Extra Points, a great newsletter by Matt Brown, reported yesterday on the future of UMass athletics. Yes, the Mid-American Conference was mentioned in the piece.
UMass AD Ryan Bamford was pretty blunt about the goal for football: “We just don’t want to be a meme.”
In Extra Points, the first major point brought up as to why UMass is so hard to turn into a winner is because the local talent simply isn’t there. The second issue brought up was the lack of conference affiliation for football.
UMass football is currently an independent FBS program, which we all know is pretty tough to pull off if you’re not Notre Dame. UMass doesn’t want to be a full-member to any conference because it’s happy with keeping all of its other sports playing in the A-10. UMass was a football-only member of the MAC from 2012-2015, but failure to turn that relationship into anything more left both parties knowing they gave it a try at least.
“I would love to be in a football conference. Right? I think if we were still in the MAC, we would be different in 2021 than we are now.” Bamford told me. A lack of football conference affiliation doesn’t just make bowl eligibility or tangible goal accomplishment more difficult, simply building out a schedule can be hard.
“Take this season,” Bamford added. “We built out this schedule four, five years ago. You know that Pitt is going to be good, that BC is going to be a good ACC team…but Coastal Carolina had just jumped up to FBS. We didn’t realize 17th in the country when we played them. My first year here, we beat Eastern Michigan at Eastern…now they’re much better.
When you’re trying to build a program, you have to hit everything right.”
To the extent possible, the school is trying to find regional opponents. The Minutemen will face two local FCS programs (Rhode Island and Maine) this season, and there are future dates with local teams like Buffalo, Temple and Army on future schedules. There’s no formalized annual game with UConn set up at the moment, but Bamford expects the series to continue.
“It isn’t formalized, but we have them in pencil on our schedule for the next ten years. UConn needed schedule flexibility, because they needed to get games, so I said, look, we both know we’re gonna play each other, so go get games, here’s roughly the dates we want to play. It’s just a matter of us memorializing it in a contract.”
Bamford mentioned that even before COVID, other schools at the FBS and FCS level had reached out to learn more about their experience as an independent, and with all of the massive changes happening in college sports, he floated the idea that potentially other schools could decide to go independent, which would help provide clarity and predictability to future schedules.
But at the end of the day? “We want to be in a conference. But somebody has to want us to be in a conference.”Extra Points newsletter
A lot of things were said and reasons were meant in pre-pandemic times. Could UMass be talked into joining the MAC full-time now that we’re speaking in 2021’s terms? Could the MAC be more willing to let a football-only UMass join the conference these days? Is UMass an honest fit for the MAC at all, football-only caveat be damned?
I’m not personally for the MAC expanding just for the sake of expansion. With a strong, stable membership of the 12 full-member schools that it’s had and still has, there’s not really an identity for the MAC to chase here. We all know it’s not going to be the rich FBS league and there’s not a realistic (or unrealistic) addition this conference could make for it to be an honestly profitable league. So what makes UMass so special?
- UMass record in the MAC (2012-2015): 8-30 overall (7-25 MAC)
- UMass record since then: 12-46
- UMass record vs. MAC since 2016: 1-4
- UMass NFL draft picks since 2010: 7
- Future UMass vs. MAC games lined up through 2026: 16
FUTURE SCHEDULES: UMASS VS. MAC
- 9/10 at Toledo
- 10/1 at EMU
- 10/15 vs. Buffalo
- 9/9 vs. Miami OH
- 9/16 at EMU
- 9/30 vs. Toledo
- 8/31 vs. EMU
- 9/7 at Toledo
- 9/14 at Buffalo
- 9/28 at Miami OH
- 10/5 at NIU
- 9/13 vs. Buffalo
- 10/4 vs. BGSU
- 9/19 at Buffalo
- 9/26 vs. NIU
- 10/3 at BGSU