Ryan Bamford uses online Q&A session to discuss UMass football conference search, renovation plans, cost of attendance

By Anthony Chiusano

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Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

Since his hiring as University of Massachusetts athletic director in late March, Ryan Bamford has actively shown his willingness to interact with fans through social media. This theme continued Wednesday morning, as he sat down for a brief online question and answer session covering numerous topics.

Beginning at 11 a.m. and lasting a little under an hour, fans took the opportunity to question Bamford about the football program’s conference search, possible upcoming facility renovations and the state of the hockey program among other issues.

Below are some of Bamford’s responses:

On searching for a football conference for after the program leaves the Mid-American Conference following the 2015 season:

“The best thing we can do to prepare ourselves for a possible conference realignment is to raise our profile and increase the visibility of UMass Athletics. So much of the D1 conference landscape is uncontrollable. We need to focus on the things we can control – primarily our own success and how we represent our brand.”

On whether to expect more home games scheduled against nationally recognizable teams, such as the recently announced matchup against Mississippi State in the 2016 football season:

“In a word, yes. We hope to always build schedules that challenge our programs competitively and attract interest from our fan base and the perhaps other people in the Commonwealth who may not have consumed UMass Athletics events in the past. Bringing nationally recognizable programs like Miss. State to Massachusetts is a good start.”

On cost of attendance for athletes on scholarship:

“To be clear, we will be doing (cost of attendance) coverage for more than just the (men’s basketball) and (women’s basketball) programs in year one. We need to be equitable, so our goal is to get the same number of male and female student-athletes COA disbursements. As far as a class, we have not discussed that just yet. I like the idea and think a partnership with the folks in Isenberg might be a great fit for us.”

On renovation plans for McGuirk Stadium:

“Good question – lots to consider there. I can tell you that it is our hope that we get to a point where we are playing most, if not all, of our games back on campus. The Patriots and Gillette Stadium have been great partners, but in the end, that’s where college football belongs: on campus. Certainly, we need to upgrade that facility to reach our goals in that regard.”

On the idea of building a multi-purpose indoor facility in the near future:

“(It) would be a game changer for all sports and something that is certainly on my radar. We will be looking at a feasibility study this summer and weighing all options for a facility of this type. Timeline TBD.”

On whether he believes the University’s new facilities match other top athletic facilities nationwide (i.e. Football Performance Center, brand new JFK Champions Center):

“Yes! They are game changing facilities – as good as any we had at (Georgia Tech) and as good as most Power Five conference schools.”

On “revitalizing” the hockey program, which finished 11-23-2 in 2014-15:

“As we do with all of our programs, it’s important for our administrative team to evaluate how we allocate our resources and if we are providing the right things to our programs that allow them to be successful. Hockey is an important piece to our overall health as a (department) and I look forward to working with coach (John Micheletto) and his program to make sure we are supporting them in the right ways.”

On if he foresees a UMass-UConn basketball matchup in the near future and his thoughts on building up a cross-sport rivalry with the Huskies:

“Our goal is to play UConn as much as possible. It’s a natural fit for all of our sports and would be a great regional rivalry for UMass. I think UConn feels similarly but I will be connecting with their (athletic director) soon and should know more about how we can build something that will work for both schools.”

On what branding initiatives will be set in place and whether “Amherst” should be dropped when mentioning UMass athletics:

“This will evolve over time but we are going to look closely at our brand standards and make sure we have a strong primary mark and as much brand presence as possible. Anyone who has heard me speak about our program in the last two months has heard me reference University of Massachusetts Athletics…as the flagship, I don’t think we need to add Amherst.”

On the importance of personally staying active on social media to remain transparent to UMass athletics followers:

“(It’s) very important. This is a good example of leveraging digital and social assets to spread our message. I want to be as engaged as I can be with our stakeholders because together we can build a stronger athletics department. It truly takes a village.”

Additional notes:

  • Bamford said former UMass basketball coach and current Kentucky coach John Calipari’s jersey retirement ceremony still doesn’t have a set date for next season. It will be resolved after each school’s non-conference schedules are in place.
  • According to Bamford, he’s visited the Boston area at least once a week in his first seven weeks in Amherst in order to become “more visible” in the eastern Massachusetts area.
  • He does not expect the UMass basketball team to play in Boston’s TD Garden this year, but hopes to return there in the future.
  • Bamford stressed that there is no intention for the football team to schedule a 13th game for the 2016 season because it would likely replace the Minutemen’s lone bye week.

Anthony Chiusano can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @a_chiusano24.