SALT LAKE CITY — Wichita State’s relationship with Creighton exists on two levels.
The Shockers love to beat Creighton. More important, they love to play the Bluejays. That critical part of the relationship is in question now that Creighton is leaving the Missouri Valley Conference for the Big East.
If WSU coaches have their way, the rivalries will continue. Basketball coach Gregg Marshall started campaigning for a non-conference series on March 2 after the regular-season finale. Volleyball coach Chris Lamb exchanged texts with Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth. For competitive and geographic reasons, the games seem to make sense.
“We look forward to continued to opportunities in the non-conference to play them in all of our sports,” WSU athletic director Eric Sexton said Wednesday at Wichita State’s basketball workout. “Volleyball, they can help us. Baseball, they help us. We want to continue that relationship, at least from our end.”
Marshall is willing to start the series next season in Omaha.
“I just want to keep playing Creighton,” he said. “We have had a great series with them, even though they’re moving on. I wish them well.”
Lamb struggles to find quality non-conference opponents within driving distance, especially for a mid-week match.
“My hope is that Kirsten and I will be able to lock down non-conference action,” he said. “If that were to happen, it would almost make me feel the competitive transition would seamless. From a strength of schedule and a conference standpoint, it’s a big deal. We’ve lost something.”
The line of old Valley foes will be long to play Creighton. Drake and Northern Iowa will also likely want to play a Big East school in a neighboring state. Creighton joined the MVC in 1928, departed for independent status, and returned in 1976.
Creighton’s departure hurts WSU on and off the court.
The Bluejays are WSU’s biggest men’s basketball rival and the two teams finished first and second in the MVC the past two seasons. Creighton’s baseball rivalry with WSU includes two games in the 1991 College World Series. Creighton is the defending MVC volleyball champion, recently joining WSU, Northern Iowa and Missouri State as consistent NCAA at-large candidates.
Creighton and WSU shared the MVC’s women’s basketball title this season and both are in the NCAA Tournament. Creighton’s softball team won the Valley title in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and the tournament in 2010.
The impact on WSU and the MVC is considerably less in golf, cross country and tennis, sports in which Creighton puts little emphasis. It does not field a track and field team.
Creighton’s investments in facilities and the ambition that made it attractive to the Big East aligned it with WSU philosophically. Both schools enjoyed the resources to schedule aggressively in men’s basketball, and other sports, and pursue national aspirations. Those ambitions sometimes clashed with MVC schools with lesser resources.
“Creighton’s been a great partner,” Sexton said.
Sexton said he expects the MVC to add a 10th member. That decision will be made by university presidents.
Creighton has been a valued member of the conference for many years,” MVC commissioner Doug Elgin said in a news release. “We respect the decision by the university to resign from the MVC, and we wish them well in their future athletic endeavors. I want to be clear in stating that the Missouri Valley Conference is not defined by any one institution. The Valley’s history has shown, time and again, that it finds the strength, resources, competitive determination, and leadership to rise to higher levels at times of change.”