When IPFWs mens and womens basketball teams qualified in their initial attempts for the Summit Leagues postseason tournament in 2007-08, it was Oral Roberts that eliminated both Mastodons teams in Tulsa, Okla.
The men lost in the semifinals, the women were beaten in the first round, and Oral Roberts eventually went on to win both championships.
But as IPFW begins its sixth season in the conference, its nemesis has moved on, leaving for the Southern League.
The departure opens the door for debate: Was ORU leaving a basketball step backward for the Summit League in need of a marquee university?
Theres no question that that is a gut shot to the league, Oakland mens coach Greg Kampe said during a teleconference by the Summit League coaches Wednesday. And maybe people dont want to hear that, but its true.
Over the past eight seasons, Oral Roberts has been one of the leagues more successful basketball schools. The men have won the regular-season championship five times and the postseason tournament three times, while the womens teams have claimed two of each. In those eight years, Oral Roberts was the leagues representative in the NCAA tournaments on five occasions.
Last year, with a 27-7 regular season record, Oral Roberts mens team had an RPI of 65, which far exceeded Oaklands second-best of 135. In contrast, IPFWs RPI was 281.
As a conference, the Summit League men ranked 16th in the RPI, a step below the Ivy League and one notch ahead of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
I think were one of the more underrated leagues in the nation, North Dakota State coach Saul Phillips said. You look at it, and our RPI has steadily climbed and climbed and climbed as a group.
You lose Oral Roberts, you replace them with an Omaha; you give Omaha time and, given their location, given their resources, theyre going to be very, very good. This league is really moving in a positive direction. I dont want to gloss that over.
Added IPFW mens coach Tony Jasick: From a name recognition standpoint, they were one of the more notable programs in the league, but I still think that our leagues going to be a quality league this year without them in it.