Creighton officials declined to comment Thursday on whether the school would have any interest in becoming part of a new conference that would include seven former members of the Big East.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, citing unnamed sources associated with Marquette, reported that the Golden Eagles would join six other former Big East schools — Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Providence, DePaul and Villanova — in forming the new conference. Butler and Xavier would leave the Atlantic 10 to join the yet-to-be-named league.
The newspaper also reported Creighton, Virginia Commonwealth, Dayton or Saint Louis could become the 10th member of the conference, or the conference could begin play with 12 teams if three of the schools vying for the 10th spot are deemed worthy candidates.
The newspaper’s report was the most definitive regarding the direction the seven former Big East schools might take if they decide to make a break from the drastically reshaped conference.
The Associated Press reported that the seven schools, which do not play FBS football, had on Thursday discussed the possibility of leaving the Big East with Commissioner Mike Aresco. The AP, citing a person familiar with the situation, said the schools hadn’t notified Aresco of their decision as of Thursday night.
Where, or if, Creighton figures into any scenario should the seven schools break away is uncertain. Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen said any comment about the developing situation would have to come from the Rev. Timothy Lannon, the school’s president.
Through a spokesperson, Lannon said that it was “too premature for the university to make any comment at this point.”
Creighton rejoined the Missouri Valley in 1977-78 after a 29-year absence. Valley Commissioner Doug Elgin was guarded when discussing the possibility that the league could avoid being impacted by the wave of realignment that is changing the face of collegiate athletics.
Valley membership has remained stable at 10 schools since 1995. Only one other Division I basketball league — the Ivy League — has retained the same members in that span.
“We obviously are watching developments in this matter very seriously,” Elgin said. “We trust that the leadership of our member schools will make the proper decisions.”
Still, Elgin knows Creighton, with its high-profile men’s basketball program, could be a target in realignment.
“Does it worry me?” Elgin said in a recent FoxSports.com report. “Yes. I’d hate to lose any of our members.”
Elgin was asked Thursday if a school could leave the league in one sport and still retain membership in other sports. The Valley has affiliate members in several sports, with Central Arkansas and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville competing in soccer and Dallas Baptist in baseball.
Elgin said he thought it would be unlikely that the current membership would allow a member to pull out of the league in one sport and still compete in others. Any decisions, he noted, would have to be made by the university presidents.
It has long been speculated that Creighton might have some interest in banding together with other Catholic universities to form a conference. According to ESPN.com, Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey said that the seven schools thinking about leaving the Big East have discussed the possible formation of a national Catholic league with Xavier, Saint Louis, Creighton, Dayton, Gonzaga and possibly St. Mary’s.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the seven schools were prepared to break away at least six months ago as the Big East continued to lose prestigious members. Recent defectors include Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers, Louisville and West Virginia.
The newspaper reported that a decision to form the new league has been made but is being held up because Georgetown President John J. DeGioia is struggling with the decision to leave the Big East.
Once DeGioia signs on, the newspaper reported, an announcement of the new league could come as early as Friday. The league would begin play next season.
What would happen to the Big East remains uncertain. It could fold or try to hang on with a drastically different membership that would include schools from coast to coast.
The current Big East football membership includes only four schools — South Florida, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Temple — that are committed to the league beyond 2013. There are 11 schools with plans to join the Big East in the next three years.