In recent weeks, there has been speculation of Oakland University’s future as a member of the Summit League and a possible invitation to join the Horizon League.
A possible conference switch by the Golden Grizzlies could be highly beneficial. This is by brining fan exposure, which could lead to higher quality recruits and transfers to the school, more NCAA tournament appearances and higher profiled opponents.
The switch to the Horizon League would primarily be beneficial to the men’s basketball team, Oakland’s marquee sport. Conference moves are usually used to further advance schools athletics programs. But there is a key oversight that Oakland may be overlooking, in terms of long term plans:
The addition of a Golden Grizzly football team.
Many Oakland students and fans alike have wondered when, or if, the university would ever opt to start a football program.
The goal of any athletics department should be to get their schools to the height of any BCS school, such as those in the Big Ten or SEC. A move to a BCS school means an automatic qualifying opportunity for any basketball program, and more possibilities beyond that for NCAA tournament appearances regardless of conference championships.
For Oakland, this dream is still decades, if not more, down the road. But without the nation’s most popular sport, it is even further beyond reach.
Oakland could never join the ranks of Michigan or Ohio State without football.
A key issue with starting a football program at Oakland right now is money, since football requires cash, and a lot of it.
The cost of start-up would be monumental for the Golden Grizzlies. Not only would a stadium need to be built, which alone could cost millions, but coaching and executive staff would also need to be recruited and hired. Then, money spent recruiting the first official team would be added to that.
According to an article written by Tim Gardner of USA Today in 2010, it costs Indiana University an upward of $200,000 to outfit their entire Hoosier football team for a single season. On average, it costs the university $2,731 to outfit one player. These costs range from numerous pairs of shoes to jerseys and equipment.
Being a Big Ten school with a rich football history, Indiana is able to afford such high costs. For Oakland, however, hefty donations and fund raisers would have to be used to outfit the team alone.
A possible football program would require numerous things:
A new stadium would have to be built, and over the years, expanded on. This could cost the university millions. Upkeep and maintenance of the stadium would also be costly, ranging in the thousands for a single year.
Much like other universities, Oakland would also participate in spring scrimmages and games, which would cost money.
But even if the money is acquired for football to come to Oakland, that doesn’t make the waters any easier to tread on the path to the big leagues in college athletics. The Golden Grizzlies would likely begin in division III, and would have to work their way to the division I Football Bowl Subdivision.
This process could take decades. Because of this, one can assume that Oakland should begin preparations to start a football program in the next decade or so.
Scott MacDonald, assistant athletics director for communications at Oakland, said that there are no plans for football to come to the university in the immediate future.
“Nothing has changed in that department and there are no immediate plans of adding football,” MacDonald said.
While down playing the football aspect, MacDonald’s words can lead one to believe that discussions have taken place about a possible football program.
All of these things seem like reasons to not have a football program at Oakland, but the benefits would benefit all members of the OU community.
Still years down the road from becoming a reality, Golden Grizzly football is something that many have asked about. While financially, a program is out of reach today, it is something the university should invest in for the future of Oakland athletics.
Contact Sports Editor Damien Dennis via email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @djdennisOU