Paging Father Lannon, Father Timothy Lannon. Please pick up a white courtesy phone.
It's your future on the line.
When will that phone ring? Will the phone ring? Is that even how this realignment game works?
Will Creighton answer the phone?
We shall see. The Big East Conference appeared on the verge of a seismic shift on Thursday. When that shift comes, the tremors will be felt as far west as 24th Street in downtown Omaha.
Apparently it's happening now. What has been speculated for months is coming to life. The seven schools known as the Catholic Basketball Schools of the Big East are ready to make their move. Reports have them forming their own band and looking for five new members to make it an even dozen.
The five likely targets that keep popping up in media reports: Xavier, Butler, Dayton, St. Louis and your Creighton Bluejays.
And that pie-in-the-sky dream that many Creightonians have dreamed about — the all-Catholic hoops league — could be about to take shape, with the Jays making the cut.
Why now? Why Creighton?
Timing is everything in life. And CU has impeccable timing.
This could not have happened 10 years ago, even five years ago.
The Jays are on top of their game. They sell out a big-time building. They have a consensus All-American on the floor. They have a top 20 team with hopes of a deep NCAA run.
It's a great time to be a Jay. Even better time to be a potential free agent in the realignment game.
The new league aptly called “The Big Priest” by ESPN's Brett McMurphy is looking for a stable future in an unstable world ruled by the almighty pigskin.
It's looking for a new club with members that the major football schools won't raid. (That's why Connecticut and Cincinnati won't get asked.) It would be built of basketball-first schools with enough juice to land a sweet ESPN deal.
The Big Priest won't ever be the beast that the Big East was, but it would have every chance to be a major player in college hoops, complete with a league tourney at Madison Square Garden.
I believe this opportunity will be too hard to pass up for Creighton.
The minute Creighton joins this league, it moves from “mid-major” to “major.”
CU would likely get multiple games televised on ESPN.
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The Jays would no longer have to worry about scheduling. Finding RPI games would no longer be a problem.
Fans flock to the CenturyLink Center now, but think about the local buzz with Georgetown, Marquette, Butler and St. John's coming to town.
Last, but not least, there's the financial side. Not just in TV money, but in NCAA tournament “units” (accumulative NCAA games played by league members, paid out over six years). Last year, the Big East collected $27.3 million in NCAA tournament units.
There's one more attraction and it shouldn't be downplayed: the chance to be affiliated with other Catholic and Jesuit colleges (though Butler is a liberal arts school). For Lannon, Creighton University's president, and for Creighton alumni, faculty and students, this would be a big deal.
In a column two weeks ago, I pointed out the downside to this move. I think CU officials should still weigh the trade-offs heavily.
Creighton has a wildly successful identity and niche in the Missouri Valley, with the best arena and a program that is perennially in the top two or three in the league. CU is one of the top two or three programs or “jobs” in the Valley. That wouldn't be the case in the Big Priest.
Head coach Greg McDermott, who knows how to recruit and win in the Valley, would have to restructure his plan. Mac and Co. would have to go head-to-head with former Big East schools in eastern AAU haunts.
Travel costs for the school and for fans would escalate (though trips to DePaul, Marquette and St. Louis would ease some pain). The non-revenue sports, so successful now, would be impacted. Imagine Creighton baseball trying to make an NCAA regional in that league.
Moreover, I wonder how the atmosphere around Creighton hoops would change.
Jays fans are used to contending for the Valley title every year. What would they say if CU finished sixth in the Big Priest in back-to-back years, just missing out on NCAA bids? Would that be acceptable? Or would there be pitch forks?
Would the price of being a Jays fan go up along with the caliber of opponent coming to the CenturyLink?
The old line that the “Sweet 16 is the Final Four” wouldn't work in this league, where some teams have Final Four banners and aspirations. How would the Jays feel about upping that ante?
On the other hand, it's called growth. It's natural. And if you look around north downtown Omaha, this type of move fits the blossoming mode of Creighton University.
There's a lot to consider here, and a risk in throwing away something good in the Valley.
You can bet Lannon and CU Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen have talked at length about this and have considered all of the angles, pro and con.
But it's hard to see them saying no to a chance to join a big boy league, a chance to expand their program, their school, their brand.
Timing's everything. I'm not sure Creighton would have been ready for this 10 years ago, five years ago.
Now, it's about waiting for the phone call.
Checked that email lately, Father?
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