“Moving to the Horizon League allows us to associate and compete with institutions with outstanding academic profiles and values,” Athletic Director Tracy Huth said. “They emphasize the experience of the student-athlete. It also gives us the opportunity to play the University of Detroit Mercy on a regular basis for some spirited metro Detroit competition.”
Several years ago, Oakland wanted to join the Horizon League, but Detroit was against the idea. Former Detroit Athletic Director Brad Kinsman, who retired in 2006, acknowledged last year that his school didn't want to share the Detroit market with another school in the same conference. Kinsman said he wasn't sure if that attitude still prevailed at Detroit.
When the league announced Oakland's arrival Tuesday, Detroit interim Athletic Director Jason Horn released a statement.
“I think the league has done a great job of being pretty thorough with reviewing potential members in the changing landscape of college athletics. As the longest-standing member of the Horizon League, we've had a long history with the league and a vested interest in the membership,” Horn said. “I think with Oakland joining we look forward to some epic battles across the 14 sports we have in common.”
Oakland's Board of Trustees accepted the invitation from the Horizon on Tuesday. The Golden Grizzlies will start competing in the league in the fall.
The move puts Oakland in a much more localized league. With the Golden Grizzlies in the fold, the Horizon now has nine schools, all in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois or Indiana.
That's in contrast to the Summit League, which has teams in states like Nebraska and North Dakota.
“Oakland University has been a member of the Summit League for the past 15 years and we wish them well in the future,” Summit League Commissioner Tom Douple said. “In the ever-changing college athletics landscape, this move was rumored and anticipated for several months. Although it comes at a very late time in the year, we have adjusted our schedules accordingly.”
Oakland made the transition to Division I beginning in 1997 and has been one of the Summit League's top men's basketball programs of late, playing in the NCAA tournament in 2005, 2010 and 2011.
“As a conference driven by national prominence in men's basketball, Oakland further strengthens our league,” Horizon League Commissioner Jonathan B. LeCrone said. “Complementing their success in men's basketball is a broad-based sports program that will compete well.”