UMass moving up to the MAC in 2012

The University of Massachusetts has work to do before it becomes

the 14th football member of the Mid-American Conference in

2012.

At a news conference Wednesday at Gillette Stadium, where the

Minutemen will play their home games in ’12 and ’13, UMass athletic

director John McCutcheon said the school will invest in new

training facilities and possibly the renovation of McGuirk Alumni

Stadium, an on-campus stadium where the team averaged 13,005 fans

last season.

Gillette is about 90 miles from UMass’ Amherst campus.

The NCAA will have to formally approve the move of UMass from

Division I’s championship subdivision to its top-tier bowl

subdivision. To play major college football, the program needs to

meet certain average attendance targets and increase the number of

scholarships it gives for football.

”We have to build our fan base, promote season tickets, work on

our non-conference schedule,” McCutcheon said.

The move will provide new sources of revenue for Massachusetts

since the MAC has a television deal and several bowl agreements.

But new costs will include the addition of 22 football scholarships

to a total of 85. The current budget of $4.4 million is scheduled

to increase to $6.9 million by 2013.

UMass is currently a member of the Colonial Athletic Association

and will remain there in 2011 but will not be eligible for

postseason play.

In 2012, it will be eligible to play in the MAC title game and

bowls.

Most MAC schools are in Ohio and Michigan. Buffalo and Temple,

from Philadelphia, are also in the league.

MAC Commissioner Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher said the addition of

Massachusetts ”brings value to the Mid-American Conference,”

noting the Boston television market is ranked fifth in the country

and the Hartford-Springfield market is 31st.

UMass becomes the third FBS teams in New England, joining Boston

College and Connecticut.

McCutcheon said he hoped Boston College, which plays in the

Atlantic Coast Conference, and Connecticut, which plays in the Big

East, would add Massachusetts to their non-conference

schedules.

”I think it would add fan interest and rivalries,” he

said.

Massachusetts is scheduled to play at Boston College in

2011.

McCutcheon said schools from several major conferences have

expressed interest in playing at Gillette, which seats 68,756.

Massachusetts will play at least four home games a year there

between 2014 and 2016 without paying rent but sharing in the

revenue with the Patriots.

UMass played for the FCS title in 2006, but the last two seasons

the Minutemen have gone 11-11 under coach Kevin Morris.