Former athletes take on current Grizzlies at alumni athletic games

On Saturday, Sept. 19, the current soccer team and alumni played a friendly game against each other. Although scores were not kept, bragging rights and fond memories were.

There are many traditions present here at Oakland University, one of which is a strong alumni presence. From academics, to athletics, alums are constantly involved in the ever changing campus community.

One tradition in which Oakland gives back to alumni is through alumni athletic games when the current Black and Gold athletes compete against former athletes. Sports including softball, soccer, volleyball, swimming and diving, and golf all participate in this tradition.

“The wonderful thing about these events is that the alumni get to rekindle their passion for the sport to some degree, and get to interact with the current coaches and student athletes,” director of athletics Jeff Konya said.

“To allow athletes to tell the wonderful stories of the past accomplishments is a great way to honor their respective legacies.”

These games are unique for many reasons: athletes don’t have to stress over the score (other than bragging rights of course) and they don’t have to worry about how this will affect their standings in the conference or nation.

In this laid back atmosphere many laughs and memories can be made.

Konya reflected on one specific memory that stands out to him. “In one soccer game, the alumni scored first actually,” Konya said, “and they had choreographed a goal celebration for the ages.”

This year at the men’s soccer alumni game, Brandon Felker, who graduated in 2007, reflected on his times as a Golden Grizzlies both on and off the field.

“The time spent in the training room with all the guys, or the locker room chats are some great memories,” Felker said. “I really enjoyed the team aspects off the field. Just being together with the team for long bus rides was always a highlight.”

Felker just retired from six years of active service and is currently a firefighter. His advice to current athletes is to focus on their grades, don’t let them slip, and to take in the experience every day.

Another men’s soccer alumni, Ryan Rzepka, graduated in 2004, has similar advice.

“Just enjoy it. The facilities are amazing here and the school spirit is phenomenal,” Rzepka said. “I used to hate waking up at 8 a.m. for morning practice. Now I wake up at 8 am wishing I was going to practice. I miss it, enjoy it while it lasts.”

At the alumni swimming and diving meet, current swimmers had the opportunity to swim alongside Paul Karas, Oakland’s first national champion. Karas graduated in 1977, just three years before Oakland men’s swimming and diving team won its first National Championship. Two members of that historic team were also present, Tim Murphy and Michael O’Hagan, who graduated in 1981.

All three of these alums still stay in contact and have gone on to do great things in their lives. Karas just retired from working as an engineer at Ford and O’Hagan is a partner owner at his own law firm. All three offer the same advice for current swimmers: uphold the tradition.

“The men’s team has won 36 consecutive conference titles and the women have won 21,” Murphy said, “Keep that tradition going.”

“Give it your best effort, whether swimming or studying,” Murphy added. “And make sure you are having some fun, too. When things aren’t going your way, make the best of it and be supportive of your teammates. They’ll appreciate it and you’ll appreciate their support, too.”

Karas, O’Hagan, Murphy, Rzepka, and Felker’s advice all contain one common element: to enjoy your time at OU, it goes by fast. Alums get a different experience out of this friendly competition.

“I hope [the alums] are proud and reflect fondly at their time here at Oakland,” Konya said. “I hope they choose to actively engage with what we are currently building within our athletics culture. I would hope they represent the ‘Black & Gold’ with pride at every turn.”