Multiple anonymous sources are confirming to PantherU that Oakland is indeed coming to the Horizon League, confirming what was reported in the Green Bay Press Gazette by Rob Demovsky on April 4th. The Horizon League will likely announce Oakland in the next couple weeks.
Oakland University, located just twenty miles away from the University of Detroit Mercy, brings the membership back to nine programs. No word on whether or not a tenth member was forthcoming, although none of PantherU’s sources had any idea.
Oakland, which has been a member of the Summit League since 1998, joined Division I in 1997 and promptly opened the O’rena when they joined the Mid-Continent Conference (now Summit). The O’rena seats 4,005 fans and is host to basketball and volleyball on campus.
PantherU recently rated Oakland as the third-best possible addition to the Horizon League after Belmont and Murray State. Oakland scored a perfect 10 each on sports offered and location, both of which match the Horizon League perfectly. The Golden Grizzlies received and 8 out of 10 for their outstanding O’rena facility and a solid 7/10 each in success, brand and effect.
Making the move is an obvious one for Oakland, but they will need to boost their basketball budget if they are going to maintain the level of success they’ve seen in the Summit. With three NCAA Tournament appearances since 2005, the Grizzlies only have a play-in game victory and three losses. The last, an 85-81 loss to Texas in 2011, was a heartbreaker for a program that seemed like it was ready to finally get over the hump.
PantherU will continue to follow this story as it unfolds.
Sports – This has been the obvious choice since Day 1 when Butler left the Horizon League. Oakland plays all Horizon League sports except men’s tennis. Big deal. Oakland has a great lineup of teams, and their most important sports are men’s basketball, soccer and baseball. Score: 10.
Facilities – The O’Rena, which is apparently not an Irish thing, is a very nice albeit small gymnasium that seats 4,000 fans. The Horizon League has long had the 5,000-seat rule, but I don’t think anyone would make a stink about the O’Rena. The arena lacks suites, but I doubt anyone is going to take issue with that. Score: 8.
Location – No doubt, being 20 miles away from the University of Detroit gives the Titans a feeling of claustrophobia. But there’s no getting around the fact that Oakland is too much of a good fit to pass up. Most people outside Detroit see the Golden Grizzlies as the best fit, and Detroit’s running mates have both walked out. My guess is the snug fit will cause Detroit to look elsewhere, but we’d be naive if we didn’t think they already were. If the Horizon League brings in the Grizzlies as part of a package, the Titans will be more tempted to stay. Oakland alone makes Detroit sweat. Oakland with one or a few other schools makes Detroit intrigued. Locking the Summit out of the Detroit recruiting market is good for business. Score: 10.
Budget – The overall budget over $10 million is a good sign. The basketball budget of $1,389,435 could be all right, since it’s better than YSU by a few lengths. I’d still like to see the basketball budget get a few hundred thousand tacked onto it; that’d give us a winner. Score: 6.
Success – Greg Kampe, like Rick Byrd at Belmont, has been the steward of Oakland basketball all the way from the dregs to D-I. He has strong roots at the school, and the program averages in the top half of Horizon schools in RPI over the last six years. They certainly aren’t Murray State or Belmont in NCAA success, but there’s no doubting that Oakland has an opportunity to step up their solid success even more in the Horizon League. Score: 7.
Brand – When I first saw Oakland – who was here for the men’s soccer Panther Invitational – I thought they came all the way from California. That’s quite all right, as the name is classic and known to the people in eastern Michigan. The Golden Grizzlies name is a bit generic, but it’s a good mascot. The OU in their logo looks too much like Oklahoma for my taste. Their victory over Tennessee put them on the map nationally. Maybe they’ll do it again soon. Score: 7.
Effect – This is the school everyone expects, and most people want. Oakland makes a lot of sense, they’re spending enough in basketball and can spend some more without breaking the bank. Their facilities are in order and they have name cache in the conference. Oakland isn’t going to “wow” anybody, but that’s probably because we’ve been talking about bringing them into the conference for years. Score: 7.
Oakland versus the Horizon League since joining Division I:
vs. UIC: 1-0
vs. Milwaukee: 1-1
vs. Detroit: 1-3
vs. YSU: 5-3
vs. Green Bay: 3-1
vs. Valparaiso: 4-17
vs. WSU: 1-2
vs. CSU: 0-3