Published Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 5:58 pm / Updated at 11:14 pm
BASKETBALL
Shatel: Creighton goes from mid to major

It's not exactly the Missouri Valley Redemption.

But if you're just returning from a trip to Mars and hadn't heard Creighton is going to the Big East and certainly can't understand why, let me explain in cinematic terms.

There's a classic line in the 1994 movie “Shawshank Redemption,” when prisoner Andy Dufresne explains to his friend Red why he maintains hope of escaping prison.

“It comes down to a simple choice: Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Andy would have jumped at the Big East, too.

Creighton was not dying in the Missouri Valley. Nor was the Valley a metaphorical prison. CU has done quite well in the venerable Midwestern conference for decades. Competed for championships. Won more than its share. Had a good relationship with league officials and the other members. Built the résumé that attracted the Big East.

Some would argue that Creighton had outgrown the Valley, with its money and facilities, but Creighton was not dominating the Valley. Creighton is not too good for the Valley. That's not what this is about.

And some visionaries see a world where the Valley could split down the road, with the Atlantic 10 raiding the league or possibly the trickle-down effect of college football's realignment madness snatching up a Northern Iowa or Illinois State or Missouri State.

But that's not why you leave a perfectly good home.

This is not about the Valley.

This is about Creighton.

This is about taking what you have and doubling down on your future. This is about walking up to that ledge and jumping, knowing you might fall, but betting that you're going to fly.

This is about taking a chance in life, when the rare opportunity comes. And if they aren't teaching that at Creighton, they should.

The Rev. Timothy Lannon, Bruce Rasmussen and all of the Creighton officials are about to give an advanced course in that lesson.

The Big East looks like the proverbial no-brainer. Bigger hoops league. At least $3 million per year with a chance to grow that. A wider net, and a bigger net, for recruiting athletes and students. Expanding the Creighton brand.

BIG EAST ATHLETIC SPENDING
Click here to compare CU's athletic spending with other Big East schools.

And getting to hang out in the Catholic/Jesuit/private/hoops club you've always wanted to hang out in. Membership has its privileges.

This is nothing less than a transformational move for Creighton. The school and the basketball program will never be the same and will be viewed in a whole new light, nationally and here in the Big O.

The list of traditional marquee hoop names coming to the CenturyLink Center will light up downtown winter nights like a skylight.

How do you graduate from mid-major to major conference affiliation? This is how. Like a butterfly leaves the cocoon.

Think of the other schools that will consider playing in Omaha now that, if they lose, it won't be to a mid-major.

Think of the players who might wear the white and blue. Creighton can go head to head with Big Ten and Big 12 schools now and get some, offering Midwest kids an annual trip to the mecca, Madison Square Garden.

CU and Nebraska recruiting on equal footing for the same players? Believe it.

And the idea of Creighton in the NCAA Final Four is no longer a million miles away, just four wins in March.

It's the lotto ticket, the job you've always wanted, the beachfront condo you've always dreamed of.

But this no-brainer comes with some risks, real risks, that would make any Creightonian pause.

The basketball program will never be the same, and that may not be all positive.

There's a lot of charm to Creighton basketball and its approach. The fans have a perspective, a good handle. They don't demand winning or have unrealistic expectations. They like a coach who's a good guy and recruits good kids.

It will be interesting to see if the Big East move changes the way Creighton charges for its basketball product and if higher prices impact that charm. The more you pay, the more you want to win.

And there's a very good chance that Creighton won't win in the Big East like it won in the Valley.

And if the natives who are paying more money for less winning grow restless? Will Creightonians become more demanding? Will this become more of a bottom-line business?

MAPPING THE BIG EAST
How far is it to each Big East school? That (and more) on our Big East map.

Will the sellouts fall off if the winning falls off? Or will the names Georgetown, Marquette and Butler continue to fill the bill?

And how would coach Greg McDermott feel about that? Mac makes no bones about his love for the Valley and the mid-major kids he gets to coach. When he left Iowa State, he talked about his desire to coach the Valley kind of kid — a kid not surrounded by the street agents or middle men who have infested college hoops.

A move to the Big East puts Mac back in that game. What will he do? What can he do?

Mac and his family are a terrific fit for Creighton and Omaha. It's all comfy and cozy, but what happens when the school hits the big time?

The hunch here is, McDermott may have learned some lessons from Iowa State, things that could apply here. And he need not have to set up recruiting bases all over the East Coast. He can battle with the Big Ten and Big 12 in the Midwest and in Texas and get his share.

This could go several ways. But if you believe in Bruce Rasmussen, you believe that Creighton and Omaha are special things, and the players will come, and the winning will continue, and CU will do just fine in the Big East. Win its share.

And why would you believe that? Because Rasmussen has been showing you for almost 20 years.

It started in 1994. Same year the “Shawshank Redemption” was released, interestingly. Rasmussen needed to make a coaching hire. Biggest hire he'd ever make in his new job. First impression.

He didn't go safe. He went for broke. He took a leap of faith. He went after Dana Altman, a guy in the Big Eight.

Altman came. The rest is history.

Several years later, Rasmussen had another choice. Stay in the old Civic Auditorium or jump off the cliff to Omaha's new arena, with the risk of falling face-first into the canyon, losing it all.

Get busy living or get busy dying.

Looks like Creighton is getting busy again.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1025, tom.shatel@owh.com; twitter.com/tomshatelOWH

Contact the writer: Tom Shatel

tom.shatel@owh.com    |   402-444-1025    |  

Tom Shatel is a sports columnist who covers the city, regional and state scene.

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