Oakland accepts invite to join Horizon League

By Allen Jordan

The Board of Trustees accepted an invitation to switch from the distance-heavy Summit League to the Horizon League, located primarily in the Great Lakes region.

During a board meeting held in the Oakland Center, OU Athletic Director Tracy Huth made a presentation highlighting several benefits of making the move from the conference that it’s resided in since 1998.

“We really don’t see a downside to this,” Huth said.

After receiving an invitation from the Horizon League April 15, the school made the move today that will allow the Golden Grizzlies to compete in the 2013-2014 season. The switch won’t be official until July 1, 2013.

“The universities in this conference are strong academically and they value the student-athlete experience,” Oakland University President Gary Russi said, “Oakland fits well with them and we look forward to being part of their tradition of excellence.”

What’s on the Horizon

Oakland will compete in 18 of 19 Horizon League sports, with the exception being men’s tennis.

The Horizon’s current schools are Cleveland State, Detroit Mercy, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Illinois-Chicago, Valparaiso, Wright State and Youngstown State.

Loyola (Chicago) is leaving the conference for the Missouri Valley, which opened the spot for Oakland. Butler also left last year for the Atlantic 10 conference.

“I want to thank The Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple and his staff for the professionalism, dedication and service provided to us during our membership,” Huth said. “We wish them the best in the future.”

Among the many benefits that played a major factor in the switch, was the emphasis on making games more accessible for fellow students and families to attend.

With the heavy travel involved, playing North Dakota State and the conference championships taking place in South Dakota, fans will be able to travel with the team more easily since the Horizon League opponents are located within the Great Lakes region.

“With fans, they want to be able to see their teams play in person in most cases even on the road,” Huth said.

A Full House

During his presentation, Huth said the biggest challenge is that OU does not meet the minimum seating capacity requirement for men’sbasketball.

The school is requesting an exemption and has discussed opportunities with the Palace of Auburn Hills, if necessary.

With the move, it will present the chance to fuel and renew the geographic rivalry with fellow Horizon League member University of Detroit Mercy, particularly in men’s basketball.

“It’s going to be great for local interest amongst both schools,” Huth said. “With such a rivalry, it will be great for attendance and competition.”

Cost and Opportunity

At the meeting and the following press conference, Huth confirmed a Summit League exit fee of $250,000, and the school will also pay an entrance fee to the Horizon League of $882,000, both of which will come from external sources.

Despite these fees, the cost saving of over 20 percent associated with travel and distance to where OU traveled in the Summit League played a major part in the decision as well according to Huth.

The deal also opens up more exposure for OU on a national level.

With the new deal, OU will be part of a venture with the Horizon League Network (HLN), who will hold the television broadcast rights for Oakland games.

According to Huth, the conference will pay for television production costs. In its previous deal, OU paid for the broadcast costs to televise on Fox Sports Detroit.

Another factor that was taken into account was the effect that change in conference could have on recruitment.

There is the chance for more recruitment opportunities among the major Midwest areas within all sports. Huth is convinced that this new partnership will serve as a huge benefit to the program in academics and athletics looking towards the future.

“With more opportunity to recruit in areas like Chicago and these several other major markets, we have the chance to improve our athletics drastically while continuing to uphold our academic standards.” Huth said.

The Horizon League is an NCAA Division I athletics conference that sponsors 19 intercollegiate championship sports and is headquartered in Indianapolis.

 

Contact Staff Reporter Allen Jordan at [email protected] or @aj1218 on Twitter.