Athletic department strives to better gameday experience


The Oakland Post

By Jackson Gilbert

Expect a new and improved experience at Oakland University basketball games this winter. 

Oakland Athletic Director Jeff Konya hosted a focus group Tuesday comprised of leaders from various student organizations to discuss his vision for the basketball experience in the O’rena.

Assistant Athletic Director Scott MacDonald led off the meeting and said that it is his goal to “get the community involved.” 

That was clearly the case, as both he and Konya led an energetic discussion about what students liked and disliked about the experience of attending home games.

Konya, a native of Oakland County, mentioned in his introduction that he attended a game at OU a few years ago and left feeling like there was room for improvement.

“That’s not the impression I want people to leave with,” Konya said. 

“Our brand is more than just the bear head … our brand is our experiences.”

As a second-year member of the Horizon League, OU is now playing more recognizable natural rivals such as Detroit and Valparaiso, after spending more than a decade in the Summit League playing lesser-known opponents.

Despite reaching the NCAA Tournament three times in the last decade with star players such as Keith Benson, Reggie Hamilton and Travis Bader, it’s been a struggle to fill the O’rena seats on a regular basis.

The largest O’rena crowd ever was the 4,065 fans who witnessed the Golden Grizzlies’ February 14 overtime victory over the University of Detroit, but a first-ever Horizon League playoff game in the O’rena in March drew just 2,283 fans.

Among many of the ideas discussed at the gathering, unifying the student body and athletes was at the top of the priority list for Konya and his staff. 

One proposed idea is to have dedicated schedules for timeouts, with the band playing for one and the dance team performing for another.

Other ideas discussed included having color-themed games such as “blackout” night and scripted dances for the Grizz Gang. 

The Grizz Gang is one of the most vocal student sections in the Horizon League.

Konya also asked the representatives what they’d change at the games. 

Several ideas were brought up including an increase in the amount of free items given away and an emphasis on campus-wide advertisements for the games.

 “We’ve got to bring our strengths to light,” Konya said. 

Representatives from student groups ranging from the dance team to campus radio station WXOU attended the focus group.

All were given the opportunity to not only chat directly with Konya, but also share their input. 

Brittany Hall, the president of OU’s Grizz Gang, was impressed.

“They’ve clearly been putting a lot of thought into this. I’ve been here for four years and the athletic department has never done anything like this,” she said.

Hall also mentioned that she was pleased with the transparency of Konya.

“They are doing a great job of accepting new ideas. The Grizz Gang actually has a chance to make a difference,” she said.