Gazette: Column On UMass Being Proactive With Football Move - UMass Athletics

Gazette: Column On UMass Being Proactive With Football Move

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In the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Matt Vautour has a column on the move of UMass to FBS and playing its games at Gillette Stadium. He explains the reasoning behind it. Read it here



 I'm not good at snap judgments. But after several days, here's what I've come up with.

I don't know if the University of Massachusetts playing Bowl Subdivision football in Foxborough is going to work. But I think it's worth a shot because it's the best option UMass has.


Realistically, if UMass wants to move up, it had to happen in Foxborough. Gillette offers a shiny new stadium that recruits are going to want to play in.

If UMass hadn't moved up, moving backward might eventually have been the only choice as the status quo isn't going to be an option for much longer. Championship level FCS football in the Northeast is dying. The CAA is clearly becoming a southern-based conference. Old Dominion and Georgia State were added ahead of Fordham, shifting the league's latitude even lower and the price of travel even higher.


Playing Bowl Subdivision football in Foxborough best option for UMass

AMHERST - I'm not good at snap judgments. But after several days, here's what I've come up with.

I don't know if the University of Massachusetts playing Bowl Subdivision football in Foxborough is going to work. But I think it's worth a shot because it's the best option UMass has.

I am very sympathetic to the longtime loyal fans who've been going to McGuirk Stadium for years. They supported the Minutemen playing a level of football that most of the world didn't care much about and I'm sure this feels to them like the Browns being ripped out of Cleveland.

I've received quite a few emails in the past few days from people who like the idea of UMass playing FBS football, but think it should be in Amherst in a renovated McGuirk. That was never a choice.

It's a nice idea. But I've yet to hear a version of that argument that mentions who is paying for a new stadium. I'm just guessing, but a conservative estimate for expanding the stadium to a legitimate 30,000-35,000 seating capacity would be at least $100 million for even a bare-bones effort and probably more. I don't see the state footing that bill and UMass' chances of fundraising that much in any reasonable period of time is zero.

Even if it built a stadium, could UMass get 30,000 people to show up? That represents a fairly sizable percentage of the population of the Pioneer Valley. Has any event ever drawn that many people in this third of the state?

If they did show up, could the infrastructure actually hold them? Anyone who has ever driven from Amherst to Northampton in the late afternoon knows how ill-equipped the roads are to handle high volume. Imagine the traffic for a football game. One tractor driving on Route 9 from Belchertown to Amherst could cause backup for 20 miles.

If basketball fans are any indication, UMass football fans will demand some high-profile nonconference opponents. Michigan, Penn State and maybe someday even Notre Dame might come to Foxborough. They aren't coming to Amherst.

Realistically, if UMass wants to move up, it had to happen in Foxborough. Gillette offers a shiny new stadium that recruits are going to want to play in.

If UMass football ends up back in Amherst, it will be failure.

If UMass hadn't moved up, moving backward might eventually have been the only choice as the status quo isn't going to be an option for much longer. Championship level FCS football in the Northeast is dying. The CAA is clearly becoming a southern-based conference. Old Dominion and Georgia State were added ahead of Fordham, shifting the league's latitude even lower and the price of travel even higher.

Rhode Island already waved the white flag and is moving down. Villanova could be in the Big East before long, and given Maine and New Hampshire's lack of investment, you have to wonder how long they can remain competitive. If UNH coach Sean McDonnell left tomorrow, how long could the Wildcats stay a playoff team, given their poor facilities and no recruiting base?

While UMass had better resources than its northern neighbors, it was falling well behind its southern rivals. Would the Minutemen have stayed in the CAA without UNH, Maine, Rhode Island and Villanova? Doubtful.

Anyone from a real college football hotbed is laughing at this. It's nothing for fans in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas and all over SEC country to drive several hours with those little flags on their windows for every home football game.

It's part of the experience. A two-hour drive to Foxborough is nothing by comparison.

So I'm guessing the more passionate fans will find the ride to Foxborough isn't as bad as they thought and the more casual fans will find another way to spend Saturday afternoons.

I don't know if this is the start of something great for UMass or a boondoggle that will be a cautionary tale for programs in the future.

But it seems like for now, it's worth a shot.

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