Creighton Officially a Member of BIG EAST

As June became July, what once was considered a pipedream became reality for Creighton University; its inclusion into the BIG EAST Conference became official.

The Bluejays joined fellow new members Butler and Xavier, formerly of the Atlantic-10 Conference, and existing members DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova to complete the 10-team league.

Years ago, before the recent uptick in conference realignment, such a league sounded like something only a genie could bring to life, however, after the "Catholic 7" announced their split from the football-playing members of the BIG EAST, citing displeasure with the football-first mindset the conference operated with, the Bluejays had their chance. It took some behind-the-scenes politicking by university president, Fr. Timothy Lannon, S.J., and athletic director, Bruce Rasmussen, but by time the conference announced its three new members and television deal on March 20, the Creighton brass proved its worth.

The switch was made possible by CU's impressive athletic performance over the past few years as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, but the hope is that the move will have positive benefits that reach far beyond the arenas, stadiums and fields of competition.

"Athletic conference participation goes beyond the courts and playing fields. We see an opportunity for greatness, and we believe this new affiliation will enhance the visibility of the University through increased national exposure, improving our ability to recruit exemplary students and faculty and cultivate philanthropic opportunities," said Fr. Lannon, S.J. in a university-issued release.

The primary outlet for the increased visibility of the Creighton name will come as a result of the 12-year, media rights deal reached between the conference and Fox Sports. Fox Sports 1, the new channel slated to be available nationwide later this summer, will be the television home for over 100 regular-season basketball games and the conference tournament from New York City's Madison Square Garden. The expected impact should be felt far beyond the athletic realm.

"It's great news for Creighton University long-term. What this can do for the profile of the University and our athletics program in general can be nothing but a positive," said Creighton coach Greg McDermott.

The conference recently named Val Ackerman, the former president of the WNBA, commissioner of the league, which is headquartered in New York City. Ackerman said the league is currently happy with the 10 teams, and is not currently working to add additional members, contrary to initial rumblings that the league would look to expand to 12.

In a general sense, Bluejays' athletic teams will face a heightened level of competition in the BIG EAST. The challenge is part of what drew Creighton to the new league.

"We feel that joining the BIG EAST Conference gives us a greater opportunity to recruit, retain, develop, and graduate outstanding students and outstanding student-athletes. We know that continued success and excellence in each of our athletics programs will not be easy. We chose to join the BIG EAST not because it will be easy to be successful, we know it will be difficult. At Creighton University, we believe that goals that are difficult to achieve are the most worthwhile," said Rasmussen.

There wasn't much hoopla around Creighton on July 1, but the celebrations could be saved for later dates. Both soccer teams will be in action at Morrison Stadium on August 30. The women take on North Dakota before Elmar Bolowich's squad hosts Tulsa, which will be university's first opportunity to host an event as a member of the BIG EAST.

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