Big Dan's Ramblings

Ramblings from a Boston Boy stuck in New York

UMass Football – Moving On Up?

Massachusetts Minutemen athletic logo

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As some of you might remember, my Open Letter to Jack Wilson, President of the University of Massachusetts received quite a lot of attention.  As such, I’ve been following the story on UMass football’s potential move from the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).  Today, the Boston Globe ran a pretty interesting article on this exact issue – UMass still deciding on best move, MAC is a good option, but is there a better one?

As you might expect, I have an opinion on this issue…

It’s funny – it’s seems like an annual event where UMass talks about going to the big show. Now they are talking about how they’d like to join the Big East, but their also interested in joining the MAC.  Let me say this straight away – I’m not a big fan of joining the MAC.   That conference is inferior in almost every way to most FBS conferences – size, competition, TV deals, etc.   And look at the comparison of schools UMass would be competing with:

Big East (Football) MAC (Football)
East Division West Division
West Virginia Miami OH Northern Illinois
Connecticut Ohio (not OSU) Toledo
Pittsburgh Temple Western Michigan
Syracuse Kent State Ball State
USF Buffalo Central Michigan
Louisville Bowling Green Eastern Michigan
Cincinnati Akron
TCU (2012)

Let’s just take a quick comparison of these two conferences:

Rivalries: I can easily see a bunch of rivalries built into the Big East – Connecticut is obvious, Syracuse from lacrosse, and Cincinnati and Louisville could be pulled from basketball.  None of the teams in the MAC stand out as immediate rivals for big games.  Let’s just ask this rhetorical question: What’s going to sell out Gillette Stadium (where the Minutemen are talking about having some of their bigger games while they upgrade their own facilities) much easier: a Connecticut/UMass football game or a Buffalo/UMass game?  I think that answer is pretty clear.

TV Ratings/Deals: The Big East already has a TV contract in place that UMass would benefit from.  On top of that, games with the likes of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia, and especially TCU would pull good ratings based upon the national exposure that all of those teams receive.  None of the teams in the MAC come even close to the big time, national draw that most of the Big East teams have.  In addition, if TCU keeps up its national dominance, the TV ratings will remain high for its non-conference games and, while I haven’t confirmed this, I believe that the members schools will benefit from that revenue as well.  All this increased revenue would help UMass subsidize the cost of ‘moving on up.’

National Prestige & Recruiting Power: Go to any high school recruit and ask them if they want to play again Eastern Michigan, Toledo, or Miami of Ohio every year or if they want a chance to play on a nationally televised game against West Virginia, TCU, or Connecticut.  I think you’ll find the answer is the latter.  The recruiting power of playing within the Big East increases over being a MAC member.  Sure, you’ll get your fair share of kids who want to play Div-I (sorry, FBS)  football, but your blue chip athletes are going to want to play against the best and get the most national exposure possible – the Big East does that for UMass much better than MAC ever could.

All these reasons to join the Big East are all find and dandy, but the big assumption I’m making is that the Big East makes an offer to UMass, which seems unlikely at this point.  UMass has much more to gain from joining the Big East, than vice-versa.  I honestly believe, however, that if the Big East does not make and offer to UMass that UMass stay in the FCS.  It’s very easy to envision a scenario where joining the MAC  just to go to the FBS could mean the end of UMass football in the not-to-distant future. The UMass leadership doesn’t seem particularly head-over-heels interested in sports and the ones who are interested in sports are Eastern MA natives who seem more interested in BC’s football team. If UMass goes to the FBS, they need to make sure they are setting themselves up for financial success or the higher-ups could conceivably cancel the whole thing if it becomes a drain on the athletics program.

Basically, what it comes down to is that going to the MAC just to go to FBS is not a good idea for UMass.  My suggestion is to start with reviving the hoops team and use the money to essentially buy your way into the Big East by continually playing FBS teams and building your program until you can make the jump and be competitive.

What do you all think?

8 responses to “UMass Football – Moving On Up?

  1. Jack M. 3-December-2010 at 9:45 am

    Nobody at UMass looked at both the Big East and the MAC and decided the MAC was better. There is no route for UMass into the Big East directly from playing at the FCS level, ever, period. A move to a lower level FBS conference has to come first.

  2. Micheael McMahon 3-December-2010 at 9:57 am

    Dan, My wife and I are season ticket holders for football and basketball and I use the term loosely I am also an athletic supporter of the university, UMAF contributor. My wife and I first bought season tickets for UMass Football coincendentally Whipple’s first year, quite a ride. We have regularly attended most home game since and have found close relationships i.e. invites to our daughter’s wedding and they actually came, with the people we sit with at the games and tailgate with in the North Lot. My wife and I also take it on the road and plan weekend trips around the away games for the team. Michigan, Army and Navy were fun trips and competitive games.

    Two of my desires for the University to truly attain the statrure it deserves were: 1) Establish a Law School and 2) Move to the FBS in football. Who would have thought three years ago that either of those goals was attainable and would come about with such speed. Holub recently commisioned a study of what he considered peer universities, similar student populations and grant and research money with a goal to increase not only the size of the universiy but also to increase its research funding. How’s this for a stat of 125 similar universities only one did not play FBS football and that was Stony Brook. What I am saying, is the moon, the governor, the trustees, Wilson, Holub and McCutheon are all in alingment or agreement with this move. To some this is a big deal, who would have thought ucon would be on the verge of winning the BE title and playing Oklahoma or Nebraska in a BCS bowl. We are never gonna get the deal ucon or Villanova could get from the BE. If we have any hope of entering the BE we have to be playing FBS series football to be taken seriously. If we are and are some what successful anything is possible. If not fball will continue to be a financial drain on the university and most likely face down sizing or extinction in the future. Dan this is a pitch for your whole hearted support for this move, the university and fball program need everyone’s support. If you remember the negativity surrounding UMass’s attempt to start a law school, well those same nay sayers are still around and are waiting to prevent the university from achieving its goals. Calhoun endorsed ucon’s move to FBS football realizing it would improve and stengthen his bball program. Dan come on along and enjoy the ride. Hope to see you at a future game and you have an open invite to our tailgate.

    I am going to the bc UMass bball game this Saturday, I think bc has won the last seven in a row. Who would have thought a small commuter school in Boston twenty five years ago would now be in ACC.

    Go UMass to 1A

    • Lee Price 3-December-2010 at 1:35 pm

      MAC is our ticket to the FBS. You can’t get the girl (the Big East) if you don’t show up to the dance (the FBS).

  3. John 3-December-2010 at 2:28 pm

    Staying in FCS would be the death of the program. Northeastern’s gone, Hofstra’s gone, Rhode Island’s leaving. One would be delusional to think that Maine will hold on much longer and when they leave UNH would be next. Meanwhile, the CAA is expanding by adding teams in Virginia (Old Dominion) and Georgia (Georgia State). Travel costs are sky rocketing and revenues are maximized. Go to the MAC and hope for the best or else watch the program suffocate.

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