UMass wants to join MAC

Published 6:55 am Monday, April 25, 2011

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The University of Massachusetts has work to do before it becomes the 14th football member of the Mid-American Conference in 2012.

At a news conference at Gillette Stadium, where the Minutemen will play their home games in ’12 and ’13, UMass athletic director John McCutcheon said the school will invest in new training facilities and possibly the renovation of McGuirk Alumni Stadium, an on-campus stadium where the team averaged 13,005 fans last season.

Gillette is about 90 miles from UMass’ Amherst campus.

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The NCAA will have to formally approve the move of UMass from Division I’s championship subdivision to its top-tier bowl subdivision. To play major college football, the program needs to meet certain average attendance targets and increase the number of scholarships it gives for football.

“We have to build our fan base, promote season tickets, work on our non-conference schedule,” McCutcheon said.

The move will provide new sources of revenue for Massachusetts since the MAC has a television deal and several bowl agreements.

But new costs will include the addition of 22 football scholarships to a total of 85. The current budget of $4.4 million is scheduled to increase to $6.9 million by 2013.

UMass is currently a member of the Colonial Athletic Association and will remain there in 2011 but will not be eligible for postseason play.

In 2012, it will be eligible to play in the MAC title game and bowls.

Most MAC schools are in Ohio and Michigan. Buffalo and Temple, from Philadelphia, are also in the league.

MAC Commissioner Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher said the addition of Massachusetts “brings value to the Mid-American Conference,” noting the Boston television market is ranked fifth in the country and the Hartford-Springfield market is 31st.

UMass becomes the third FBS teams in New England, joining Boston College and Connecticut.

McCutcheon said he hoped Boston College, which plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Connecticut, which plays in the Big East, would add Massachusetts to their non-conference schedules.

“I think it would add fan interest and rivalries,” he said.

Massachusetts is scheduled to play at Boston College in 2011.

McCutcheon said schools from several major conferences have expressed interest in playing at Gillette, which seats 68,756. Massachusetts will play at least four home games a year there between 2014 and 2016 without paying rent but sharing in the revenue with the Patriots.

UMass played for the FCS title in 2006, but the last two seasons the Minutemen have gone 11-11 under coach Kevin Morris.