Anyone who knows me knows I've been intently following the University of Massachusetts football saga. I've followed it from a sense that people wanted to create a legitimate threat to the Boston College football "empire" (for lack of a better term" as the only legitimate football bowl subdivision team in New England (sorry, UConn), and I disagreed heartily. I've followed it because, if successful, it could potentially create and elevate an actual New England football rivalry (I've admitted as such several times).
Mostly, I've followed it because it's giving us an up-front view of what can happen in the world of college football for a team looking to reclassify and how hard that really is if they don't make the right steps.
This time, though, I really do have to eat my words and tip my at to UMass.
The Mid-American Conference informed the UMass athletics department last week of two options - join the MAC for all sports or play out the next two years and go their separate ways. UMass chose to dissolve the partnership, meaning the Minutemen planned on seceding from the MAC following the 2015 season rather than leave their lucrative deal with the Atlantic-10 conference.
As fate would have it, UMass is planning to announce this week that they will depart the A-10 for the American Athletic Conference. Sources inside the university informed me this week that the move to depart the MAC was done with the anticipation of an invite from the AAC. While the deal hadn't been finalized, UMass felt confident enough that they'd be able to join the league in all sports as it moved forward.
This means UMass will leave the A-10 and step up in competition in basketball. They'll be able to dip into the "lucrative enough" television contract and be able to feature their team on television on Saturdays instead of the midweek #MACtion classic. While they are anticipating lumps, they are also predicting great things for this deal.
"We're going public," said one former Minuteman official. "We're a stock. Buy it today because the prices are going to skyrocket. We're going to go right to the top (with this deal) - not just Massachusetts but all of New England."
UMass is in the process of trying to reboot their program after two failed years at the FBS level. They've brought back former head coach Mark Whipple, and officials are making it clear that they're going after Boston College recruits with a scheme and intention that can only be called "Massachusetts' college football team."
"A lot of times, defensive linemen are more athletic than offensive lineman," said the official. "A lot of guys who were two way players in high school - they want to play D-line. They don't want to play O-line. BC can say to the kid, 'We want to make you an offensive guard' but we'll be able to still say, 'No. For us, you'll still play defensive line. Finding things like that will help us compete against those schools."
Okay, I digress for a second. I don't really know what that means. I mean, BC is "O-Line U" and has something like 20 offensive linemen in the NFL. If you're being recruited under those auspices, that would make sense to commit, right? Sorry, I had to pick that apart.
Anyways, the transition plan is still unclear, and it's also unclear if the Minutemen will depart from the MAC before the 2015 season. If they choose to buy out of their contract, it may clear the path for the basketball team to join the league sooner rather than later. That would give UMass, on the whole, a competitive advantage since the AAC is proving itself as a dominant basketball program with the recent resurgence of Connecticut.
Ah, UConn. I almost forgot about them. Turns out they're playing a big role in getting UMass into the AAC, a stark turnaround from when they begged out of the Big East in an attempt to get into the ACC.
The UMass official told me that UConn is seeking to create a powerhouse conference and feels UMass' financial investment is the path to righteousness. They still jilted from the block by Boston College preventing the Huskies from joining the ACC. "In my 30 years, I’ve always considered what Connecticut accomplished," said a former Big East high-ranking official. "How far it came athletically and academically - to be the most significant individual thing."
In the end, though, it may be Boston College fans standing and laughing last. After all, it's April 1, so sit back and try to laugh at this. It's all meant in good fun, especially for the UMass fans who constantly crap on me as being obsessive about their program or not knowing a thing about what I'm talking about. I've never been obsessed, for the record, but I do consider the Minutemen football program a very interesting case study in its failures to this point, especially from a business perspective, and especially as a business graduate of the University of Massachusetts program.
Not only that, but the way that Charley Molnar talked about how he was going to overtake BC? In some respects, it was so laughable, we had to relive it at least one more time.
Happy April 1, everyone