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UMass and the FBS: Can we get a recall vote on the ballot?
Those who backed Football Bowl Subdivision status for the University of Massachusetts should be thankful there is no FBS recall question on Tuesday’s ballot.
Nine games into this grab for cash, the project has been a total, absolute and unmitigated failure.
There is hope the softer back end of the schedule will offer this 0-9 team a chance to win, or at least a relief from its role as the piñata of the FBS. We all want to see the Foxborough Minutemen succeed.
We should, because the state’s taxpayers all have a stake. A few ways exist to measure success – large crowds and improved play among them – but none exist here so far.
We knew it would be bad at first. The question is whether it had to be this bad.
Alone in America, New Englanders used to support college football while also keeping it in perspective. They still do that in four of the six states, including Vermont, where a fine university miraculously survives with no NCAA football team at all.
Meanwhile, we are trying to copy the floor plan of the rest of the country, where State U is measured by State U’s football team in a game of cart-before-horse.
Charley Molnar’s team has been outscored 397-90. I don’t know if this unelected public figure was the right choice.
I do think Molnar was dealt a bad hand. He needs at least three or four years before we can judge him fairly.
There were good signs against Miami (Ohio) and then Ohio. Even I impulsively leaped onto the bandwagon.
That was four lopsided, backpedaling losses ago. The latest was 63-0 at Northern Illinois.
I feel for the players, who have been thrown into a situation for which they were either not prepared or not suited.
The fans have responded as we might expect. After alienating the Western Massachusetts base that had supported it for decades, UMass set out to claim a new, easterly base.
In three home games at Gillette Stadium, UMass has averaged 11,824. That’s above last year’s 10,004 home average for a lame-duck Football Championship Subdivision season, but below the 13,005 home average in 2010.
A crowd of 10,846 came out for the first NCAA Homecoming Game ever played more than 90 miles from the dorms.
UMass reminds me of the guy who produced the film, “My Date With Drew.” In it, an obscure filmmaker sets out to realize his lifelong dream of having a date with Drew Barrymore.
The dream was realized, because the actress was a good sport and nothing was really going to come of it anyway.
Similarly, UMass was just thrilled to be in the presence of the Ohios and Bowling Greens of football. Their experience has been a lot less enjoyable than a platonic night with Drew Barrymore.
Now that UMass is in it, three choices exist. Either the school can lower its standards to get better talent (hey, we want to be just like everyone else, right?), hope Molnar is a genius and a magician, or accept its team will be awful.
Teams like Michigan will shell out huge sums of money for a scrimmage opponent that brings its own uniforms. Maybe that’s enough, the idea of renting out your school’s team to get pounded for a big payday.
But even those who knew the process would take time must be stunned at the lack of anything to feel hopeful about.
Other schools have made this jump without becoming the Washington Generals. The UMass athletic director in the 1990s was Bob Marcum, a Marshall graduate whose alma mater moved up successfully in 1997.
Marshall had a big fan base, a football culture and a stadium in the same area code. Unable to distinguish that Amherst, Mass., was not Huntington, W.Va., Marcum pushed for UMass to follow suit.
Connecticut had a league that made sense, an athletic cash flow UMass does not and soon a stadium in reasonable proximity to Storrs. UMass has a distant home field and league, a fragile fan base, and the hope things will get better.
What we don’t have is any evidence or tangible reason for that hope.
There is no recall referendum on the ballot for the state university’s FBS program. And we call this a democracy.
By Ron Chimelis, The Republican