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. ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†