Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

What the move to the MAC means for UMass Football

Huge change creates new expectations on the field
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2023)

The Massachusetts football team is set to join the Mid-American Conference for the 2025 season and beyond. The return to the MAC comes after eight years (and an upcoming ninth) of being an independent in football.

The move will slot UMass in as the 13th member of the conference, joining a group of schools with varying success on the gridiron. The Minutemen have a chance to compete for a conference title for the first time in what will be nine years, playing alongside a group of formidable opponents.

“All of us coaches in this room, we all belong to a league, there’s a trophy they put at the end of the season on the table and say ‘go,’” UMass men’s basketball coach Frank Martin said at the MAC announcement press conference. “[The football team] deserves that opportunity too.”

Many of the MAC teams will be familiar opponents of the Minutemen by the time the change goes through. In the 2023 season, UMass faced off against three teams in its new conference, and 2024 will feature five matchups of the sort.

“We’re very similarly resourced, we recruit a lot against Mid-American Conferences,” UMass Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford said. “We recruit out of the same pocket of places for prospective student-athletes. From my standpoint, I think this allows us to nurture our football program for ultimate growth.”

The two most formidable of the new conference foes for UMass in the near future look to be Miami of Ohio and Toledo, both a part of the opponents from the 2023 and 2024 seasons. Both squads finished their last campaigns with an 11-2 overall record, with Toledo sitting at 8-0 in conference play and Miami (OH) at 7-1.

Moving to the MAC has a long list of positives that will affect the Minutemen’s football program, with one of the biggest being the knowledge of upcoming opponents. With the program joining a conference, many of its opponents each season will be teams that are known more than others. Not having to prepare for a new 12 schools on the docket each year should help UMass stay ahead of the game.

“Scheme is a big part of college football,” head coach Don Brown said. “Offensively, defensively, special teams, scheme is a big deal. It’s nice when you have some continuity, and you’re playing eight or nine opponents a year, where you’re playing them virtually every year. Then your preparation can take hold, and it’s not like you’re starting from scratch.”

Recruiting both freshmen and transfers is an aspect of the move to the MAC that should be going in a positive direction for the Minutemen as well, with conference stability becoming a selling point to any incoming recruits.

UMass looks to build off its 2023 season, where it finished 3-9, the best record that the team finished with since 2018. A large part of the success of the most recent Minutemen squad came by way of the transfer portal, and they’ll look to continue to do the same.

The 2024 transfer class for UMass looks to be another one that could generate a multitude of starters for the upcoming season, with its 21.19 points according to 247sports ranking higher than any teams within the MAC.

“It’s based on a decision that we made going into the portal, getting older, but also getting to know those players on a personal level so that we know what we’re getting into, and they know what they’re getting into when they come with us,” Brown said. “We think that’s been a strategic move for us in terms of recruiting, and obviously we’re starting to feel those positive pieces on the field.”

With all this talk about the home found for UMass, there is still one year of independence left to be played. The team gets what Brown called a “transition year” playing against five MAC opponents in the upcoming season, kicking off week one at home against one of them in the form of Eastern Michigan on Aug. 31 in Amherst.

“We’ve talked about this move, it’s two years from now, let’s go back to work and worry about what’s in front of us,” Brown said. “That’s really the important thing for us, we have to pay attention to what’s in front of us, and that’s the schedule for next year.”

The move to the MAC puts pressure on the football program to elevate itself moving forward, being the main reason that other sports came along for the change. UMass fans will be expecting the team to prove the move was worth it.

“There’s one sport that elevates all of us to a different place, and that’s football,” Martin said.

Mike Maynard can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @mikecmaynard.

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