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Trust the professors, and trust the system -

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Student death reported to the University Sept. 19 -

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Domestic violence and experience of Muslim women lecture kicks off seminar series -

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Small trashcan fire broke out in Kennedy Hall -

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Immigration policy discussed in public teach-in -

September 20, 2017

Cyr: UMass football is the future for college football in New England

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

(Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

It’s a typical fall Saturday in New England, and the Massachusetts football team waits to take the field at Gillette Stadium. Temperature in the mid-60s with a slight breeze makes it your stereotypical “perfect” day for football.

As the Minutemen run through the tunnel and take the field, the sites and sounds are all the same. They look up at the Super Bowl banners from the New England Patriots; occasionally you might be able to see the faint outline of the Patriots logo at midfield and in the end zone.  The average fan would have no idea that UMass was the home team unless they noticed the small banners hanging along the bottom of the stands.

The stands are partially filled, many of which are dedicated alumni from the Boston area that traveled down either I-95 or I- 495 to get to Gillette. The student section, however, is vastly empty. There are small groups of people scattered throughout the stands, but not nearly enough to give UMass the home field advantaged it hopes for.

Can you really blame the students for not showing up to these games, though?

They’re asked to drive two hours each way to watch a struggling team in transition into FBS football. After back-to-back 1-11 seasons, it’s clear that the younger demographic of fans isn’t committed to the program quite yet.

But with Mark Whipple back as the head coach, that all can change, very quickly.

The change, and the future, took its first step in the right direction last Saturday, when the Minutemen hosted Boston College in the first annual Battle of the Bay State in front of 30,409 fans. It was the most fans UMass has ever had at an FBS home game.

Was it as big as, say, Alabama vs. Auburn, or Florida vs. Florida State?  No.

But was it a step in the right direction for college football in the northeast?  Absolutely.

The tailgate scene at Gillete was legit. There were UMass flags, there were Boston College flags. There was drinking and grilling and there was plenty of buzz in the air in preparation for kickoff.

And that’s what college football is all about: the environment.

Sure, there were still plenty of empty seats at Gillette and the top level was completely vacant, but would anyone really be opposed to an annual game at Gillette?  It’s not only great for both programs to get publicity, but more importantly it’s great for the fans.  Yes, college football in New England will never get as big as it is in the South or Midwest. But for that one Saturday a year, fans should get to experience that atmosphere.

Boston College has done its part in building a football tradition. From Doug Flutie to Matt Ryan, the Eagles have had success in their program’s history. It’s UMass’ turn to gain some street credit now. The new performance center and improvements to McGuirk Stadium will likely lure in new recruits, but it’s what the Minutemen do on the field that will determine how invested the fans will become.

How cool would it be for 60,000 fans – half wearing maroon and white, the other wearing maroon and gold – to pack Gillette to the rafters?  That’s still many years away from happening, but we can all dream, can’t we?

Andrew Cyr can be reached at arcyr@umass.edu, and can be followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.

Comments
4 Responses to “Cyr: UMass football is the future for college football in New England”
  1. alum says:

    Swell….the school will continue to raise fees so students can pay through the nose to support a team that “many years” from now MIGHT have a chance of being a recognizable team. Of course, the recognition does nothing for the student many years from now or for the time being. Northeastern dissolved its football program some years ago and I do believe they’re still in the University business.

    “The school’s first football team was fielded in 1932. Northeastern participated in football from 1932-2009, compiling an all-time record of 289–366–17.[1] Citing sparse attendance, numerous losing seasons and the expense to renovate Parsons Field – its football stadium in neighboring Brookline – to an acceptable standard, the university Board of Trustees voted on November 20, 2009, to end the football program. According to president Joseph Aoun, “Leadership requires that we make these choices. This decision allows us to focus on our existing athletic programs.””

  2. Kp says:

    Umass is not Northeastern. It is the flagship university of our state, and in a unique position to carry the torch for Division 1 football in New England. What Umass needs is engaged and passionate alumni to give generously to the school, and to care and support the school, not just for four years, but for a lifetime. Successful, exciting athletics programs, more than any other factor, help make this happen. Ask Ohio State, Penn State, Florida State, Louisiana State, or even less storied programs like Wisconsin, Iowa, Arizona State, or even our friendly rivals to the south Uconn, how important their athletic programs are in raising awareness and driving alumni contributions to those state funded schools. You come back and visit for the football or the basketball, and then you find out about the groundbreaking research, the amazing new honors college, the new science building, and all of the other great things that are happening off the field. If you’re interested in reducing fees on students and reducing the burden on the state, the best thing you can do is build up your athletic programs to encourage the kind of giving that recently made two brothers write million dollar checks. Pride builds, community builds, excitement builds, and wallets get opened. Umass is the flagship university of a state that competes with every other state for convention dollars, business investment, tourism dollars, research dollars, and the brightest minds to make our state one of the best states in the nation. I’m proud to be from Massachusetts. Why shouldn’t the school that carries our state name compete at the highest level for national championships like so many other flagship state schools? We should, we can, and we will. Stop bellyaching and being so incredibly shortsighted, grab something maroon and white, and get on board. There’s plenty of good seats still available. Go. Go U. Go Umass. Go Umass!

  3. alum says:

    Rah Rah Rah!!!

  4. Tony Martos UMass '12 says:

    Go back to the FCS where it actually belongs and had success. And most importantly where the school and the state wasn’t wasting millions on this joke. Outside of Victor Cruz, who has actually achieved NFL stardom from our school? No one. How many wins in DI football? two in two years right? Blown out in virtually all the losses. How is that a D1 team? And don’t bring up Vanderbilt and the fact that they’re an SEC Team. One game doesn’t define what two plus years has shown us.

    This level of mediocrity isn’t deserving of a $36 million stadium renovation, or the annual $7 million it costs to run the program at the D1 level. It also is running at an estimated $4.5 million in the red each year since moving up from FCS. How is this a smart move? It’s only been a disaster and will continue to be that until they make the move back to FCS.

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