Big East Conference membership is not off-limits to public universities, one of the league’s athletic directors said Friday, and Wichita State would be a good fit should the Big East decide to expand.
Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen, known to Wichita State from the Bluejays’ days in the Missouri Valley Conference, said he’s pushing for Big East expansion from 10 to 12 teams and that WSU and Gonzaga would be good fits.
Rasmussen was careful to say that his opinion in these matters might not carry much weight, but that the Big East presidents and athletic directors have agreed to discuss the possibility of expansion at the conference’s annual meetings in May.
“As a part of the strategic planning exercise the Big East Conference is currently undertaking, the topic of expansion is an agenda item,” Rasmussen said in a text message. “While I do not sense a great appetite currently by Big East presidents for expansion, I personally would be an advocate for adding Gonzaga and Wichita State.”
How far will those discussions go and how long will they last?
“It could be five minutes,” Rasmussen said.
He said presidents are the power brokers in the Big East and that they will ultimately make any decision about expansion. The conference, three years old this summer, had agreed to not talk about growing in its first two years so that it could play double round-robin basketball schedule (18 games).
A 12-team conference would likely result in East and West divisions. Current members – all private schools – are Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova and Xavier. The conference, like Wichita State, does not sponsor football as a Division I sport.
In December, Wichita State president John Bardo announced that he and interim athletic director Darron Boatright were in the midst of a fact-finding mission that would address the university’s place in college athletics.
The two biggest areas of interest -- football and conference affiliation -- were at the top of Bardo’s list to be addressed, he said.
Wichita State dropped its football program after the 1986 season because of low attendance and falling revenues, and has been a part of the Missouri Valley Conference for more than 70 years.
Reached Friday, Boatright said it would not be in Wichita State’s interest to discuss any specific conference or their possible plans in regard to expansion or affiliation.