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UMass introduces new coach at Gillette Stadium

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP)

At a much-hyped and heavily attended press conference in the bowels of Gillette Stadium on Thursday, UMass announced that Notre Dame offensive coordinator Charley Molnar is the new coach of the Minutemen.

Molnar, 50, joins the program in time for its jump to the Football Bowl Subdivision next season.

After serving four years at Cincinnati and the last two at Notre Dame, both under coach Brian Kelly, Molnar will take over a program that will be a member of the Mid-American Conference next season.

With Molnar, the Fighting Irish went 8-4 this season and will play Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl later this month. Molnar is also the Irish's quarterbacks coach.

''UMass has a vision to be greater than what it is today. I wanted to be involved in a program from the ground up,'' Molnar said at the home of the New England Patriots. ''Some people like to be caretakers of college football programs. I've always envisioned myself to be a builder. I want to come in and help to build something from the ground up.''

He certainly has his work cut out for him.

With 28 years of coaching experience but none in the head coaching capacity, Molnar inherits the daunting task of ushering in a new era at UMass, formerly a giant in the land of the Football Championship Subdivision. Had UMass remained in the Colonial Athletic Conference, though, Molnar said he would not have been interested.

''I don't look at UMass football as being Massachusetts' football team,'' he said. ''I look at UMass football as being New England's team. There's no reason why we cannot be the No. 1 Division-I team in New England. That's our goal.

''And we're going to get there.''

Boston College of the ACC, surely, will have a say in that matter. So, too, will UConn, of the Big East.

But give credit to UMass for thinking big.

In addition to switching divisions, conferences and coaches, the Minutemen will move stadiums, too. UMass signed a five-year contract with Gillette Stadium to play its home games at the 68,756-seat venue.

''As far as playing at Gillette,'' Molnar said, ''that was a standard to me that this wants to be a big-time football program.''

Patriots safety James Ihedigbo, who played for UMass from 2002-06 and is one of the few Minutemen playing in the NFL today, said blueprints have been in the works for this announcement since his days in Amherst.

''We knew that was our goal,'' he said. ''That's what we were playing for. That we could pave the way for other guys to come in and experience that, and essentially to put UMass on the map. And here we are.

''I think it's awesome that they're making this jump. Kind of a testament to the guys who have played and coached at UMass beforehand and the hard work that they've put in to put the university in this position.

''It's excellent for the program, it's excellent for the community and excellent for UMass.''

The Minutemen will join Temple as a MAC team playing in an NFL stadium. The Owls play in Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field. And it's worked for them. Temple, in fact, has accepted a bowl bid in two of the last three seasons.

''When a young man comes into Gillette Stadium and you say, `This is going to be your home for the next four years to play football games,' that's to be exciting to him,'' Molnar said. ''As a coach coming in and knowing that Gillette Stadium is going to be our home stadium, it's extremely exciting to me.

''And then, of course, as a fan when you come into this venue, you know that UMass football has made a commitment.''

Ihedigbo, who voiced his excitement at watching his alma mater play on Saturday and then suiting up on the same field a day later, agreed with the increased marketability of the program.

''It's an opportunity for the players that you can only dream of,'' he said. ''I mean, you're going to a great school to get a great education and you're also going to be playing for a premier football team and a premier program.

''I look for only big things coming from here on out.''

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