UMass football to leave the MAC after 2015

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – The UMass football team will no longer be a member of the Mid-American Conference after 2015.

The Minutemen joined the MAC as a football-only member in 2012, when it moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The MAC offered UMass a chance to join the conference in all sports, but UMass declined.

No word yet on what conference if any UMass will play in beginning in 2016.

Athletic Director John McCutcheon told 22News he already has talked with other conferences, but wouldn’t say which ones.

“Now that we know where we stand we can more aggressively go out and explore what opportunities might be available to us,” said McCutcheon.

“I think the UMass football program will be able to continue wherever they are. But I really think that it won’t make that much of a difference until the stadium here is finished so college students can enjoy the football experience,” said Taylor Keith, UMass Amherst sophomore.

Below is the news release from UMass:

Athletic Director John McCutcheon said the decision was made after the MAC President’s Council elected to exercise a contract clause that offered UMass a choice of becoming a full member for all sports in the MAC or opting to remain a football-only member for just two more years. The university has been conducting a study of its current and potential conference alignments with the assistance of Carr Sports Consulting.

“While the report is not complete,” McCutcheon said, “we believe full membership for all sports in the MAC is not a good fit for us. Because most of the MAC schools are in the Midwest, the additional travel would strain our athletic budget and pose considerable time management challenges for our student athletes. We are confident that, within the next two years, we will find a more suitable conference for our FBS football program.”

Currently, UMass Amherst has 21 varsity athletic teams (10 for men, 11 for women). Football plays in the MAC and the other 20 teams compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference, Hockey East (men’s ice hockey) and the Colonial Athletic Association (men’s lacrosse). UMass began playing as a football-only member of the MAC in 2012.

McCutcheon said, “We remain committed to FBS football. Many institutions have successfully navigated this challenging period of conference realignment and we will do the same.”

Football coach Mark Whipple expressed confidence in the future of the university’s FBS program. “I was aware of this possibility when I accepted the position of head coach, and I believe this move is in the university’s best interest. My focus is on building a program that we all can be proud of and that provides a great experience for our student athletes.”

Whipple, the coach with the most wins in UMass football history, returned to the helm of the program this year. The Minutemen’s 2014 home schedule includes three games at refurbished McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst in addition to three games at Gillette Stadium.

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