Creighton softball coach Brent Vigness might be being nice when he says the new Big East will look a lot different from the old Big East in his sport.
The landscape will change drastically when the new league begins play next season. Most of the conference's cream is headed elsewhere, leaving Vigness' team to join perennial NCAA tournament qualifier DePaul at the head of the class.
The six other schools that will compete in softball have combined for four NCAA appearances and might consider it a good season if they can get their RPI under triple digits.
“Some really strong teams are moving on,” Vigness said. “When you take away some of those schools, things are going to look a lot different.”
With this season moving toward the stretch run, Creighton and DePaul are battling for first place in their leagues. But the other teams atop the current Big East — No. 24 South Florida, No. 8 Louisville and Notre Dame — won't be in the league next year.
The six teams in next year's Big East other than CU and DePaul are scratching and clawing just to try to stay in contention to claim the bottom spots in their conference tournaments.
Despite that, Vigness thinks the Big East name will carry some weight on the recruiting trail.
“The RPI for the current Big East is higher than it is for the Missouri Valley,” Vigness said. “I'm not sure where the RPI of the new Big East will be next year, but I'm sure the name will be attractive to a lot of people. The cities we'll be traveling to will be attractive to some recruits.
“I think the majority of the female student-athletes choose Creighton because of what we can offer academically, but playing in the Big East and having some games on TV and traveling to those cities will be some nice perks.”
The mode of travel, flying, is a perk in itself.
“I know some people were concerned about missed class time if we moved to the new league,” Vigness said. “Those people haven't been on a 12-hour bus ride from Indiana State.
“We're actually going to be gone less. We'll be at the mercy of the airlines' schedule, but that still has to be better than jumping on a bus and driving for 12 or 14 hours. Those trips take a toll on everybody.”
Like all of Creighton's coaches, Vigness is trying to assemble information about the new teams he'll be facing next season. The Bluejays occasionally have crossed paths with Big East teams, including facing DePaul a few years ago in the NCAA tournament.
By chance, Creighton played Butler in a tournament this season 10 days before the March 20 announcement that the new Big East was forming.
“At the coaches meeting at the plate before the game, I asked their coach, 'So what do you hear about being future league opponents?'” Vigness said. “He said he didn't know much. I replied, 'Neither do I.'”
If Vigness really wanted to know, all he had to do was ask his players. He said they kept up on all the rumors that started after it was announced in mid-December that DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, St. John's, Seton Hall, Providence and Villanova were leaving the old Big East.
“There was a real buzz when it first came out,” Vigness said. “When it finally was announced, we talked about it after practice. And since then, I don't think I've heard a word from the players about it. I'm sure they're excited. I'm excited.
“This is my 20th year at Creighton. This is going to be a great opportunity for us and the university. Because we're in season, you try not to think about it too much, but it should be fun going to some new places and playing some new people. I'm looking forward to it.”
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