Ramblings from a Boston Boy stuck in New York
UMass Football – Moving On Up?
2-December-2010Posted by on
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|
|Syracuse||Kent State||Ball State|
|Louisville||Bowling Green||Eastern Michigan|
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?