New chapter of VU-Oakland rivalry on Horizon
Each of the last three seasons has produced a dramatic men’s basketball game between Valparaiso and Oakland.
Beginning in 2013-14, the former Mid-Continent Conference rivals once again will meet at least twice a season, as the Grizzlies will join the Horizon League from the Summit League, it was officially announced on Tuesday.
For the 2007-08 academic year, the Crusaders made the move to the Horizon from the then-Mid-Con (the league’s previous most recent addition); now, the Grizzlies will follow suit, effective July 1, from the renamed Summit (as of June 1, 2007).
This past season at Oakland, the Grizzlies reeled off the game’s final 11 points to stun the Crusaders 70-68. In 2011-12 at the Athletics-Recreation Center, Reggie Hamilton hit a shot as time expired, capping a 41-point outburst, to propel Oakland to an 82-80 win against Valparaiso, which squandered a 17-point lead with less than 14 minutes left. And in 2010-11 at the O’Rena, the Crusaders took a thrilling 103-102 decision from the Grizzlies.
Valparaiso does lead the all-time series with Oakland 17-5. But coach Bryce Drew and the Crusaders have the utmost respect for the Grizzlies, led by colorful and charismatic 29-year coach Greg Kampe.
“As a basketball program, we’re excited,” Drew said. “They come with a very, very strong basketball tradition, and we have probably more of a history with them than any team in the Horizon League.
“We’ve had a lot of wild games against them, with wild finishes. Now the fans will get to see them on a yearly basis, and that’s really exciting because of the style of game that they usually play.”
With Oakland as its newest member, the Horizon League once again has nine teams, after charter member Loyola last month announced it was leaving for the Missouri Valley Conference, effective July 1. The Ramblers “replace” Creighton, which will join the new Big East. Of course, before the 2012-13 season, standard-bearer Butler bolted the Horizon League for the Atlantic 10, with the Bulldogs subsequently also departing for the new Big East for 2013-14.
“This is an exciting beginning to our external growth plan,” Horizon League commissioner Jon LeCrone said in a news release, hinting at possible further additions.
Such machinations obviously are driven by men’s basketball, and Oakland — the school located in suburban Detroit that has craved a more stable, more geographically aligned affiliation — should fit in well in the league.
The Grizzlies have made the NCAA tournament in 2005, ’10 and ’11; have made five straight postseason appearances (CIT in 2009, ’12 and ’13); and have won a combined six Mid-Continent Conference/Summit League regular-season and tournament titles. The Horizon League’s RPI was No. 12 this past season, and the Summit League’s was No. 19, with Oakland checking in at No. 152.
Kampe — who guided the program’s transition from Division II to I, as Oakland was an independent in 1997-98, before joining the Mid-Con for the 1998-99 season — is a five-time conference coach of the year. He became the fifth active Division I coach to win at least 500 games at one school, and was No. 22 among active D-I coaches in wins.
“My dad (Homer) and him (Kampe) developed a really good relationship over the years, and I consider him a friend and a mentor,” Drew said. “He’s been great to me. We text throughout the year. It’s definitely great to have another coach that you get along with well. But he’s really an innovator on offense, and we’re going to have our work cut out for us against them.”
Valparaiso athletics director Mark LaBarbera was out of the office on Tuesday, and unavailable until Wednesday.
The Grizzlies will compete in 18 of the 19 sports offered by the Horizon League (not men’s tennis).
“Oakland University is the perfect fit at the perfect time for the Horizon League,” LeCrone said in the release. “They bring a well-respected and growing athletics program, and we are adding a university that is aspirational.”