Who becomes Oakland's top rival remains to be seen
Oakland coach Greg Kampe has repeated his sorrow for Oral Roberts' departure, but reiterated the league's current position is just a case of history repeating itself.
“Across the college landscape, that’s what’s going on. We have to dig in and get ready to play. We don’t sit here and prepare to beat Oral Roberts. We prepare to win a league championship and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
While Oakland's road to the conference title and subsequent NCAA tournament automatic bid could be less rocky, it won't replace the history between the programs.
"We had some games. Both teams have to win them,” Kampe said. “That’s what you play for, to have games like that and rivalries like that. At the same token, five years from now, that’s going to be past history. Nobody is even going to think about it and the league is going to continue to grow and getting better as it has. Great things are happening for this league and we’re going to keep pushing forward.”
So who steps up to the plate and becomes Oakland's primary adversary? IUPUI? IPFW? South Dakota State? Even North Dakota State, they already have a recent classic finish that could even be considered a birth of the rivalry.
Proximity says the Indiana schools could be a natural fit. But as evidenced by the Golden Eagles rivalry, distance doesn't have much of an effect in a league as widespread as the Summit.
"Rivalries are born by championship quality teams," Kampe said. "I can’t tell you how that’s going to work out. If we stay good and somebody else is there and on a roll ... That’s how it happened with Oral Roberts. It certainly wasn’t because of location.”
The Jackrabbits appear to have things going their way, becoming an analysts' darling, but to become true rivals, teams will have to be perennial contenders. None of the conference's remaining schools can claim that except Oakland. Whomever comes to be the Grizzlies' chief rival is up to everyone else.