The exposure Creighton will receive when its men's basketball team plays almost all of its games on national television is one of the biggest benefits the school will receive from being a member of the new Big East.
It also creates some of the biggest concerns within the Creighton Athletic Department.
“We have had a lot of discussions about what we can do to make the fan experience at our games better to keep our fans from saying they'd rather stay at home and watch it on their 60-inch HD flat screen,'' Creighton Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen said.
“We have to make it so that our fans feel that it's still worth it to come to the games.''
Creighton played its first Big East contest a week ago when the men's soccer team hosted St. John's. As basketball season approaches — the men's team has its first practice today and its first conference game is New Year's Eve in Omaha vs. Marquette — school officials have spent many hours discussing what they can do to enhance the basketball game-day experience.
Plenty of additional time has been spent on other items related to the Big East move, among them:
» Ticket prices. Creighton officials will introduce a three-tier pricing system for single-game men's basketball tickets that will see some fans pay up to $18 more to see two games on this season's schedule than a season ago. Meanwhile, season-ticket prices have not been increased for upper-bowl seats and only by about a $1 a game for lower-bowl seats.
» Rebranding. The school has been studying a university-wide revision of its logos, including those used by the athletic department. It appears likely that the school will introduce new logos as early as next month, said Mark Burgers, one of Creighton's associate athletic directors.
» Marketing. Notice those billboards around town proclaiming that Creighton is part of the new conference? They are a part of the total makeover Creighton has been undergoing since it left the Missouri Valley Conference that Rasmussen said will cost the university about $1 million. “That's everything from new uniforms with the Big East logos on them,'' Rasmussen said, “to new logos on the floor on the basketball courts."
Obviously, the most striking thing Creighton fans will notice in the move to the new conference will be the steady stream of new opponents making their way to Omaha.
Other conference schools are Marquette, St. John's, Georgetown, Villanova, DePaul, Providence, Seton Hall, Xavier and Butler.
Fox Sports 1 will broadcast more than 100 Big East men's basketball games. Eighteen of Creighton's 30 regular-season games will be shown on Fox Sports 1, with nine others shown nationally by other broadcast entities.
This presents Creighton with a situation it hasn't had to address regularly in the past. Last season, just seven of the Bluejays' 32 regular-season games were shown on true national television platforms.
Athletic departments around the country are wrestling with how to keep live events attractive to fans in light of technological advancements that have improved the in-home viewing experience.
“It's something we're trying to get ahead of the curve on,'' Rasmussen said.
Creighton's athletic marketing department has been meeting regularly to come up with means to enhance fans' in-game experiences. Both Rasmussen and Kevin Sarver, Creighton's athletic director for external operations, said it's too early to release details.
“But we know we have to have more things for the kids and the fans, whether that's bobble-heads or T-shirts or greater access to our players or coaches,'' Rasmussen said. “We've looked at having more things before the game or at halftime.”
He said the CenturyLink Center's new scoreboard-video has CU thinking about its policies on replays.
“If people watching on TV have access to a bunch of replays,” Rasmussen said, “shouldn't your fans in the arena get those?''
The Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority installed the new $6 million scoreboard at the CenturyLink Center this summer. The 30,000-pound scoreboard has four large video displays that account for 3,467 square feet of LED display. That's the equivalent of 330 big-screen televisions.
“One of the complaints that our fans have had for a long time is that the stats would go away when we would run ads,'' Sarver said. “Now, we'll be able to keep stats on some of the boards and show ads on others.
“We're also working on a ton of new videos, but we still haven't nailed down a lot of the stuff.''
Creighton already has sold a record 14,500 season tickets and could approach 15,000 before it opens its men's basketball season on Nov. 8.
It will cost fans that are not season ticket-holders more to attend games this season as Creighton is instituting “dynamic pricing” for its single-game tickets. In the past, single-game tickets, with the exception of the years when Nebraska played in Omaha, were $12 for adults and $8 for youths.
This season, Creighton is instituting a three-tier system for single-game sales. Tier I prices will be $15 for adults and $12 for youths for the following games: Northern State (exhibition), Alcorn State, Missouri-Kansas City, Tulsa, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Chicago State.
Prices for Tier II games will be $20 for adults and $15 for youths. Those games will be Nebraska, California, St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall, Butler, Xavier, Villanova and DePaul.
The two Tier III games are Marquette and Georgetown, and tickets will be $30 for adults and $20 for youths.
Creighton did not raise season ticket prices for upper-bowl seats, keeping them at $200 for adults and $130 for youths.
Season tickets in the lower bowl, which have been sold out since the arena opened in 2003, increased from $15 to $20 per seat based on location. That increase was set in January, two months before the school accepted an invitation to the new conference.
Ticket prices for most of Creighton's other sports have remained fairly constant.
Shortly after the conference move became official on July 1, Creighton started replacing Valley signage with that of the Big East at its on-campus facilities.
Also in July, billboards started appearing around Omaha trumpeting the school's move to the new conference, with the emphasis being on all sports. Creighton also had used the outdoor advertising when it was in the Valley.
“We've probably increased the number of signs around town — not dramatically but we have increased them,'' Rasmussen said. “We're trying to promote the fact that we're in the Big East a little more. We know there's interest in it.”
Still to be completed is the refinishing of the basketball court at the CenturyLink. Rasmussen said the court had to be completely redone to remove the old Valley logos.
“You just can't sand a couple of sections and call it good,'' he said. “We stripped the floor and redid it. It should be finished in a couple of weeks.''