Last Friday, the Creighton men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, and men’s and women’s soccer teams hosted “Hangin’ with the Jays,” a youth engagement event that raised over $7,200 toward flood relief in Nebraska and Iowa. During men’s basketball’s two NIT home matchups a few weeks ago, they encouraged donations to United Way of the Midlands, and head coach Greg McDermott pledged to match donations up to $10,000. The amount raised was not posted, but it’s likely safe to assume the figure wasn’t insignificant. The basketball team has also interacted extensively with Cale Ferrin, a young fan with a rare bone marrow disease, and along with the women’s team, holds annual “Pink Out” to raise money for cancer research.
These instances and more show the potential impact Creighton athletics can have in the greater Omaha and Nebraska communities. Located in a smaller market city with no professional teams, Creighton sports, and especially men’s basketball, garner significant prominence and exposure in Omaha. With men’s basketball attendance among the highest in the nation, and volleyball setting an NCAA attendance record, Bluejay sports can and should use their position of influence to affect positive change in and beyond Omaha. The past few weeks and a whole year of other community work not mentioned show that teams do indeed have the city’s best interest at heart.
You can’t drive through central Omaha without seeing St. John’s steeple or Heider’s balconies rising alongside the skyline, and Creighton’s location within the very heart of the city gives it both added exposure and responsibility as opposed to other Jesuit schools like Villanova and Loyola Chicago, which are located roughly 10 miles from their respective city centers. Sports activism and involvement in the community can make Creighton central to Omaha both literally and symbolically.
In a time where Creighton and its students’ role in and relationship to the Omaha community is being scrutinized, (student-dominated Atlas apartments, Good Neighbor Policy proposal in Gifford Park, medical campus construction in Phoenix) Bluejay sports provide a valuable chance for Creighton to reinforce its place as a partner of the city, not a nuisance or afterthought.