FOXBORO, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts is pleased to announce it will be elevating its football program to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and will become a football member of the Mid-American Conference (MAC). The formal announcement was made at Gillette Stadium, where the Minutemen will be playing their home games. UMass will play a full FBS and MAC schedule beginning with the 2012 football season and by 2013 be eligible for the MAC championship and bowl participation. In 2011, UMass will continue to participate in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) but will not be eligible for NCAA postseason play.
"We seek greatness in all we do at UMass," said University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Robert C. Holub. "We promise national excellence and prominence to the citizens of the Commonwealth, and we deliver on that promise. Moving to the FBS is consistent with our upward trajectory, as Minuteman football becomes part of our overall move toward national prominence."
Playing at the FBS level and joining the MAC provide extensive opportunities for UMass and all of its constituencies to grow. Participation in FBS football is in line with the institution’s role as the flagship campus of the Commonwealth. UMass is the largest public research university in all of New England and features an expansive alumni base. Being an FBS member is a more accurate reflection of the school’s presence in Massachusetts and the region.
"We feel the time is right for this landmark decision of UMass football elevating to the FBS level," said University of Massachusetts Athletic Director John McCutcheon. "Playing in the FBS is where UMass should be positioned as the flagship campus of the state system. The exposure and visibility that comes from playing on a national level will be a tremendous asset not only for athletics, but for the entire university. We are extremely excited about the opportunity to join the Mid-American Conference and develop relationships and rivalries with its members. To have the opportunity to play games at a state-of-the-art facility like Gillette Stadium really is one of the key elements that makes this transition possible."
Since its inception in 1946, the Mid-American Conference has progressively grown and developed into one of the most aggressive Division I conferences in the country. One of only 11 FBS conferences, the league features 12 full membership schools and will now be home to 14 teams in football including UMass and the Minutemen’s long-time rival Temple. The league holds three primary bowl agreements: the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, the GoDaddy.com Bowl and the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl. It also has several secondary bowl agreements. The league has a national television deal with ESPN that was recently extended through the 2016-17 school year.
"The University of Massachusetts will add to the academic stature of the Mid-American Conference and bring a strong tradition and depth to our conference," said Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference. "The UMass football program will add quality to our conference''s football programs and balance our divisions. In addition, this addition allows our conference to expand our footprint into New England and into the Boston and Hartford/Springfield markets."
UMass will be playing all of its 2012 and 2013 home games at Gillette Stadium, a world-class facility with seating for 68,756. UMass games at Gillette will be among the most unique and special experiences in all of college football. Playing near Boston will enable UMass to engage its large alumni and fan base in eastern Massachusetts. Gillette Stadium offers first-rate amenities, including luxury suites and club-level seating, and features two of the largest high-definition video boards in the world.
"It’s fitting for the Minutemen to play in the venue that is synonymous with New England football," said Robert Kraft, chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group. "We''ve talked for many years about bringing top-level college football to Gillette Stadium, and with UMass elevating to the FBS, hosting its games here is a natural progression. We’ve worked closely with UMass on this partnership and will continue to do so to help grow the UMass football program and interest in college football in New England."
UMass has a long and storied football history dating to the program’s inception in 1879. The maroon and white have captured 22 conference championships and appeared in eight NCAA FCS/I-AA tournaments. Program highlights include winning the 1998 I-AA National Championship, playing in three national championship games and appearing in the postseason three times in the last decade. In 2010 UMass had seven alumni playing in the National Football League, including second-round NFL draft selection Vladimir Ducasse of the New York Jets.
UMass will go through two years as a transitional member of FBS, the 2011 and 2012 seasons. The NCAA would make a formal announcement of UMass’ admission to FBS in the summer of 2013 after the program successfully meets the specified measures over its two transitioning years. The primary criteria center around average attendance, an increase in scholarships from 63 to 85, and specific scheduling requirements.
UMass will continue to maintain its current conference affiliations for its other 20 athletic programs. As part of this agreement with the MAC, the UMass men’s and women’s basketball teams will play four non-conference games (two home and two away) against opponents from the MAC.
For more information, go to www.umassfbsfootball.com