“UDM sits right smack in the very city that produces some of the finest high school players in the entire Midwest, yet they wallow. Have been, with few interludes of success, since the mid-1980s.”

 

There was a time when the University of Detroit (before they added the Mercy part to their name) wasn’t a-scared of anybody, when it came to basketball opponents.

Powerhouse DePaul? Bring it on! Marquette, on the road? When does the bus leave? Michigan? Just name the time and the place!

That was a long, long time ago.

U-D is now UDM. They added an “M”, but lost their nerve.

Why, UDM won’t even play Oakland University, some 30 miles or so north.

It’s not the travel, of course — it’s the quality of the Golden Grizzlies.

UDM is ducking OU. Has been for years.

Oakland coach Greg Kampe was chatting with some Internet fans the other day, and portions of the chat were printed by the Free Press.

Who, Kampe was asked, is Oakland’s biggest rival?

“It should be the University of Detroit-Mercy,” Kampe said. “But they won’t play us. So it’s Oral Roberts.”

Oral Roberts plays in Oakland’s league, in case you were wondering. Which is more than you can say about UDM.

UDM doesn’t play in many people’s league anymore. They’re officially a member of the Horizon League, with schools like Cleveland State (who just won the league tournament) and Butler and Wisconsins of Green Bay and Milwaukee. It’s not a bad little league, actually; Cleveland State and Butler have caused other teams fits in basketball over the years.

So did U-D/UDM, once upon a time.

U-D had Dave DeBusschere and Spencer Haywood in the 1960s, and Terry Tyler and John Long and Terry Duerod in the 1970s. And it was no picnic playing the Titans — especially in that glorified high school gymnasium called Calihan Hall.

The Titans still play in old, decrepit Calihan, and their team hasn’t caused any trouble for too long. The 2008-09 season that the Titans just completed was another cautionary tale of a campaign: 7-23 overall; 2-17 in league play.

No wonder they’re ducking Oakland U.

Dickie Vitale and Dave “Smokey” Gaines and even Don Sicko must be horrified at the notion that UDM won’t play Oakland — not because OU is small potatoes, but because the Titans might very likely get their tails handed to them if they dared play Greg Kampe’s kids.

Kampe has Oakland on a great upward path. They win a lot up there, and for a school of its size, OU puts a very competitive team on the floor, year after year.

UDM sits right smack in the very city that produces some of the finest high school players in the entire Midwest, yet they wallow. Have been, with few interludes of success, since the mid-1980s.

Now they won’t even hop on a bus for 45 minutes to play Oakland, nor will they host them, thus robbing OU of its biggest rival, according to Coach Kampe.

I remember watching the ’76-’77 Titans march into the old Mecca in Milwaukee and take on Marquette — who would be eventual NCAA champions in coach Al McGuire’s farewell season. Both teams were independents at the time, and the game had been scheduled at the behest of Vitale, who wanted his team to play as many top-notch programs as possible.

U-D won, in a game televised back home to Detroit, and Dickie V. did a jig at center court as he was being interviewed after the game. No joke — he danced, he was so happy.

That was back when U-D/UDM feared no team in no arena.

Now Greg Kampe can’t get the Titans on the court, nowhere, no how.

Times sure have changed — even for a team whose home gym hasn’t since the 1960s.

UDM, ducking Oakland University? The shame of it all.

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