OMAHA, Neb. – The Missouri Valley Conference apparently harbors no hard feelings toward Creighton. In fact, commissioner Doug Elgin says he understands why Creighton is leaving for the new Big East.
"I can see the rationale," he said Wednesday. "Certainly there is a commonality, a shared mission with the institutions. It's a national branding step for the institution in their eyes. They've made a decision they think is right for Creighton University and for Omaha, I guess, and we respect that decision."
The Valley will be a nine-team league when Creighton leaves on June 30. Elgin said his preference would be 10 teams, but there is no rush to replace Creighton.
He said the league is studying potential candidates for membership, with preference given to schools in or near major markets in the geographic footprint of the Valley and with strong basketball tradition. Denver, Milwaukee and Belmont are most often mentioned in media reports.
Elgin said Valley officials have had preliminary discussions with schools but it's not imminent a school would join before 2013-14.
But he added that if a school "meets the threshold of acceptability" and would strengthen the league, "we'd act as quickly as we could to bring in a new member."
Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen said his school received an invitation to join the Big East on March 13. Creighton accepted two days later and immediately notified the Missouri Valley of its intent to withdraw.
Elgin said while it's a blow to lose Creighton, the Valley isn't defined by any single institution.
Creighton is as close to a flagship team as the Valley has had. The Bluejays have been the dominant men's basketball team from 2000-13, with seven NCAA tournament appearances, and rank in the top 10 nationally in attendance at more than 16,000 a game.
Elgin said Creighton will forfeit about $325,000 in conference distributions because it's leaving with less than a year's notice.
Creighton's lost revenue this year may soon be forgotten because of the riches awaiting the school in the Big East. The basketball-centric league reached a 12-year agreement with Fox worth about $500 million with the possibility of increasing to $600 million were the league to add more members, according to a person with knowledge of the details. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the value of the agreement was not made public.
Creighton, Butler and Xavier are joining Big East holdovers Providence, Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall and DePaul. All but Butler are Catholic universities.
The Rev. Timothy Lannon, Creighton's president, said when the Big East started losing schools well over a year ago, he began reaching out to Big East presidents to see if they might eventually be interested in adding Creighton. He had also been working to try to possibly join the Atlantic 10, too.
Of the way it worked out: "This is a match made in heaven," he said.
Rasmussen said the Big East provides an opportunity to achieve its goal of being a consistent Top 25 program in men's basketball.
He said it's now time to "walk the talk."
"We have a better opportunity in the Big East to recruit outstanding student-athletes than we did in the Valley," he said.
Can Creighton now shed the mid-major label?
"That's for you guys to decide," Rasmussen said, referring to the media. "We never considered ourselves a mid-major."