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April 30, 2016

UMass football to leave MAC after 2015 season

Evan Sahagian/ Collegian

Evan Sahagian/ Collegian

The Massachusetts football team will leave the Mid-American Conference following the 2015 season, the team announced on Wednesday.

The University elected to leave the MAC after the conference exercised a contract clause that gave UMass the choice between becoming a full member of the MAC in all sports or leave the conference after two more years as a football-only member, according to a news release.

According to ESPN, UMass was offered full membership to the MAC last month and ultimately declined. The Minutemen have been football-only members since its move to Football Bowl Subdivision in 2012.

The University has already begun conducting a study of its future options with Carr Sports Consulting — the same firm that assisted in the coaching search that led to the hiring of Mark Whipple — according to the news release.

“While the report is not complete,” Athletic Director John McCutcheon said in the release, “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.”

“This is not the outcome we anticipated when UMass was admitted as a football-only member,” MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher said in a statement Wednesday. “However, circumstances changed regarding our football membership and this is a result of those circumstances.”

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

“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,” Whipple said. “My focus is on building a program that we all can be proud of and that provides a great experience for our student athletes.”

UMass is in the Atlantic 10 for all other sports except for hockey (Hockey East) and men’s lacrosse (Colonial Athletic Association).

The decision to leave the MAC ends the men’s basketball scheduling agreement that requires each team to play four MAC opponents.

Nick Canelas can be reached at ncanelas@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @NickCanelas.

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