YSU excited about Oakland joining HL

The Horizon League is finally back to nine teams.

Oakland’s move to the league, which was long speculated, was made official Tuesday.

The Golden Grizzlies move from the Summit League, the former Mid-Continent Conference, on July 1. Oakland plans to compete in all 18 of its intercollegiate sports.

“As a conference driven by national prominence in men’s basketball, Oakland further strengthens our league,” Horizon League Commissioner Jonathan B. LeCrone said to The Associated Press. “Complementing their success in men’s basketball is a broad-based sports program that will compete well.”

Youngstown State University Director of Athletics Ron Strollo sees the Oakland move as a positive. The Golden Grizzlies’ men’s basketball team advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2005, 2010 and 2011. The two teams faced each other when both were in the Mid-Con.

“I think, obviously, the Oakland thing makes a whole lot of sense for us. We’re excited about them joining our league,” he said.

The Horizon League recently lost Loyola to the Missouri Valley Conference and was currently sitting at eight teams. Butler left the Horizon League following the 2011-12 academic year.

YSU men’s basketball coach Jerry Slocum, who could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, saw his team’s 2013-14 schedule in limbo because he didn’t know if there would be eight or nine teams in the league for the upcoming season.

“You just went through a nine-team basketball season. That doesn’t change,” Strollo said. “You’re not travelling somewhere that is out of the footprint. You are, obviously, facing a real talented basketball team that we hosted in the CIT.”

Strollo added he’s looking forward to the Detroit-Oakland rivalry. The schools are about a half-hour apart.

“It’s a perfect fit, as far as geography,” Strollo said. “They’re located near Detroit and we’ll get to watch a great rivalry between them and Detroit play out. Obviously it was a team we were competing against in the Mid-Con, much like Valparaiso. They bring a known name to Beeghly Center and all the other venues they’ll be competing in.

“It was something important for us as they solidified baseball. They gave us that sixth team again after we lost Butler. It helps maintain our AQ (automatic qualifier) to the NCAA Tournament.”

Oakland, YSU, Detroit, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Valparaiso, UIC, Wright State and Cleveland State will be the nine-team league as of July 1.

Will the Horizon League seek a 10th team?

“It’s so hard to tell in this changing landscape,” Strollo said. “We’ll have to see. It’s so hard to speculate what is going to be out there.”