Tailgating. Singing the school fight song in unison with friends and strangers alike. Face paint. Clever signs. Chants.
All of those things that have been part of the college football game day experience at campuses across the country will be available to Oakland University students and alumni this fall, as the school’s club football team has been permitted to play its home games on campus.
Although Oakland’s inaugural season was 2013, until this year, the team’s home field was Auburn Hills Civic Center Park.
Since the club won its second National Club Football Association national championship last December, coach Tom Menas estimated that hundreds of hours have been spent trying to bring Oakland’s home games to campus.
Menas recalled previously speaking with Oakland President George W. Hynd about what having games on campus could look like, including the atmosphere that comes with it.
He credited Hynd, Oakland Director of Athletics Jeff Konya, club advisor Nic Bongers, Oakland Vice President for Student Affairs Glenn McIntosh and club sports administrators for their contributions.
“What we’ve been trying to accomplish is actually coming to fruition,” Menas said. “We’re getting what we’ve worked so very hard to do, and we’re excited. … It’s a beautiful facility.”
Oakland’s home games will take place at the Recreation and Athletic Outdoor Complex (RAOC), also known as the Upper Fields. The team will play on a turf field.
Along with David Brosky, Bongers co-founded Oakland’s football club. Having the team on campus is something he wanted early on in the process.
Now that it has become a reality, Bongers is expecting “a lot more involvement and a lot more students that live on campus to come to the games and things like that, whereas before there wasn’t as much familiarity with the field.”
The move to campus has given him another opportunity to witness the further evolution of the program.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Bongers said. “Personally, it’s very exciting to me. I remember when the blueprints got approved to build that site. It was maybe a couple weeks before the football club was even approved. Both of these things were kind of being built over the years, and as the team evolved and as the field is evolving, we’re starting to cross paths a little bit more. It’s exciting to see both things happen at the same time.”
Along with being a kicker and defensive back, Chris Polite is Oakland’s team president. He has been a part of both national championship teams, and in what will be his senior season, he gets to play his home games at the RAOC.
“We’re very excited,” Polite said. “As (an) OU student, you can walk right outside and see a football game. It’s a dream come true.”
Rob Ray is a member of the Rochester City Council and also serves on Oakland’s alumni association board of directors.
Having attended University of Michigan football games, Ray knows what a game day atmosphere is supposed to look like, and even though it will be on a different level, he wants Oakland alumni and students to experience some of that with their own team.
“I want the bigger, broader, come back to campus kind of experience that alumni have at other schools,” Ray said. “I think this is another opportunity for the university to underpin its alumni engagement. … It’s another way for Pioneers and Grizzlies to come home to Oakland University.”
The Golden Grizzlies will play a charity flag football game against Oakland faculty members at 4 p.m. Sept. 9. Although there is no charge, donations will be accepted for the Grace Centers of Hope.
Oakland hosts its first official game at 7 p.m. Sept. 16 against the Michigan Patriots, a semi-pro team.
For more information, visit facebook.com/OUclubfootball.