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UMass To MAC: How Will The Football Divisions Look?

The Mid-American Conference is about 400 years behind the British Empire in colonizing what is today known as New England. With Temple joining in 2007 and now a team from Massachusetts, suddenly the East coast is Mid-American. No more of this gloating at the flyover states when, well, many of their games will occur in them.

First off, welcome UMass! You may want to bookmark this site. We all kind of look out for each other, since it's popular for larger schools to dump on us, much like the rich French aristocracy thumbed their noses at the poor people. You're on our side during nonconference bouts and bowl games, but when it's time to play each other, it's awn. You'll become a provisional member in 2012, but until then, do your best. And hey: you might even finish better than last place your first year. And while we sort of wish you'd become a full-fledged member; we understand. The Atlantic 10 is pretty solid in basketball. If you want to know what it's like to be a half-member, talk to Temple.

For everybody else, let's learn a little bit about our Minutemen friends:

Née "Massachusetts Agricultural College," UMass played their first ever game in 1879, instantly making them the oldest MAC program in existence. Then again, with a mascot like "Minutemen," they're gonna have the historical angle over, say, a team like "Rockets." They won that game 4-0 over Amherst College, and since then they've gone between winning and losing games. Originally known as the Aggies, they became the Redmen in 1948 until the turbulent 70s, at which point decency prevailed and the Minutemen were born.

Their first ever conference was the Yankee Conference. Eventually that gave way to the Atlantic-10, and once they stopped operating as a football entity, UMass joined the Colonial Athletic Association. I-AA/FCS Championship games were reached in 1978, 1998, and 2006, with a victory in the '98 affair led by running back and future/former Arizona Cardinals running back Marcel Shipp.

Little did they know in 1964 they would play their first game against an eventual MAC team when they squared off with Buffalo. They've only played UB, Toledo, and Ball State in their history, so a lot of these matchups will be fresh faces.

The current team is coached by Kevin Morris, who was promoted to head coach in 2009 after being their OC for five years. Barring a collapse in 2011, he'll guide UMass to their inaugural FBS season. Maybe even make a bowl game. Har har.

Now, about the divisions.

Right now we have seven in the East and six in the West, with Massachusetts immediately becoming an eastern member, that brings the number to eight. Gulp. Something needs to be evened out, but here's the problem: Temple can't go to the West. In this configuration, someone's gonna need to transition to the West while maintaining MAC East status in every other sport. Bowling Green has been kicked around like a hackeysack between the two divisions during that whole Marshall/UCF turnstile membership, so it seems like the most seamless candidate to be MAC West Football only — especially since if the conference keeps an eight-game conference schedule, that'll make it easier to schedule Toledo every year as the MAC's only current interdivisional rivalry.

Or there's this idea, brought on by "Shaggy" Matt Culbreath: Throw out the East/West alignment for football and bring on a whole new flavor. His idea was to go North/South, but ... ew, God, how do you separate them? Let's look at our logo, which, ugh, now we'll have to change at some point:

(UMass is somewhere up there.)

How do you bisect 14 teams? A North/South line would be crazypants wide. For the southern teams you'd have: NIU, Ball State, Miami, OHIO, Temple ... uh, Kent State/Akron? Somebody's going to be left out geographically. Or do it Big Ten style and brand 'em in some type of Legends/Leaders packaging.

But there's just no perfect cleave. If you wanted to do the first seven members chronologically, you'd have to leave someone out because the seventh and eighth members are CMU and EMU. Ohio and everybody else? Too inclusive; the Buckeye State has only six members. Bird-based mascots vs. everyone else? Nope, only six bird mascots.

Without a doubt there is likely a plan in place, and we might even know about it come the Big Announcement. Logically you'd want to keep the following groups intact:

UMass and Temple, because they're both on the coast
EMU/CMU/WMU, for the Aluminum Compass
Toledo and Bowling Green, rejoining these two frenemies
Akron and Kent State, for the Wagon Wheel
OHIO and Miami, presumably in their own third division where they'll leave everybody else alone
NIU and Ball State, not because they're rivals, but because they're either in the Central time zone or once in their history rejected daylight savings
Buffalo, because they're in the MAC too.

I don't see a better formation than sliding Bowling Green to the MAC West for football purposes only.