Happen to catch the piece in the Boston Herald yesterday? It may read as a simple hypothetical, but it’s not. UMass has the wheels in motion to go D1 in football and the Big East is its goal. Clear as an illegal payment to Marcus Camby.
First, the writer, Steve Buckley is as tapped in as any journo in Boston sports. He’s also a UMass alum. He obviously has good sources behind this. Secondly, no proposal without substance has already outlined the conference (MAC) and the time frame (provisional schedule in ’11, ’12, full membership in ’13) in action.
Add to it the Kraft family’s very public interest in college football at Gillette Stadium and throughout New England, plus UMass having already played a successful game in Foxboro. Now you have a conference, a time frame and a huge, modern venue just outisde the country’s sixth-largest TV market with the push from NFL owners.
Uh, yeah. I would say there’s some juice to this story.
Here’s the deal: UMass sees a door opening in the Big East. There’s not much sense in spending millions of dollars on scholarships, funding, travel, and admin for Saturday dates with Western Michigan and Toledo. New England is a lukewarm college football region as it is, UMass draws around 15,000 fans per game.
But after TCU’s addition this week, it’s obvious the Big East is in Black Friday buyer mode. The league will do anything to keep its BCS bid worth millions of dollars. So adding a private school, one thousand miles away with a decemt football team and creating an unwieldy 17-team basketball league is just part of the “to-do” list.
The Big East needs eight-members to stay within the good graces of the BCS and who knows when the Big10 could add again. There’s no better example of how desperate the conference is than the leash to Villanova. We’re waiting on ‘Nova f*cking football? The Wildcats should be begging at Conference USA’s doorstep with a box of autographed Kerry Kittles jerseys. But it’s about numbers. Sheer numbers. And if ‘Nova says no, UMass wants to be able to wave its hand and say, “We’ll take it!”
It’s possible even if ‘Nova says yes – AND UCF joins – UMass could get an invite. Clearly, the clumsiness of an overstuffed basketball league is of no regard. This is an airline slashing prices to fill seats on the flight to Des Moines. Looking for warm bodies.
It’s possible UMass can do what UConn has done; stepped up as a New England state university and succeded as a football program at a basketball school. Honestly, it would help Syracuse and the Big East to have more legitimate football schools in the region to stabilize the conference and the plate tectonics of Northeast gridiron.
But make no mistake: UMass isn’t going to invest millions of dollars to develop a 50-year rivalry with Kent State. Amherst eyes a spot at the Big East table.