Where Will UMass Play After 2015?
Apr 14, 2014 4:07 PM EDT
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Two seasons left for the Minutemen in Mid-American Conference. The University of Massachusetts officially will leave the Mid-American Conference after the 2015 football season. The Minutemen made just a “minute” appearance in the MAC, as they joined the conference in April 2011, with their football program being the only sport entering. All other sports take part in the Atlantic-10 Conference. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher wanted to make sure the public knew it was not a planned move. “Circumstances changed regarding our football membership and this is a result of those circumstances,” Steinbrecher said recently in a well-circulated statement. The reason for the decision was not because UMass was a bad fit; it just did not make sense to continue as a football-only program. “I think we had reached the point with our membership that we felt it was time to call the question: Go all-in or we’ll move on and do different things,” Steinbrecher said. Move on is what they will be doing, and the MAC does not plan on adding another school in their place. Even UMass athletic director John McCutcheon agreed with Steinbracher: “While the report is not complete, we believe a full membership for all sports in the MAC is not a good fit for us. Because most of the MAC schools are in the Midwest, the additional travel would train our athletic budget and pose considerable time management challenges for our student athletes. We are confident that, within the next two years, we will find a more suitable conference for our FBS football program.” There has not been any mention of where the program will go from here. The American Athletic Conference was an idea, until the AAC’s commissioner, Mike Aresco, batted that down quickly. “We have a lot of respect for UMass,” Aresco said, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “We don’t have any plans to expand.” The AAC already is adding Tulsa, Tulane, East Carolina and Navy within in the next two years, removing the Minutemen from their radar. How about the Sun Belt Conference? Geographically, it doesn't seem to make sense. All the schools in the conference are Southern; Western Kentucky would be closest, but even they are leaving the conference this June. On the flip side, Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson did make mention in January to AL.com they are on the hunt for a possible 12th member. The easiest option would be to move football to the Atlantic-10 and join up with their other sport programs. At this point, everything is up in the air for the Minutemen. They have two years, but to find a suitable fit, that is not much time. If time runs out, there may be a new FBS independent in football. Only time will tell.