The long-rumored move of Oakland University to the Horizon League became official Tuesday.
The Golden Grizzlies will officially join the league July 1, the Horizon League announced, and will compete in all the conference’s sports, except men’s tennis.
“I’ve respected their program for many years,” Wright State Athletic Director Bob Grant said. “They do a lot of things really well. A lot of folks say they’re similar to us in age and facilities. We’re kind of wired the same way.”
The Oakland news is important to the Horizon League baseball programs. When Butler left the conference last spring, the league was left with five baseball teams. Only conferences with at least six teams get automatic NCAA tournament berths. The Horizon League had a two-year grace period to find a sixth team, but now that’s not a concern.
“This will alleviate any kind of negative recruiting going on with the baseball programs,” Grant said.
Oakland’s campus in Rochester, Mich., is about 26 miles north of the University of Detroit. That proximity will help all the schools in the conference because they can play Oakland and Detroit on one trip.
In fact, Wright State is now the only school in the conference without another Horizon League school within a two-hour drive.
“Geographically, they’re a home run for us,” Grant said. “Unfortunately, gone are the days of conferences being built around rivalries and proximity. This allows for easy, convenient and economic travel. It keeps the kids in class. They’re not planes.”
The addition of Oakland gives the Horizon League nine teams again. It had 10 teams until last spring, when Butler departed for the Atlantic 10. When Loyola announced April 19 it was leaving for the Missouri Valley Conference, the Horizon had eight teams.
Oakland was a Division II program in the Great Lakes Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference from 1973 to 1997. It was a Division I independent in 1997 and 1998 and has been in the Summit League ever since.
The Summit League used to be known as the Mid-Continent Conference, and Wright State was a member from 1991-94.
Oakland’s men’s basketball team finished 16-17 last season, its first losing season since 2005-06. Oakland has had the same coach, Greg Kampe, for 29 seasons. He has led Oakland to six Summit League titles in 14 seasons and three NCAA tournament appearances.