The Omaha World-Herald’s report on Creighton’s departure to the Big East adds another layer of inevitability to this move. “A move to the Big East would represent a major step up for Creighton both in terms of athletic competition and prestige. The new league has a TV contract lined up with Fox that reportedly will pay league schools at least $3 million a year.
Creighton also would be joining a group of like-minded institutions. All 10 teams in the reconstituted Big East are private schools, nine are Catholic, and all have little or no football history but share reputations for playing big-time hoops.”
Oklahoma State, Cincinnati, Tulsa, Creighton – each was considered Wichita State’s biggest MVC rival for a period. All moved on to better conferences, although the shine of Tulsa’s move(s) dimmed in recent seasons. Once again, WSU is left behind and there doesn’t appear to be anything it can do. WSU is marooned geographically and as a non-football public school. It is important to note those circumstances haven’t kept WSU from an impressive run of success, in many sports, over the past 10 years. While the MVC can’t replace Creighton’s punch in men’s basketball, the timing is such that the conference can trudge ahead. WSU is positioned as Creighton’s equal atop the conference. Coaching stability, always the MVC’s No. 1 determining factor, is strong. Only Drake is replacing a coach. Six of the nine programs will have coaches at least in their third season, meaning rosters should be stable. Barry Hinson, entering his second season, appears capable of quickly moving Southern Illinois back toward the top of the Valley. I think the MVC will stay with 10 schools. The round robin is important. Geography is important. Not diluting the auto bid is important. If we struggle to identify one good replacement for Creighton, why add three? From a WSU perspective, Oral Roberts seems to make the most sense. Is ORU interested? Is it a candidate? We’ll see. If other factors are equal, I would think WSU’s athletic department would say it is time for the MVC map to help out the southern and western members for a change. My first instinct is that the new member should be a basketball-only school. However, the MVC tried that with Evansville and it’s been a major disappointment. Northern Iowa, scorned at first, grew into a strong basketball member and contributes heavily in other sports. Missouri State is the Valley’s best addition in recent seasons. Private schools, generally, come without resource-sapping football. However, their all-sports performance lags behind the public schools (even in Creighton’s case) and the evidence says Drake and Evansville are consistently bottom-half finishers. That is a small sample size, but it tells me the MVC should be careful about adding a private school that may lack the resources to compete. The exercise of looking at candidates reinforced that the MVC has a good thing going, even without Creighton. It is hard, almost impossible, to find other schools in the Central time zone (outside of the BCS) which draw 4-5,000 fans. While attendance isn’t everything, it is one indicator of resources and potential. In 2012, the MVC averaged 7,064 (heavily helped by Creighton). Conferences such as the Horizon (3,527), Mid-American (2,970), Summit (2,594) and Ohio Valley (2,506) are significantly behind. I consider this a real long shot: Valley fans should root for Georgetown’s influence to bring Richmond in to the Big East, if reports of those scenarios are accurate. That could leave Dayton or Saint Louis (likely Dayton) out. Would one of those Atlantic 10 members be open to joining the MVC? Unknown, and probably not likely. While the MVC takes a hit from the Big East, the A-10 will be devastated by departures of Xavier, Butler and two more (Temple and Charlotte are also leaving for other conferences). It’s at least worth wondering about. Both programs would be excellent replacements for Creighton.