Obviously, much of the discussion here in St. Louis during the Missouri Valley Conference tournament centers on the possibility of Creighton’s departure to join the new Big East, which you currently know affectionately as the Catholic 7.
I decided to take a sampling of opinions from beat writers, and even another columnist, who gather in the media work room (is that an oxymoron, or what?) here at the Scottrade Center. Here’s what they had to say about the potential departure of the Bluejays and the future of the MVC without them.
Kirk Wessler, Peoria Journal-Star columnist: “Yeah, I think Creighton will leave. And i would hope that whoever the Valley chooses as a replacement that they choose wisely. I would say Oral Roberts would be the best choice in my mind. i think Creighton has to make the choice they’re making. Whether it’s the right choice I don’t think we’ll know for a while. But in the current culture, if you have a chance to be in a league with like-academic institutions that are basketball-centric and have the opportunity on a regular basis to bring Marquette, Georgetown and Villanova into your gym, you can’t say no to that.”
Jim Benson, Illinois State beat writer, Bloomington Pantagraph - “When i was walking into (the Scottrade Center) today there were 5,000 to 6,000 Creighton fans outside and I’m just wondering, first of all, how many of those people are going to be able to make it to Madison Square Garden for the new Big East Tournament. Maybe 1,000? Maybe, maybe. And what about the other sports besides men’s basketball. You’re talking about a volleyball team, baseball team, women’s basketball team that has to probably play a round-robin schedule. Now they’re going to probably have to travel to all these eastern sites and they don’t get the chartered jet like the men’s basketball team does. The wear and tear on those teams is going to be tremendous. I understand, Creighton has to go for the money. When you’re talking about $3 million compared to $300,000, they’ve crunched the numbers. I just think it’s something they’ll look back on in five years and regret. As far as a replacement, Oral Roberts would be my leader in the clubhouse.”
Dave Reynolds, Bradley beat writer, Peoria Journal-Star - I would say yes, they will leave. I think the financial perks will be too good for them to pass up. As far as a replacement, I would put my money on another private school. Possibly Oral Roberts, Belmont, Detroit – they might be at the top of the list. I’m thinking Creighton will be happy with its choice. They would be in with like-minded basketball-centric institutions with already a good TV deal in place. I think they would be a great fit. The only question, really, is the non-revenue sports and the investment that would be made in travel to the East Coast every year. If they can overcome that, I think everything will be fine for them.”
Lyndal Scranton, Missouri State beat writer, Springfield News-Leader - “I think Creighton has an offer probably it can’t refuse. And they’re probably going to leave. I don’t know if it’s going to be wise for them in the long haul. Those are going to be some deep waters they’re in. And I would say Belmont is an intriguing possibility because of their national market (Nashville.) It just sounds like a good place to go. It’s a good locational geographically and market wise.”
Paul Suellentrop, Wichita State beat writer, Wichita Eagle - “You just can’t turn down a chance to have Marquette, Villanova and Georgetown come into your arena. It’s not without some risks. It would surprise me if there are some new coaches at Creighton in five or six years because of the adjustment. But I think it’s great for everybody but poor (baseball coach) Ed Servais. It’s a big problem for the baseball program, but for everybody else it’s a good move. Oral Roberts seems to make the most sense as a replacement. I think you’re looking at a group of flawed schools. There isn’t a great choice out there and certainly nobody who will do what Creighton does. But they seem to make the most sense from reasonable strong men’s basketball and a reasonably strong geographic fit.”
Todd Golden, Indiana State beat writer, Terre Haute Star-Tribune – “Absolutely I think they’re going to leave. I think it’s a wise move financially, I don’t know if it’s a wise move competitively. I think they’re going to struggle in the Big East. As far as who replaces them, I’ve been kicking around Oral Roberts. I think that depends on how stable that university is because I do think there are some questions about that. If they were to go with a public school, maybe a Milwaukee. They’ve struggled this year but they kind of fit a profile similar to Wichita State, actually, in terms of how much they spend athletically and how much they spend on basketball. Others would be Belmont . . . the Dakota schools would be OK if they weren’t so geographically distant. I actually think there’s a lot of scope and vision, especially North Dakota State. But that’s going to be a tough sell to the other league teams.”
Steve Pivovar, Creighton beat writer, Omaha World-Herald – “You see a lot of names, Valpo, Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I think it’s wide open. Do they leave if they get an offer? They’re gone. It’s the time we live in. You don’t pass up those kinds of offers. Whether it’s a basketball thing with Creighton – we went through it a couple of years ago with Nebraska and the Big 10. Everybody’s got to look out for themselves. Creighton wouldn’t be leaving because they’re upset with anything about the Valley. They’d just be leaving for a better offer. If it comes, they’ve got to accept it. I’m torn about it because I see how long it’s taken them to build what they’ve built. I’ve lived in Omaha my whole life and I know how fickle the sports fans in that city can be. Now, will they be able to maintain what they have if all the sudden they’re a middle-of-the-pack or bottom-of-the-pack team in this new league? That’s hard to say but that’s a gamble they’re going to be facing. If all the sudden things don’t work out for them, are they going to be getting 18,000 people to games? Yeah, they’ll get 18,000 for Georgetown and Marquette, but how about for those other games? What balances that out is that they’re going to be getting a heck of a lot of other money that they won’t have to be so dependent on ticket sales and other sources of revenue. But if you duplicate what they’ve done in the Valley in that league, you’re going to be printing money.”