SUMMIT LEAGUE MEDIA STATEMENT REGARDING OAKLAND UNIVERSITY’S DEPARTURE
“Oakland University has been a member of The Summit League for the past 15 years and we wish them well in the future. 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 and sent them to our member institutions today.
“The Summit League remains steadfast in its commitment to strengthen as we move forward through the conference realignment that has transpired across the country. Our current members believe that the league’s present core of committed institutions gives us a solid foundation in which to build upon in the future.”
– Tom Douple, Summit League Commissioner
So the Golden Grizzlies are gone. Oakland will join the Horizon League effective July 1, 2013. Everybody saw it coming. And in some respects it is a relief that the move is finally being made... even if the timing is not the best.
"This move has been long rumored for the past year and really comes as no surprise to anyone," says Douple. "However, the disappointment is in the very late notice in the year as it relates to scheduling. But we’ve been prepared, and emails with our scheduling went out this morning (Tuesday) for the fall and winter sports with softball and baseball to follow shortly. So we are ready and we’re going to move forward."
While the league moved quickly on scheduling, it is not as likely to move as quickly on adding new members. With the addition of Denver, the Summit will be the home for 8 schools in the 2013-14 year... and Eight Is Enough (anyone?) for now.
"We have worked really hard in the last seven years to bringing in members who we think are committed long term," Douple says. "And the emphasis for us should be on how our host members have made this stronger as a league. Not the ones who have departed, but who we have currently. We have 8 current members who are committed to moving the league forward."
"It’s never been about a correct number of members in our league… whether we’ve needed ten or twelve. If we wanted to we could have added to get to 14 very quickly by adding the Great West members… Chicago State and Utah Valley and Bakersfield and Grand Canyon, etc. But the President’s Council has been very clear on this… we don’t need to add just to add numbers."
South Dakota State University President, Dr. David Chicoine, is the Chair of the President's Council. His statement in the league's official release on Tuesday backs up Douple's sentiment: The Summit League has 8 solid, core members to build upon. But we are also good for now, thanks.
Douple says he has received several unsolicited calls of support from officials at current member schools and he is confident that the current membership stands together on solid ground.
"We talked about it in March at our joint council meeting. There was a new confirmation of support… and this is where we are going. We have a strategic plan that we are following and we are making progress on that. It is hard to get that message out… that things are positive. Yes, we lost a school, but… look who we are bringing in in Denver… and look at the 8 we have in… and can we build upon that? Absolutely."
In the mean time, the Oakland departure leaves a few quirks. Most notably, the fact that only seven of the eight remaining schools are eligible for the post-season basketball tournament. (Denver is, Omaha is not.) The solution? The top seed will get a bye in the first round. There will be one men's and one women's game on Saturday instead of two. Another issue that needs to be addressed is the automatic qualifier for baseball. With Oakland out, only 5 schools remain in baseball. Douple says the league will get an automatic bid for at least the 2014 season.
in response to every question about future membership, the Commish remains positive. He is secure in the thought that the Summit is solid right now and will only grow if that growth is good.
"The membership has always been about seeking members who are the right fit… and we are continuing to seek those out. We don’t need to panic. As you look at this conference realignment it is all over the place. You look at the Sun Belt and Conference USA and the Big East and the Colonial and the WAC. They have all had more moves than we have had. What we are going to do as a core group of 8 members is come out with a very strong message… that is we have a strong group of core members who are committed to making the Summit League a great league in the future. So we look forward to having an outstanding athletic year and academic year next year. And that is our message."
As to whom the league has its eye on for the future? Anybody's guess. Let the speculation on that continue. And we obviously need something new to speculate on now that the Oakland deal is done.