The Massachusetts Minutemen recently agreed to several more future games against fellow New England FBS members Boston College and UConn. Michael Traini and Jesse Allen get together to break it all down. You are welcome.
Jesse Allen: So there was some big news out of UMass this week, which is why we're bringing you this special Slack Chat. That's right folks, it's two for the price of one week at Hustle Belt for all items UMass. First reported by Mark Blaudschun at ajerseyguy.com, UMass has tossed UConn off the schedule next year, gifting them to Boston College in return for BC playing UMass on a regular basis. BC will play UMass at Gillette Stadium in 2016 rather than at BC. Replacing UConn will be FIU, which is sure to get no one riled up. How do you feel about all these changes, and let's keep it under 10,000 words today or our editors might kill us.
Michael Traini: Well I've got all kinds on thoughts on the subject but in order to keep the bosses happy I'll try to be as brief as possible. Overall I'm in favor of the moves because long term, the three New England FBS schools need to be playing each other on a consistent basis. It helps control costs and build rivalries, along with bringing in opponents that home fans from all three schools actually care about seeing (despite what you might read from some Eagles supporters).
There was a lot of old school grudges and prejudices that had prevented these schools from playing each other on the reg, especially between BC and UConn, but with new leadership at the helm of all three athletic departments it finally got off the ground, to the benefit of college football in the region.
UMass, by giving up it's 2016/17 series with UConn, gains an a home date from Boston College in 2016, a game that was initially scheduled to be in Chestnut Hill. That gives the Minutemen six home games in 2016, something that was a pipe dream only a few months ago when Ryan Bamford became Director of Athletics and inherited a home schedule with just one game on it for 2016. UMass has also scheduled another home-and-home series with BC for the 2020s, dates yet to be announced.
UMass also added a four-game series with UConn as part of the changes, replacing the series they gave up to Boston College. They'll be playing the Huskies in Connecticut in 2018 and 2020 and hosting them at Gillette Stadium in 2019 and 2021. As Jesse mentioned, UMass also added two more games with Florida International as well, where they will take UConn's place on UMass' 2016 schedule and UMass will return that game in Florida in 2019.
The most important scheduling move UMass can make is playing Boston College as often as possible. They've achieved that with this deal and can certainly work towards an even more regular match-up in the future, perhaps even one where they play to open every season. There was some scuttlebutt that BC was looking to play either UConn or UMass to open every season at Gillette Stadium, something that could still happen down the line. If UMass were to play BC at Gillette every year in a neutral site game to open the season, that would be an absolutely ideal scenario (for both schools, even if BC fans don't want to admit it).
The second most important scheduling move UMass can make is to play UConn regularly, and they've achieved that here as well. I'm sure that UMass hopes that this series of games with UConn is absorbed to become a conference match-up if UMass can get the elusive invite to the AAC, but even if not they are competitive games against a local rival that is necessary for the growth of the program.
I might have liked to see a longer-term deal with BC, perhaps more games than just the two new games they have, but overall a good deal for UMass, and one that they were integral in making happen; BC and UConn would not have been able to play one another without UMass' help. Hopefully that earns them some consideration from the Huskies as it relates to potential AAC membership.
Massachusetts Minutemen football: Loss on Homecoming potentially brings end to Minutemen's season
The Massachusetts Minutemen lost on Homecoming to the Kent State Golden Flashes, and in doing so essentially ended their season of high expectations on a new low note.
Massachusetts Minutemen football: Can the Minutemen still go bowling?
The Massachusetts Minutemen are coming off of a big loss at the hands of the BGSU Falcons and play their Homecoming game this coming Saturday against the Kent State Golden Flashes. UMass' Hustle Belt contributors, Michael Traini and Jesse Allen, get together for their weekly chat to update the Minutemen's progress this season.
What's your take on the new series? Excited? Underwhelmed?
JA: Overall I'm excited. I haven't been on BCInterruption to see the hate, I've quit that site ever since they asked me to write an article and refused to run it (Hi Dan!), but both sides should see this as a good thing. I see a lot of folks on Twitter asking for BC/UMass to be a neutral site game every year like you said, but if UMass was smart they'd convince BC to call it a road game every year. For BC, it gives them a "road" game that's essentially a home game, which their fans would be happy about. For UMass, it helps them get to the six home game threshold so they can do a 4/2 split instead of a 4/1 split between Gillette and McGuirk (to my understanding 3/2 is not allowed). If they did BC and another big school at Gillette and four games at McGuirk, I think the fan base would be quite pleased.
Looking at next years schedule, the Minutemen's first not flying under the banner of Hustle Belt...I mean the MAC...the slate doesn't seem as daunting as it once did. I don't want to get too deep into the Comis of it all, but I'm seeing some possibly competitive contests in FIU, Tulane, Louisiana Tech, Wagner, Troy, Old Dominion and Hawaii. Do you think the Minutemen have a shot at six wins next year?
MT: I will get to an answer for that question, but in true UMassChat fashion, I just have to circle back to counter a point you made before I do. You mentioned that BC should try to make Gillette a road game every year when playing UMass, which may sound nice in theory (especially for UMass) but would never work in practice. If the game was a "road" game every year, BC wouldn't get anything from the gate, UMass would take it as it was their home game. BC would never go for that. Also, as the "road" team, UMass would generally have to compensate BC with a payout to play the game. The solution is the neutral site game, where the teams can split the gate and no one has to give a payout as part of the deal. It also allows both schools to host six true home games each (or seven if BC's delusions of grandeur are to be believed) and play seven (or eight) games total within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. That's huge for both schools.
I'm a vocal proponent of getting as many games back on campus at McGuirk as soon as possible. Now that it's clear that UMass can pretty much split six games however they want, they should be looking at 5/1 McGuirk and not the other way around. There are a lot of things that need to happen though, primarily an upgrade to their on-campus facility, which is currently the 2nd smallest in FBS and has no permanent restrooms or concessions. While many UMass alums may feel nostalgic about McGuirk (including me), they are all well aware that it is currently a hulking concrete mess. The good news is that stadium upgrades are at the top of AD Bamford's list. It will take some time for meaningful changes to come to fruition given what needs to be accomplished, but when they are finally done and UMass can get back to playing all their games in Amherst it will be an incredible boost to the program.
In 2016 two of those six games will be at McGuirk, against FIU and the Wagner Seahawks of the FCS. Those games, coupled with Troy, probably offer UMass their best chance to win. I do not think the Minutemen are looking at six wins next season, not at all. The first season of independence is going to be the hardest, and playing three SEC teams is going to take its toll. I think UMass is looking at three wins, four max, in what will be a step back season. That is one of the reasons this year is so important for the program, as next year is not going to look good every week.
Given the gauntlet of a schedule UMass has set up for themselves next year, tell me this: Do you think playing three SEC opponents along with the rest of their schedule was a mistake? Personally I like the 2016 slate. The exposure for the program will be great, there is a lot of experience to be gained, and you can't discount the cash that's going to come from playing at Florida and South Carolina (combined $2.75M).
JA: The Minutemen had to get themselves out there. They risk falling into obscurity in independence, and that would be a death knell. So you take the lesser of two evils and get paid getting beat by Florida, South Carolina and Mississippi State, and you get some television time on the SEC Network as well. You can't call that a mistake.
Next season, in one word, will be...
Wins and losses we've talked about, that's not going to be great. Even though rational people know that UMass should be looking at only a few wins, it's going to take its toll on the fan base when they see them losing more often than not. And of course, like a bad penny, you'll have the people who ignorantly claim that UMass football is a waste of money or an embarrassment to the school show up and they'll take the opportunity to be vocal with their desire to reclassify or cut the program.
Independence is not a sustainable course in the FBS, and UMass knows that very well. They made the decision to leave the MAC as to not hurt their other sports, and they are well aware they have only a handful of seasons to play as an indy before they absolutely must get into a conference. Hopefully being on national TV quite a but in 2016 will be a boon to that endeavor.
Give me a guess though for UMass' win total in 2016, we have to have it, the people want it.
JA: Three, but anything can happen depending what happens under center. Care to take the over?
MT: Even though I want to, I just can't do it. Right now, I'm on three as well. Shame we're not talking about 2017 (yet), that year has a chance to be much better. But UMass fans should not worry, even if the team wins only three games next year the program is still on the right track.
Make sure you stop by next week when Jesse and I recap UMass' Homecoming game against Kent State and look ahead to the Minutemen hosting a ranked FBS opponent for the first time when Toledo comes to Gillette Stadium.