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Drew Ellis covers Oakland University basketball for The Oakland Press. His news and notes keep you up to date with Golden Grizzlies men's basketball.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Move to Horizon League would be monumental, not monotonous for Oakland

Oakland director of athletics Tracy Huth was with the school when it made the monumental  leap to Division I competition in the late 1990s. He could be steering the school’s next move if Oakland gets invited to join the Horizon League, as it has been speculated in past weeks.
“We can contact the Horizon League all we want, but it’s not going to make any difference until they actually come to us, which has not happened,” Huth said Thursday, one day after the Horizon lost centerpiece member Butler to the Atlantic 10.
While surely time consuming, switching conferences doesn’t appear to be taxing on Oakland’s athletic department and campus community as stepping up from Division II.
“That was different within the NCAA structure because you have to make a declaration and then you go through an extended period of time,” Huth said. “You have more of a waiting period with that process.
Would the Summit League, Oakland’s home since 1997-98 when it was the Mid-Continent Conference, try to keep Oakland?
“That I don’t know,” Huth said. “I’m sure they’d certainly like to have us stay and they may ask us to stay, but I don’t know what a league would do specifically to try to keep a team.”
Horizon League commissioner Jon LeCrone confirmed the conference’s 5,000-seat arena stipulation for its members, but added they didn’t want to get bogged down in seating capacity while searching for a new member. Oakland’s O’rena, which opened in 1998, holds 3,000 at capacity and has been stuffed to 4,000 at times.
If Oakland’s main sports complex doesn’t meet the Horizon’s lofty standards, it could mean the school’s other facilities are in order for an upgrade should the Golden Grizzlies move conferences.
“That’s something we would have to explore,” Huth said. “I don’t know what some of their facility requirements are in some of the sports. If the call ever came, that would be something we would certainly be looking at.”
Leaving the Summit League can come at a cost, as seen when Oral Roberts paid more than $250,000 for its emancipation last year. Huth noted Southern Utah, however, gave the league more notice, two years, of its impending departure, resulting in fee free egress.
“It all depends what the exit strategy is and that’s all predicated on when there’s an opening in an alternate conference,” Huth said.
Oakland would be the fourth team to leave the conference in recent years. The Grizzlies share a common lineage with the previous defectors — they’re all the farthest-flung members in the plains state-centric league.
“When you look at the member institutions that have done it have done it for geography,” Huth said.
With the better conference locale, more name recognition and a recruiting boost should follow.

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