Conferences play musical chairs for moneyPublished 8:57am Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Column: Staff Notes, by Micah Bader
It shatters tradition and builds revenue. Conference realignment and expansion is back.
Minnesota was affected when the Big Ten Conference added Nebraska in 2011. Now another Nebraska school bolted for greener pasture. Omaha’s Creighton University will join the Big East Conference with Butler and Xavier on July 1.
Even though Creighton and nearly the rest of the new Big East Conference are Catholic schools, the move is surprising from a geographic standpoint. Creighton is more than 1,000 miles away from half of the conference. Providence will be the farthest drive at about 1,500 miles. Villanova, St. John’s and Seton Hall are more than 1,200 miles away, and Georgetown is 1,146 miles away. The closest competitor, DePaul, is 470 miles away.
For some perspective, the road trip from Omaha to Washington’s Georgetown University is more than 17 hours. An airplane ticket might be in order, unless a drive for two straight days to a college basketball game sounds good. None of those five schools are in the same time zone as Omaha.
Minnesota’s equivalent would be to join the Pac-12 to face USC and UCLA during conference play.
Creighton is not leaving a dismal conference, either. The Bluejay’s current league — the Missouri Valley Conference — is among the best mid-major men’s basketball leagues.
“The Missouri Valley is the only non-BCS league with more than three different Sweet 16 teams in the past seven years (the MVC has had four different teams reach the Sweet 16 in that span: Bradley, the University of Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois University and Wichita State),” the conference’s official website said.
This year, Wichita State has defied the odds to make it to the Final Four. The Shockers — a No. 9 seed — took down Big East heavyweight Pittsburgh, before stunning No. 1 seed Gonzaga. Then they dismissed upstart La Salle before upsetting Big Ten power Ohio State.
Wichita State didn’t even win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament title this year. Creighton did. Competitiveness? Check.
However, the Big 12 Conference was also competitive when Nebraska left. When the Huskers joined the Big Ten, the school received a share of multimillion dollar TV rights from the Big Ten Network.
Creighton will be raking in the dough, as the Big East has reportedly joined with Fox Sports for a 12-year contract worth $3 million per year to each school.
As for rivalries lost, Nebraska’s biggest rivalry died when the Big Eight Conference was absorbed by the Big 12. Nebraska and Oklahoma met frequently for high-profile games in the olden days. In the meeting dubbed “The Game of the Century” in 1971, No. 1 Huskers beat the No. 2 Sooners 35-31. In 1996, The Big 12 set up north and south divisions, so Nebraska and Oklahoma only played every other year.
Creighton may not lose quite that dramatic of a rivalry, but it will lose border battles with schools like the University of Northern Iowa, Witchita State, Drake and Missouri State. In the Big East there will be no border battles.
Micah Bader is the sports editor of the Albert Lea Tribune.