Thoughts on UMass to the MAC
Let’s take a break from agonizing over the latest men’s basketball coach rumors to consider tomorrow’s expected announcement that the University of Massachusetts will join the MAC as a football-only member in 2012, becoming eligible for bowl consideration (fully transitioned from FCS to FBS) in 2013. The arrangement with UMass is expected to be similar to Temple’s, requiring the Minutemen to schedule a certain number of games against MAC teams in other sports as well.
This has been rumored to be in the works since at least November, when UMass was rebuffed by the Big East, so we’ve had plenty of time to think about it. In general expanding the MAC in that direction makes a lot of sense, plus it keeps the conference relevant as everyone continues to look at expansion. UMass has had a strong I-AA/FCS team for a while now, and although the transition to FBS doesn’t always go smoothly (see: Western Kentucky), the Minutemen seem to be well-positioned to make the move. Also it should end any arguments about who has the best marching band in the conference; we look forward to seeing the Minuteman Marching Band in Ypsilanti!
Logistically, it does raise a few questions. Having two football-only members at the eastern end of the conference is a bit of a problem, and while there are several solutions, none seem particularly good. One option is to just add UMass to the East Division, making an even less balanced 8-6 split. A second option is to ignore geography and split Temple and UMass. Another option is to shift a team, most likely Bowling Green due to geography and their rivalry with Toledo, to the West Division for football only. Of course, this problem would be solved if the MAC could peel off Temple or UMass (or both) from the Atlantic 10 Conference — then Bowling Green could move to the West Division for all sports — but that seems unlikely right now.