|« If CAA collapses, Scarano needs to be prepared||It's always sunny in Bozeman »|
UMass Moves to FBS, Plays 2012-13 at Gillette
UMass football fans have long had to worry about Rams, Hens, Spiders, Black Bears and Wildcats. Now, Minutemen watchers must be concerned with Bulls, Broncos, Bobcats, Falcons, Cardinals and RedHawks.
UMass will make its expected move to the Mid-American Conference official today at a 3:30 p.m. press conference at Gillette Stadium. The school will upgrade the program to the Football Bowl Subdivision, play a partial FBS schedule in 2011 and 2012, and join the MAC on a full-time basis beginning in 2013.
The news was first reported by the Herald’s Steve Buckley in November.
Because NCAA rules require teams to have a two-year average attendance of at least 15,000 in order to participate as an FBS member, UMass will enlarge McGuirk Alumni Stadium, which has a capacity of 17,000. During the reconstruction of McGuirk Stadium, its home facility since 1965, UMass will play its 2012 and 2013 home games at Gillette.
Sources said UMass plans to pay for its stadium improvements through the revenue generated from the Gillette appearances. Last October, UMass lost to rival New Hampshire, 39-13, in the Colonial Classic in front of 32,848 fans in Foxboro.
UMass currently holds Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division 1-AA) status as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association. In recent years, the CAA has seen Northeastern and Hofstra drop their varsity football programs, which may have contributed in part to the UMass decision. UMass reached the FCS championship game three times, winning the 1998 crown.
UMass officials would not comment yesterday but a well-placed source called the announcement “an unbelievable deal for us.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher and UMass athletic director John McCutcheon are expected to attend today’s press conference.
By jumping to the FBS, UMass gains an uptick in the number of football scholarships it can offer, from 63 to 85.
The move would appear to be a win-win situation.
While UMass improves its football stature, the Mid-American Conference welcomes a school that provides high-caliber academic recognition -— UMass was ranked 56th in the world by The Times 2010 World University Rankings — as well as expanding the MAC’s geographical reach into the Northeast.
The 12 full-time MAC members, all public institutions like UMass, are located primarily in the Great Lakes region. Akron has the largest student enrollment with 29,251 and Bowling Green has the fewest undergrads at 18,756. That dovetails nicely with UMass, which has 21,373 undergrads. Buffalo owns the largest endowment among MAC schools at $556 million. UMass has an endowment of $454 million.
MAC football plays in two divisions. Temple, a football-only member, plays in the seven-team East Division. There are six teams in the West Division. A likely scenario would be for Bowling Green to swing from the East to the West, with UMass sliding into the East alongside Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Kent State, Buffalo and Akron.
“Those discussions are ongoing,” said MAC senior associate commissioner Bob Gennarelli.
An indication of the possible advantages UMass can enjoy as a MAC football member is found in Temple’s new three-year scheduling agreement to play Notre Dame, beginning in 2014.
By John Connolly, Boston Herald