Creighton will not ask its fans to shoulder an excessive share of the freight required to move to the new Big East.
Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen said he doesn't anticipate any dramatic hikes in ticket prices to cover the increased costs that will come with joining the new 10-team conference.
“Since we moved into the CenturyLink Center, our ticket raises have been 2 to 3 percent every year,” Rasmussen said. “It's been cost of living at most. We're not going to say that now because we're in the Big East we're going to charge fans a lot more for season tickets or tickets.
“We haven't raised season-ticket prices in the upper bowl for a long time. If you're a student, it costs you no more to go to a Creighton game and sit in the upper bowl than it does to go to a high school game.”
In a wide-ranging interview with The World-Herald, Rasmussen touched on a variety of topics regarding Creighton's move from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Big East. Among them:
>> Even taking in worst-case scenarios, the athletic department projects the move to be at least revenue-neutral, since the league's contract with Fox should offset the increased cost of doing business.
>> The action appears to have the universal approval of Creighton student-athletes and coaches, including basketball coach Greg McDermott.
>> Creighton did not learn until a week ago that it would be officially invited to join the league, along with Butler and Xavier.
>> The school is well aware of the risks it is taking in leaving the Valley, but they are outweighed by the academic and athletic rewards of the move.
Creighton, Butler and Xavier are joining seven Catholic universities — Georgetown, Villanova, St. John's, Providence, DePaul, Marquette and Seton Hall — that were part of the old Big East to form the new basketball-centric conference.
The official announcement was made Wednesday at Fox's Manhattan headquarters. The new league and Fox have agreed to a 12-year contract that multiple media reports said could be worth as much as $500 million.
|BLUEJAYS TODAY ON FACEBOOK|
|Join the conversation on the Bluejays Today Facebook page.|
The Bluejays' share of the television rights, Rasmussen said, will help defray additional costs, primarily in travel, in a league that stretches from the East Coast to middle America.
“Whatever it's going to cost us in extra commitment, we'll get back in extra revenue,” Rasmussen said. “We've looked at scenarios in which our season-ticket base would go down by 25 to 30 percent and our Jaybacker donations would drop by the same amount.
“We still think that at worst case, it would be neutral to positive.”
Rasmussen paused, then added, “It better be positive.”
Creighton will boost its $15 million budget to put it closer to other schools in the league, but Rasmussen said the increases will primarily cover increased travel costs as flying replaces bus travel as the primary mode of transportation.
That certainly appeals to any of the athletes who have had to endure a 14-hour bus ride to play at Evansville, Rasmussen said.
“It's not going to take us 14 hours to travel to the East Coast,” Rasmussen said. “There's going to be more expense in traveling, but not in missed class time.
“We're going to have to evaluate every part of our athletic program to make sure we're walking the talk. We'll expect our programs to be competitive, but we have to make sure we're giving them the resources so that they can be.”
Rasmussen came to Creighton 33 years ago to coach women's basketball. The school was then — as it was until Wednesday — a member of the Valley, a 10-team league headquartered in St. Louis.
Rasmussen said it's tough leaving the Valley. One of the things that helped Rasmussen lure McDermott from Iowa State three seasons ago was the opportunity to coach again in the league.
“Mac loves the Valley, and so do I,” Rasmussen said. “We don't want anyone to think, 'Gee, Creighton thinks it is too good for the Valley.' He and I are both on board with this, but we know it comes with exposures.”
Those exposures include the risk of not being as successful as the Bluejays were in the Valley. And not just in men's basketball, Rasmussen said.
The seven sports in which Creighton devotes the most resources — men's and women's basketball, men's and women's soccer, volleyball, softball and baseball — generally have been among the Valley's top programs annually.
“If we're not in the top three in those sports, then we consider it a bad year,” Rasmussen said. “It's going to be more difficult to be successful in the Big East, but that's one of the messages we preach to our kids: If it's worth doing, it's going to be hard.
“The things that you get most excited about aren't easy. Can we be successful? Can we be in the top three in the league? Yes, but we know we're going to have to step up.”
In recent months, Rasmussen and other school officials have studied where the athletic department stands today and where it wants to be in 10 or 15 years.
“This was a rare opportunity we knew we had to take a look at,” he said. “The scary thing for us was that with the football money growing, it's more difficult for non-football programs to compete nationally.
“This gives us the potential to do that. It doesn't guarantee it. but we just felt like there were more exposures in staying in the Valley than in going with the new league.”
Contact the writer:
402-679-2298, firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter.com/PivOWH