Creighton is joining the new Big East Conference. The official announcement came Wednesday morning.
In addition to Creighton, Butler and Xavier join the so-called Catholic 7 schools in the new basketball conference. The other schools include Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette and DePaul forming the new league for next season.
Father Brian Shanley of Providence College said he was thrilled to have Creighton join the conference. He credited the university not only for its basketball program, but its tradition of academic excellence.
Creighton Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen said the Big East will provide an opportunity to recruit the highest level of players and help the school achieve its goal of being a consistent Top 25 men's basketball program.
Missouri Valley Conference commissioner Doug Elgin said there's no rush to replace Creighton. Elgin said his league, which will be down to nine members June 30th, is studying potential candidates. He said preference would be given to schools in the geographic footprint of the Valley and with a strong basketball tradition. Media reports list Denver, Milwaukee and Belmont as possibilities.
Valley spokesman Mike Kern said Creighton will forfeit about $325,000 in distributions because it's leaving with less than a year's notice.
What does the additional national exposure mean to the city of Omaha?
No more valley trips to Terre Haute, Springfield or Cedar Falls. Creighton will no longer be in what some consider “fly over country.” Instead, those bus rides will soon be replaced with plane trips to Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia.
“I think for the first year or two it'll be the first time a lot of these teams venture to Omaha and hopefully we'll see a lot of new visitors coming through the airport and visiting the city,” said Christopher Martin with the Omaha Airport Authority. "We have non-stops to Washington, to New York City, where the Big East holds its tournament, as well as lots of connecting service to all the cities where the Big East teams play."
After the new fans fly in, business owners in Omaha, especially north downtown, hope they drop in and spend some money and help the local economy grow. "I think it will bring a new energy, a new excitement, nothing but good things expected ahead,” said The Dugout’s Zane Hinkel.
Right now, all anyone can talk about is how good this move will be for Creighton and the entire city. "I think it's going to be great for Omaha's image,” said Bob Brown with the Omaha Chamber of Commerce. “I think it's going to be great for recruiting businesses, I think it's going to be great for recruiting students."