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UMass AD McCutcheon looks forward to football success at the FBS level
Thursday night’s game against Holy Cross may have marked the beginning of the end of Championship Subdivision football for the University of Massachusetts, but it was a beginning of sorts for the football program.
The Minutemen will say goodbye to FCS and the Colonial Athletic Association after this season, and hello to the Mid-American Conference and Bowl Subdivision football in 2012.
The move has been met with joy and a little bit of sorrow, most fans excited about the step up in competition on a weekly basis, but some upset that all the home games for the next two years will be played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, home of the New England Patriots.
“It’s going very well, we’re up over 800 new season tickets and most of those are early anticipation of next year,'’ UMass director of athletics John McCutcheon said. “Our renewal rate is over 80 percent and that was three weeks ago for this season.
“Folks are excited about it, the response we’ve had in regards to our scheduling of FBS games has gone very well and we’re just excited about what has happened with UMass football,'’ he added.
The Minutemen are ineligible for the FCS postseason this season as they transition to FBS, and can not win the CAA championship.
When they join the MAC next season they will once again be ineligible for a conference title or postseason consideration, but they will have their feet wet in a complete FBS schedule.
“We’re excited about our opportunity with the MAC and objective number one is to be competitive and a good conference member and get in position where we can qualify for postseason play,'’ McCutcheon said.
The UMass athletic director said will the always changing landscape of NCAA college football a program has to stay on top of all the moves by all the teams and conferences across the country, but first things first is to become a solid member of the MAC.
An unfortunate byproduct of the move to the MAC is the loss of regional and traditional rivalries, like Thursday night’s contest with Holy Cross, games against New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island, as well as Delaware and Villanova.
Besides the MAC teams like Temple, Miami (OH), Ohio, Toledo and Northern Illinois, the Minutemen are looking to schedule nonconference games against BCS conference teams as guarantee games in which UMass travels and gets a big payday, or 1-for-1 or 2-for-1 deals that will bring big-name teams to Gillette Stadium.
UMass already as UConn and Indiana scheduled for next year and is working on a four-year deal with Vanderbilt, and McCutcheon said there are more in the works.
Another consideration for moving up is to upgrade the facilities in Amherst. There are plans underway to build a football support facility connected to the North end zone of McGuirk Alumni Stadium that will include football offices, meeting space, training and weight room facilities.
Also, the press box will be redone, with all the campus work schedule to be finished by 2014, when some home games are expected to return to Amherst.
All this work and anticipation has generated plenty of interest and it shows in season ticket sales.
“We’re a little over 2,000 right now and our goal this year is to be at 2,500 and by the start of next year over 5,000,'’ McCutcheon said. “So we’re growing it.'’
By Jeff Thomas, The Republican