Conference realignment for Oakland could be on the ‘Horizon’

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It is no secret that for high-major schools, conference realignment is driven by cash. It’s all about the money, revenue, deals, sponsorships, a larger piece of the pie, yada, yada and yada.

But when mid and low-major schools deal with the process of changing conferences, the reasons are much more widespread: location, conference profile, competition level, finances, facility size, etc.

With Butler officially moving to the Atlantic-10 Conference in 2013, the Horizon League will need to find a tenth member to fill the hole left by League’s most recognized university. There may not be another school in the entire country more fitting, and deserving to join the Horizon League than the Summit League’s Oakland University. The reason’s why are plentiful, as Chris Burrows from Run the Floor explains.

First, there is the pedigree. Seven Horizon League members were at one point members of the Summit League.

Then there is also the financial aspect of the move. Oakland spent $1,555,472 on their basketball program in 2010. The average budget for a Horizon League team in 2010 was $1,856,543.

So while they would be in the bottom-half of the league, financially, the Grizzlies still would be a dominant force in basketball, due to the recent success of Greg Kampe’s team. Oakland has made two NCAA tournament appearances in the past three seasons, holds two wins over major-conference school Tennessee, and has produced an NBA draft pick (Keith Benson, Atlanta Hawks, 48th overall in 2011), all coming in just the last five years.  In fact, 15 years ago, Oakland wasn’t even competing at the Division-I level.

There is the location. Oakland is just 26 miles away from Horizon League member Detroit. The closest Summit League team is IPFW, located 185 miles away from Rochester, Mich.

But the relative proximity to Detroit could end up hurting Oakland’s chances, as Horizon League bylaws state that any potential candidate must get permission from league members located within 25 miles from campus. If Detroit wanted to, they could keep Oakland from joining the conference.

If this was a BCS-conference, it would be an apt scenario. Detroit is coming off their first League title  since 1998, and with Butler leaving, the top of league is their’s for the taking. Why would they want another dominant, and local, program to come in and steal their thunder. If this was the Big-XII or SEC, we know what the outcome would be.

But they seem to do things differently at the mid-major level.

The other drawback is that Oakland’s arena is not large enough to meet the Horizon League standards. But Athletic Director Tracy Huth is confident that it wouldn’t be too big of an issue:

I don’t know what some of their facility requirements are in some of the sports. If the call ever came, that would be something we would certainly be looking at.

There is no stopping conference realignment. If schools want to change leagues and conferences, so be it. But there should at least some driving factors other than just money, which is more than apparent in the case of Oakland.

They might not be back-to-back National Championship participants, but the Golden Grizzlies would be a nice fit in the Horizon League, as long as they meet the requirements.

Troy Machir is the managing editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @TroyMachir.