Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The good and the bad of UMass sports

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Love them, hate them, the Minutemen are ours.

After replacing the Redmen in 1979 and fending off the Gray Wolf in 2003, it seems as though the University of Massachusetts Minutemen and Minutewomen are here to stay. With that in mind and the school year winding down, it seems as good a time as any to take a look at the Top 5 best and most disappointing aspects of UMass athletics.

The good

1. Class-act coaches

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ If there’s one thing about UMass athletics that The Daily Collegian knows, it’s the coaches. We work with them everyday.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ And with this in mind, we can say that this school is ripe with quality coaches that are great with their athletes, fans and, of course, the media.

There are too many amicable coaches to name here without leaving some of the deserving coaches out.

2. Athletes with a chip on their shoulder

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Despite being 90 miles away, UMass struggles to escape the shadow of Boston College when it comes to athletics. That combined with many strong athletic programs in the region, really hampers the ability of UMass coaches to recruit.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Due to this, many athletes that do come to play at UMass are those that were overlooked by some of those larger schools. For example, former goalkeeper Zack Simmons was a walk-on, quarterback Liam Coen was overlooked by BC and the lacrosse team’s Doc Schneider was one of many Minutemen to be overlooked by larger programs.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ That rejection is not lost on UMass athletes, who lick their chops at the chance to take on the ‘top’ schools that turned them down.

3. Sam’s the man

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ There are currently 39 collegiate sports programs that are nicknamed the Bulldogs, 45 named the Tigers and 60 named the Eagles. Yet, there is only one Sam the Minuteman (except for the Heritage College Minutemen in Toppenish, Wash.)

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ While not as unique as the California State University-Long Beach Dirtbags or the University of California-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs, the Minuteman is almost always associated with the Maroon and White.

4. Approachable athletes

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ While UMass is in the upper echelon in terms of status in the college sports world, its sports teams don’t carry themselves with the same bravado as athletes from other schools.

5. The fans

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Sign guy, little dude, the fight song, ‘f*ck ’em up, f*ck ’em up, go UMass,’ this school’s got a good fan base for as small a sports market Western Mass. is.

The bad

1. The best teams go unnoticed

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ At a recent game for the UMass softball team, one of the top softball programs of the country, the Minutewomen trounced George Washington, 7-0. Only 206 people saw it.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ This is a recurring theme in all of college athletics. Less popular sports will draw lighter crowds.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ At UMass though, these teams are often the top sports at the school. Whether it’s field hockey, softball, swimming and diving or tennis, many teams don’t get the attention they deserve.

2. Shortage of teams

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ As the recent removal of the ski team’s varsity status has shown, the UMass athletic department’s budget is not in the best condition. It goes without saying that there are countless things the school could get with a better-funded department, particularly more programs that once bore the maroon and white.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Back in 2002, seven sports programs were cut: women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s water polo, men’s and women’s gymnastics, men’s tennis and men’s track and field. Of these, only track has been restored.

3. Loose cannons

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ While playing the underdog role suits UMass athletics well, it sometimes gets its players into trouble.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Fans familiar with the tendencies of many sports programs know that the Minutemen and Minutewomen have a reputation for getting more than their fair share of fouls.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ For example, compared to 68 penalties called on its opponents, the UMass football team was flagged 90 times last season. UMass field hockey: eight yellow cards, opponents: two. Although by narrow margins, the UMass hockey and men’s lacrosse teams where also called for more penalties than their opponents.

4. High attendance, lack of ‘fans’

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ For basketball and hockey games at the Mullins Center, the highest attendance numbers were easily posted on nights where free t-shirts were given out. This spike in fan base is exemplified by a number of students that enter the Mullins Center on those nights, grab a t-shirt or two and leave.

5. FCS frustration

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ After many rumored attempts of the UMass football program attempting to achieve then-Division 1-A, now-Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) status, it’s difficult to describe the position of the team.

‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ It’s great for fans that the Minutemen are one of the top schools in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), they still can’t play as them in NCAA ’09.

Honorable mention: the lights at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. These things cost about $1.8 million to put in and they use them once a season. Really?

Nick O’Malley is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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