Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Football program a hard sell for UMass students

By Stephen Sellner

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Flickr/Alex1961

Massachusetts football coach Charley Molnar has done plenty of endorsing of the Minutemen’s new Football Bowl Subdivision status since taking over the program last December.

He’s reached out to alumni and the greater New England area to put UMass on the map as the premier college football team in the region.

But Molnar might have a problem selling his FBS Minutemen product to its closest fans: the University’s student body.

UMass will play all of its home games at Gillette Stadium, which is approximately a two-hour drive from the Amherst campus. The University has offered to bus students to every home game for  $10 and participate in a school-sponsored, in-stadium tailgate party.

With games on Saturday afternoons, the prospect for students to take the voyage to Foxboro is suspect. Throw in a $10 charge and it’s almost nonexistent.

Saturday afternoons are used as a cool-down lap from the Friday night festivities. They’re a cherished time frame that students can lounge and get their acts together and, for some, an opportunity to knock off some of their weekend homework assignments before going out again on Saturday night.

Schools that have top football programs like Alabama, Southern California and Louisiana State don’t have this problem because football games offer a chance to show school spirit and tailgate at the same time.

With an exciting team comes an exciting crowd. With strong, supportive student sections, these premier football schools have the luxury of homefield advantage that fuels its players to perform their best in front of their biggest supporters.

But UMass students don’t have that luxury quite yet. Their team will go through plenty of growing pains in its first FBS season, seen already in its 37-0 loss to Connecticut on Aug. 30.

For now, traveling two hours to root on the Minutemen isn’t exactly the best way for students to spend their Saturday afternoons.

Even when the Minutemen played on campus, students were reluctant to walk into McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

This was the scene outside of McGuirk last year: students filled the fields in large packs to tailgate before the game. Wherever you turned, you saw alcohol, barbeques and dizzy bats.

But what you didn’t see was students walking into the stadium.

Once game time rolled around, the crowd dissipated away from the stadium instead of into it.

The students turned down a short, easy walk into the stadium to root on their team. Does the University expect students to take the two-hour bus ride to see them now?

At least when games were at McGuirk, students could leave if the game was a blowout. Nowadays, students that take the bus will have to sit through the lopsided affair until it ends. The buses do not depart from Gillette until a half-hour after the UMass marching band concludes its postgame performance.

To ask students to willingly take nine or 10 hours out of their Saturday’s to watch the Minutemen is less than realistic. It’s even more unrealistic after their 37-0 fiasco at UConn.

While it’s to be expected that UMass will struggle this year since it was picked to finish last in the East Division of the Mid American Conference’s preseason poll, students will want to see more out of their squad before they venture out to Gillette.

Students will want to see a competitive team before they can make the hike to Foxboro.

As Molnar and the Minutemen become more established in the FBS and MAC, UMass should see more wins and more fans showing up. After all, a strong sports program brings students and alumni together to take pride in their team and school in the tradition of college athletics.

In the future, campus might be buzzing with students planning out how they want to get to Gillette to catch the Minutemen play.

But for now, it’s an awfully hard sell for Molnar to lure students out to Gillette this season.

Stephen Sellner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MDC_Sellner.

 

5 Comments

5 Responses to “Football program a hard sell for UMass students”

  1. Alum on September 7th, 2012 1:22 pm

    We should drop football I guess…

  2. ktabz on September 8th, 2012 9:35 am

    Yeah they just filled 48 buses for the home opener. Maybe you don’t have your finger on the pulse of the students after all.

  3. Stephen Sellner on September 8th, 2012 5:56 pm

    You are correct. I actually added a paragraph into the print version of the story how the students would likely have a strong showing for the first home game. Looks like that part didn’t make the online version.

  4. Rob on September 11th, 2012 12:17 pm

    What’s up ktabz,

    48 buses full of students that left at halftime. If you watch any big program, the stands stay packed until the very end no matter how the game’s going. So you think those 48 buses indicate anything?

  5. Dr. Ed Cutting on September 15th, 2012 1:47 am

    I will say what I said last year — the first time that a carload of UM students coming back from a game — and no where near sober — is going in excess of 100 MPH on I-495 (not that difficult) and goes into the woods (at that speed, also not that difficult), three things will happen.

    First, I-495 will be closed because this inevitably will be a really messy multiple vehicle accident. Second, the cell towers will choke — they simply aren’t designed to handle the load generated by bumper-to-bumper traffic, three lanes across, with six or more devices in each vehicle. And third, this is within range of the helicopters of the Boston TV stations so they will be covering this, live, for the news.

    Parents will attempt to reach their children for assurance that they weren’t in the accident, but won’t get through the choked towers and hence will presume the worse. And that is where things start getting REALLYH interesting for UM.

    My guess: this will be the last Foxburo game….

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.