CARBONDALE — With Creighton’s imminent departure from the Missouri Valley Conference rumored to be announced later this week, the big question for SIU fans is not who will come in and replace them, or what the league will look like when August rolls around.
It is a bit more complex. Just who do the Salukis love to hate once the Bluejays depart for the new Big East Conference later this year?
“Creighton is exciting, and I think any time you have a program with that kind of talent, and does that well in your conference, it always helps to bring that attention to the conference as a whole,” said SIU fan Patty Davis of Carbondale. “I can see where losing them would not be beneficial to us.”
Davis, the parent of kids aged 2 and 4 years old, is set to graduate in 2014 from SIU with an early childhood education degree. Her parents are alums, and her grandparents were instructors at SIU.
Davis had a custom-built, “I H8 CR8TN” onesie for her then-1-year-old son created to match the rest of the family’s T-shirts, but might have to clear out some closet space now that multiple reports have the Bluejays set to join the 10-team league for the 2013-14 season.
“There's no one really else as much fun to hate as Creighton,” Davis said.
Butler will join the new league, according to a report earlier this week by the Indianapolis Star, along with current Atlantic-10 Conference mate Xavier, Georgetown, Marquette, St. John’s, Villanova, DePaul, Seton Hall, Providence and the Bluejays.
The Chicago Tribune reported Creighton’s move would become official Wednesday or Thursday. ESPN reported Saturday that Butler, Xavier and Creighton’s move to the new conference would be officially announced later this week.
If it comes to fruition, Creighton’s departure will be the first change in the membership of the MVC since 1996, when Tulsa left. Only the Ivy League has maintained as much stability as the Valley, which will now have to replace one of its marquee programs in its marquee sport.
The Bluejays (27-7) re-entered the two major polls’ top 25 at No. 23 and 24 last week after winning the MVC men’s basketball regular-season and tournament championship. Creighton and Wichita State (26-8) are expected to be the league’s only representatives in the NCAA tournament today, when the field of 68 is announced.
The Valley will also lose one of its eight baseball teams, even though Dallas Baptist is set to join in that sport next year, and its foothold in the home of the College World Series.
“It’s disappointing. They’re a great member of our league, they have been for many years. They make us a better league,” SIU baseball coach Ken Henderson said. “Ed (Servais) does a great job. If it is true, I’m disappointed and I think most of the league is disappointed. I’ll guarantee you their baseball team is disappointed. I’ve heard that. It’s strictly a basketball move, and a financial move, but it’s certainly not better for them in baseball. It’s a big loss for our league.”
On Twitter: @Todd_Hefferman