Doug Elgin balances the regret he has in seeing Creighton leave the Missouri Valley with his belief the conference will continue to flourish.
Elgin, the league's commissioner since 1988, compared the Bluejays' departure for the new Big East with what the Valley went through when Tulsa left in 1996 to join the Western Athletic Conference. At the time, the Golden Hurricane had played in three straight NCAA tournaments and had made back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances.
“Tulsa's departure seemed like a huge setback to the institutions that remained behind,” Elgin said Wednesday on a conference call. “History proved otherwise. Our administrators and coaches went to work with an absolute commitment to get stronger and become even more competitive.
“Over the next 12 seasons, from 1997 to 1998, every men's basketball team played their way into the NCAA tournament. The point is, we're not defined by a single program. We're confident programs will step forward, and we know that we will continue to be a great all-sports league.”
Still, Elgin admitted the loss of Creighton, which over the past 15 years has emerged as perhaps the league's flagship basketball program, is a blow, both professionally and personally.
“There's no question that the loss of Creighton is a blow to our conference,” he said. “They accomplished so much. What we've seen them accomplish in building the infrastructure and competing has been remarkable.
“They had to accomplish some great things in order to be attractive to the new Big East. We certainly wish (Athletic Director) Bruce Rasmussen and their coaches and their student-athletes all the best.”
Elgin said there is no timeline in place to fill the vacancy left by the Bluejays, and he indicated that the league would be willing to go with nine members in 2013-14 rather than make a hasty decision on a replacement. He also did not rule out that the Valley could add more than one member.
He said the Valley's presidents council has already been proactive in discussions about options the league might have if Creighton would leave. He didn't identify any schools that might be candidates to fill the Bluejays' spot but said some preliminary talks have been held.
News reports have mentioned schools such as Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Valparaiso, Belmont and Denver as possible candidates to join the Valley.
“We've done surveys of our membership which parallel surveys we did back in the 1990s when we added Missouri State, Northern Iowa and Evansville,” Elgin said. “The really important characteristics are strong basketball tradition, geography within our footprint and locations 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 said Creighton does not have to pay an exit fee to leave the Valley but will surrender a revenue distribution the school would have received in June. The distribution includes revenue derived from television rights and NCAA tournament unit monies.
“Creighton will depart on June 30 without receiving any more revenue from the MVC,” he said.
Elgin said he could not project what that amount might be at this time. In the past, Creighton has received around $350,000 to $400,000 from the conference on an annual basis.
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