Creighton is set to make the Big move.
Creighton University plans to accept an offer to join the Big East Conference, The World-Herald has learned.
Its entry into the newly reconfigured, basketball-centric conference will have the Bluejays annually going to battle on the court against iconic programs like Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova.
It also will mean leaving the Missouri Valley Conference, the league that has been the longtime home to Creighton athletic teams in all sports.
Other media sources, including the Chicago Tribune, also were reporting that Creighton's entry into the 10-team league was imminent. The Tribune reported that Creighton will join the league for the 2013-14 school year, the move becoming official by Wednesday or Thursday.
Creighton officials on Friday continued the school's policy of declining to comment on any conference move, making what seemed to be carefully worded statements.
“I have no information to share,'' said Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen.
“We have no information to share,'' said Kim Manning, a spokeswoman for the Rev. Timothy Lannon, CU president.
Numerous members of Creighton's board of trustees also declined to comment or did not return calls.
Howard Hawks, an Omaha businessman and trustee active in athletic affairs, said he couldn't comment when asked whether Creighton had been invited to join the conference.
“I think something will happen next week or after the (NCAA) tournament,'' he said.
A move to the Big East would represent a major step up for Creighton both in terms of athletic competition and prestige. The new league has a TV contract lined up with Fox that reportedly will pay league schools at least $3 million a year.
Creighton also would be joining a group of like-minded institutions. All 10 teams in the reconstituted Big East are private schools, nine are Catholic, and all have little or no football history but share reputations for playing big-time hoops.
One reason Georgetown, Marquette, St. John's, Villanova, DePaul, Seton Hall and Providence broke with the other football-playing members of the Big East was because they wanted to get back to a conference where basketball is king.
The two other schools set to leave the Atlantic 10 Conference and join the Big East — Butler and Xavier — also have strong basketball programs. The Indianapolis Star reported on Friday night that Butler will join the Big East for 2013-14.
The move could provide advantages for Creighton in general student recruitment, increasing its profile in some of the largest media markets in the country. DePaul is in Chicago, St. John's is in New York City, and the league's annual tournament will continue to be held in New York's Madison Square Garden. Creighton draws nearly two-thirds of its students from outside Nebraska.
But the change of conference affiliation would also represent a major break with tradition.
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Creighton joined the Valley in 1928, left as an independent for several decades and has now been a continuous Valley member since 1977. Creighton fans also have enjoyed the annual treks to St. Louis for the “Arch Madness'' conference championship tournament. Some 6,000 CU fans watched the Bluejays claim the 2013 Valley crown last weekend.
Another downside would be travel, as Creighton and other teams in the league would have to fly in and out of Omaha to compete. But recent history in conference realignment has shown that geography and travel costs take a back seat to which schools can help a league gain top TV ratings.
Creighton has recently been a relative marquee name in college basketball. This year it claimed both the regular season conference and tournament titles in the Valley. In recent years the school has ranked in the top 10 nationally in basketball attendance.
The school is set next week to compete in its ninth NCAA tournament in the last 15 years, and also boasts a first-team All-American in Doug McDermott.
With Creighton's move, it becomes the third major university in Nebraska in recent years to take a big leap athletically.
The University of Nebraska at Omaha decided two years ago to reclassify from Division II to Division I and joined the Summit League. Months earlier, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln decided to end a decades-old affiliation with the Big Eight/Big 12 Conference, moving to the Big Ten.
World-Herald staff writers Steve Jordon and Steven Pivovar contributed to this report.
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