While the world of college athletics is breaking apart with new alliances being formed on what seems like a daily basis, the little ol’ Missouri Valley Conference has stood firm against the mighty winds of change.
With all of its warts (Evansville, Drake?), the MVC could easily stand for Moves Very Cautiously. If stability is your thing in this day and age of rattling pots and pans, the Valley is still with its 10 members seemingly happy as pigs in a rainstorm.
But there is now a threat from the East and it’s wearing a clerical collar. The seven Catholic schools from the Big East Conference are leaving that once-dominant basketball force because they believe their conference has shunned them in favor of football.
As ESPN tells us from on high, football is the only thing that matters these days. And colleges that are either without football or play a lower level of football are feeling left out of the party. So they’re fixing to throw a bash of their own.
Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall, DePaul, St. John’s, Providence and Georgetown are breaking free to form, as one ESPN commentator called it, the “Big Priest.” But they need reinforcements to make this thing work. And that’s where schools like Dayton, Butler, Xavier, Saint Louis and the Valley’s own Creighton come into play.
Nobody knows how many of those five schools will be invited to join. It could be three. It could be five. Nobody knows how many of the five potential members are legitimately interested. If there are two words that best fit the situation surrounding this new basketball league, they are “nobody knows.”
Speculation, though, is rampant.
Some believe Creighton would be foolish to leave what it already knows just for a bigger conference with better teams in bigger cities and the chance to make more money.
Wait, there sure were a lot of “biggers” and “betters” and “mores” in that sentence. Why in the world would Creighton be hesitant?
Something tells me the Bluejays, whose administration has been mum on these prospects, would jump at the chance to join a league with outposts in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Chicago and NYC regardless of some of the potential drawbacks.
Yes, Creighton’s travel budget would increase. No, the Bluejays wouldn’t be guaranteed the kind of basketball success they’ve enjoyed recently in the Missouri Valley Conference.
But the potential for growth is just too much for Creighton to pass up, should an invitation be forthcoming. But once more, “nobody knows” when or if that will happen.
Meanwhile, the folks inside Missouri Valley Conference headquarters in St. Louis must be frantic about the possibility of a Valley without Creighton, which joined the conference in 1976.
Closer to home, what would the loss of Creighton mean for Wichita State? The two have become the Valley’s marquee college basketball names. Even better, they are terrific rivals who don’t particularly care for one another.
WSU might hate the Jays on the outside, but inside these two are important to one another. The Shockers probably can’t duplicate their rivalry with Creighton if the Bluejays leave, and a natural rival doesn’t seem obvious for CU in a new Catholic league, either.
Wichita State joined the Valley in 1945, before even I was born. That’s a lot of history, and history is always filled with ups and downs.
Mostly, though, the Shockers and the MVC have been good for one another. There is a small but vocal group of WSU fans who want the Shockers gone from the Valley for reasons that are difficult to understand. I chalk it up to stir craziness; 67 years in the same place can be claustrophobic.
But Wichita State isn’t a private school. Nor does Wichita State have a football program. The lack of both limits the school’s options, if it is even looking for options.
And there’s nothing to indicate that the WSU administration has its eyes on another or that anyone involved in all of this conference musical chairs has a place for Wichita State to sit.
Instead of longing for a new suitor, I hope those on the inside at Wichita State are doing everything they can to keep the Valley viable. If Creighton leaves, let’s hope MVC commissioner Doug Elgin and his band of presidents has a plan on how to soften the blow.
Make no mistake, Creighton leaving the Missouri Valley would be a blow, especially to WSU. Seeing its No. 1 rival head off for a bigger, better basketball conference would no doubt create envy.
But no one could blame Creighton for leaving. This opportunity, if it comes, is too good to pass up.
It would not, however, mean the end of the Valley. Instead, I hope it would mean a re-invigorated Valley, one that would look to shake up its own conference. There’s some dead weight in this league and some schools in other conferences that would be worth a look.
The Missouri Valley Conference is 105 years old. It has withstood harmful defections before; from 1970-75, the Valley lost Cincinnati, Memphis State, Saint Louis and Louisville.
The Valley needs to be prepared for Life After Creighton. But in so doing, the MVC needs to Move Very Cautiously.