UPDATE: Missouri Valley Conference commissioner Doug Elgin said Wednesday that any discussions with potential new conference members are preliminary only at this point.
Elgin also said the MVC, which officially lost Creighton when the Bluejays announced their departure for the new Big East Conference, could play with nine members this season as the league searches for new membership.
Read below for Elgin’s comments.
ORIGINAL: Creighton announced Wednesday, in conjunction with a Fox Sports news conference in New York delivering the same news, that it’s officially leaving the Missouri Valley Conference for the new Big East Conference.
The Big East signed a 12-year deal to have its games aired on a new Fox Sports channel and will continue playing its conference tournament in Madison Square Garden. Creighton’s new league will offer a reported $3 million in revenues to members as compared to about $300,000 to MVC institutions.
Not long after Creighton’s announcement, MVC commissioner Doug Elgin released a statement on Creighton’s resignation from the league:
“As communicated during the Big East press conference earlier this morning, Creighton University will resign from the Missouri Valley Conference membership effective June 30, 2013.
Creighton has been a valued member of the Conference for many years. We respect the decision by the University to resign from the MVC, and we wish them well in their future athletic endeavors.
I want to be clear in stating that the Missouri Valley Conference is not defined by any one institution. The Valley’s history has shown, time and again, that it finds the strength, resources, competitive determination, and leadership to rise to higher levels at times of change. We will continue to be a great basketball and all-sports league, as we have been since our founding in 1907.
The MVC Presidents Council will continue to chart the future course of the Conference and has been proactively engaged in evaluating membership options.
So far, the MVC has remained mum on Creighton’s departure despite its imminency for about a month now. A USA Today story published March 8 indicted the league considered Denver and Belmont as favorites to replace the Bluejays, while Oral Roberts and Loyola (Ill.) are also in the mix.
Elgin also spoke to the media via teleconference on Wednesday afternoon. Click to read his comments.
Elgin’s opening statement: “We respect the decision that Creighton University has made to join the Big East Conference. Every institution has the right and the responsibility to determine a conference that best fits their needs…As for the MVC, we will move on as well. We’re simply not defined by any single institution. We have a long history of success, and we will continue to be a strong and relevant, basketball-centric league.”
Elgin noted that when Tulsa left the league in the 1990s, it was a program that had made three straight NCAA tournament appearances. “Their departure certainly seemed like a huge setback for the institutions that remained behind in the MVC at the time. But history has proved otherwise.”
Since Tulsa left, all 10 MVC members have played in the NCAA tournament at least once. “The Valley has been arguably the best of the basketball conferences in the country whose institutions do not play FBS football over the last 20 years,” Eglin said. “We’ve continued to be excellent across the board as well. So the point is, again, we’re not defined by one single program. We’re confident other programs will step forward and reach higher competitive levels.”
Elgin sees stability moving forward with the nine members that are left. “I’m confident that we have a commitment from our presidents council,” he said. “They believe we’re stable. You always have that in the back of your mind, I guess, in this age of realignment. I really believe the best option for any of our institutions remains the Missouri Valley. Certainly, there’s an awful lot that we have that’s positive.”
As for finding new membership, he said: “I think the really important criteria and characteristics are strong basketball tradition, geography within the footprint and certainly in major markets or near major markets. Those will continue to be the driving forces in our review of potential expansion of our membership.”
Elgin on how far talks have gotten with potential new members: “We act at the direction of our presidents council. They make all decisions with respect to membership. We have had some collective conversations — very preliminary — with some institutions. We are very carefully running our plans by our presidents council. We will act very expeditiously moving forward. We are not in a rush. There’s no panic involved. We don’t think we absolutely have to expand our membership, but if we find a willing and an institution that meets the threshold of acceptability in terms of what they bring to our league, that will strengthen our league competitive and otherwise, we would act.”
Ten members would allow the MVC to continue in its round-robin format. “There is no requirement that we have 10 member institutions,” Elgin said. “We can exist at nine…In terms of the optimal model for a conference, I think 10 is the right number. That’s been my feeling for a long time. That will be my council to our presidents council. But I do feel it has to be the right fit to move to 10 or beyond 10.”
What’s the latest a new member could enter for this fall? “June 30, I would imagine,” Elgin said. “In all honesty, I don’t know the answer to that. We are proceeding cautiously but expeditiously to review the landscape to make strategic decisions. We’ve gathered research in a ton of areas that will aid our presidents council in what is really a critical strategic decision as we move ahead in the league. I don’t think there is a set timeline, but obviously the sooner the better because it’s not easy to simply bring in a new conference member and prepare for a year of competition in fall, winter and spring sports.”
Creighton’s exit leaves the league with six public schools and three private, among them UE. “I think the private institutions, all things being equal, would likely prefer a private institution be named as our 10th member if we decide to go in that direction,” Elgin said. “But generally speaking, I don’t think those issues have been in any way, shape or form a deterrent to progress in our league.”
Previous conference realignment posts:
March 19: Creighton announcement coming Wednesday
March 15: Local papers confirm Creighton’s exit from MVC
March 7: Catholic 7 ready to announce new league
March 4: More on the MVC and conference realignment
March 1: UE plenty happy with the MVC right now
Feb. 28: Creighton likely joining Big East next season
Dec. 1: Bluejays ‘near definite’ to join Catholic 7