The UMass Minutemen will cease to be a member of the MAC following the 2015 season as announced by both the school and the Mid-American Conference on Wednesday. The Minutemen joined the MAC as a football-only member in the spring of 2011. After the first two seasons ended the MAC's council of presidents exercised a clause in the contract with UMass allowing them to offer the school full-membership or force them out after an additional two years. On Feb. 17, 2014 the MAC offered full-membership, UMass declined.
In an official statement released by the school Wednesday UMass athletic director John McCutcheon explained the reasoning behind the decision.
According to McCutcheon the school has been working with a consulting firm, Carr Sports Consulting, to study its current and future conference alignments and though the report has yet to be finalized the findings are showing it wouldn't be beneficial for UMass to join the MAC as a full member.
"Because most of the MAC schools are in the Midwest, the additional travel would strain our athletic budget and pose considerable time management challenges for our student athletes," McCutcheon said.
UMass has had a rocky first two seasons in the MAC as a football member. The Minutemen went 1-11 (1-7 MAC) in both seasons and were marred by a player mistreatment scandal this past season. In the offseason McCutcheon fired second-year head coach Charley Molnar, opting to bring back former UMass head coach Mark Whipple as his replacement.
Whipple also released a statement on the decision saying: "I was aware of this possibility (of leaving the MAC) when I accepted the position of head coach, and I believe this move is in the university's best interest. My focus is on building a program that we all can be proud of and that provides a great experience for our student athletes."
Now that UMass is on the move some have already begun to ask whether the new FBS team would consider a move back down to the FCS ranks. McCutcheon dismissed any rumors of such a move in the statement as well.
"We are confident that, within the next two years, we will find a more suitable conference for our FBS football program, he said. "We remain committed to FBS football. Many institutions have successfully navigated this challenging period of conference realignment and we will do the same."