“… The times they are a-changin’.”
When you first pull into the University entrance, you immediately see the construction of the new Health Science building, which is ironic because Oakland’s image is also under the knife.
The campus additions like the medical school and various degree programs, go hand-in-hand with what OU athletics has done the past 10 years: grow.
I’ve gotten to know the various coaches in my year as the sports editor of The Oakland Post. Most athletes and athletic staff members share a unique mentality of optimism, as well.
That may seem like an obvious quality, but there is a degree of pride that involves much more than wearing a jersey.
Although there is progress in terms of interest, there are three ideas that I think will bring the Golden Grizzlies brand further into prominence.
Advertise the product
Having classes in different buildings, I’ve gotten an idea of what the students think of the athletics here. Frankly, most of them are oblivious. I can’t say I blame them.
You rarely see any commercials advertising the games and the O’rena sign is much too small. It’s not uncommon to hear of people driving right past it or not knowing where it’s located at.
The leading scorer in the nation, Reggie Hamilton, passed under the nose of many students.
The Oakland Basketball All-Access series that premiered this season on Fox Sports Detroit is a good start, but outside of the website, I didn’t hear hardly any buzz about it on local news or around campus.
To get more people at games, they’ll have to put more money in advertising.
‘If you build it, they will come’
The University of Michigan has opened both a brand new indoor football and practice facility in the past two years.
Opening a dedicated practice facility will put Oakland among the state’s elite and will no doubt give them a recruiting advantage against schools in the Summit League and comparable in-state schools like University of Detroit-Mercy.
Head basketball coach Greg Kampe discussed the importance of a dedicated facility last December on WXOU.
This will no doubt come with a cost but a new facility is worth the investment.
Time to jump ship
The Grizzlies need to move onto what I believe is greener pasture in the Horizon League. They might have their chance very soon.
ESPN’s senior college basketball writer Andy Katz mentioned in late March Butler University has interest in moving to the Atlantic-10 conference and replacing Temple University, according to many sources.
If you’re an OU basketball fan, you’ve no doubt heard the rumor of UDM blocking Oakland from the move to the more favorable and geographically-friendly conference, but it has never been officially confirmed.
The possibility of an UDM and OU matchup could generate excitement in the Metro Detroit area, which has been predominately controlled by professional sports.
A move to the Horizon League, would cut travel costs more than half across the board.
Oakland has had success over Horizon teams like Valparasio, formerly of the Summit League (then called the Mid-Con).
Oakland has done something crucial and done it correctly: created a core fan base — the Grizz Gang.
People cared that OU lost to Southern Utah in the Summit League Tournament in a disappointed fashion.
Seeing multiple tweets and comments from fans and students alike, voicing their disapproval isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Emotion shows a bond is there.
People change, relationships come and go, but love for sports teams rarely does.
OU can capitalize on this student relationship by showing that school pride isn’t only tied to academics, but also to the fields and courts of the campus.