proves to be accurate, then there are 3 spots lefts to be decided.

The other names I have heard today along with Creighton being floated for the new league are: St. Louis, Dayton, Gonzaga, San Diego State, George Mason, Temple, Rhode Island and VCU.

What about those schools listed?

St. Louis: A Jesuit school in a large television market and with an extremely well respected leader in Father Lawrence Biondi. Very real possibility for the new league, in my opinion.

Dayton: Catholic school that does not play football and features a great basketball tradition. One of the best fan bases in the Midwest. As Xavier's big rival, that should help to get them into the league.

Gonzaga: A geographic mismatch for the new league, but could provide the opportunity for a more national league, which is better for television. A Jesuit school that has had tremendous success on the basketball floor over the past decade and brings a great brand to the table. The Zags want in to this new league, I was told.

San Diego State: Going to play football in the Big East as it currently stands and plays basketball in the Big West. SDSU may want to go back to the Mountain West if this deal goes down and the Big East is broken apart. Not a real threat to join the new league, in my opinion.

George Mason: If you have DC with Georgetown, why do you need George Mason? Sure, they are a decent basketball program but I don't see the attraction other than where the school is located. GMU is a long shot in my opinion.

Temple: They play football and want to make football money. As others have written, Villanova probably ends this option.

Rhode Island: To me, all URI brings is a geographic fit. I don't think they are a serious option at this point.

VCU: Is VCU a long-term power in college basketball? That's a major question being asked by the new league, I was told. They do bring a nice TV market with them and a great head coach but how long will Coach Smart stay with the Rams? I think, in the end, the new league passes on VCU.

Why not Creighton?

It's the same reason why St. Louis may be left out - geography. Do the new schools want to travel to Omaha in the winter to play volleyball? I was told today that many of the 7 Catholic schools favor a more eastern geographical make-up to the new league.

However, I was told by a different source, that the new members will be selected based on tradition, program success, and untapped media market size. That criteria favors Creighton and St. Louis being added over programs like Temple and George Mason, whose media markets have already been secured.

The good news is that when it comes to the criteria being reported for the new league, Creighton has far more positives than negatives right now.

What if the Jays don't get picked?

The opportunity for expansion for the Missouri Valley Conference is also a major factor to consider here. If SLU and Dayton do not get picked too, it would be wise for the MVC to quickly offer them inclusion into the league. The A-10 is going to struggle to stay together if Butler and Xavier and other schools jump ship. It would be the perfect time to finally get SLU into the Valley.

As a 12-team league, scheduling changes but it's not impossible at all.

What's the best option for Creighton

If the 7 Catholic schools want to divide the league into 2 6-team divisions, Creighton could get in.

For the sake of argument - a western division could be made up of Creighton, St. Louis, Marquette, Depaul, Dayton, and Butler. The travel miles here would be very similar to what the Jays are currently doing in the Valley.

The east would be Villanova, St. John's, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Providence, and Xavier. This is the easiest to sell because of the travel.

Big East 2.0 could play a 18-game league schedule and only have to play the other division 8 times. That would mean an East Divison team would only have to travel to the Midwest four times a year. That would save a lot of money on travel costs and alleviate some of the concerns over geography.

Other sticking points?

If the league will keep the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, earned shares from the old Big East become a major issue. Also, who gets the money from exit fees being paid out from programs like Syracuse and Pittsburgh?

There is still a lot to be determined before Bluejay fans will know if their favorite team is leaving for a new opportunity.

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