MAC, UMass will split after 2015

Published 1:16 am Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Associated Press


The Mid-American Conference and Massachusetts football will part ways after the 2015 season.

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The MAC invoked a clause in its contract with UMass, triggered when Temple left the league in 2012, that gave the school a choice between full membership and exiting the conference in two years.

UMass chose to end the relationship with the MAC and remain a member of the Atlantic 10 in most sports.

“What I think it speaks to is the belief that we have a very stable conference,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “We have enjoyed our relationship with UMass, but we’re at a point that we felt everybody should be all in.”

The MAC has no plans to replace UMass or add members.

UMass made the move up from FCS to FBS in 2012 and immediately joined the MAC. UMass has gone 2-22 in its two seasons as an FBS program, 2-14 in the MAC.

The Minutemen have been playing home games at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., about 90 miles away from their Amherst, Mass., campus. The school is renovating its on-campus stadium, and the football team will play part of its home schedule there this season.

“We remain committed to FBS football,” UMass athletic director John McCutcheon said in a statement. “Many institutions have successfully navigated this challenging period of conference realignment and we will do the same.”

UMass is already on its second football coach since joining FBS, firing Charley Molnar after last season and replacing him with Mark Whipple.

“I was aware of this possibility when I accepted the position of head coach, and I believe this move is in the university’s best interest,” Whipple said in a statement. “My focus is on building a program that we all can be proud of and that provides a great experience for our student athletes.”

UMass has 21 varsity teams; 18 play in the Atlantic 10. UMass men’s hockey competes in Hockey East, and men’s lacrosse is in the Colonial Athletic Conference.

When the MAC added UMass, it had a similar football-only relationship with Temple. Adding UMass gave the MAC a 14th football member, and another Eastern school.

With FBS in the throes of major conference realignment, MAC officials anticipated possible instability and tied UMass’ football-only membership to Temple’s. If the Owls left for another conference, the MAC could require UMass to join as a full member or leave.

Temple left to rejoin the Big East before UMass ever played a game in the MAC.

Steinbrecher said discussions about invoking the Temple clause with UMass started in October, and the league’s presidents voted to do so in February.

“This was really not a circumstance or situation we wanted to occur,” Steinbrecher said.

McCutcheon said that because most MAC members are in the Midwest, the conference is not a good fit for the rest of the school’s teams. The additional travel would strain UMass’ athletic budget and create time management challenges for athletes’ academics, he said.

“We are confident that, within the next two years, we will find a more suitable conference for our FBS football program,” he said.