A homecoming game has never been truer for a football program and a university than it is this year for the Massachusetts Minutemen. For the first time since the 2011 football season UMass will play a home game, a true home game. Yes, I am aware that the games at Gillette have been declared "home games," but with a seemingly vacant stadium for most games it hardly has a home field advantage atmosphere. This Saturday at 3 PM, the Amherst community will have a chance to pack McGuirk Alumni Stadium along with the student body and show the MAC what kind of football fans Western Massachusetts truly are.
UMass' struggles on the field during the first two seasons of FBS eligibility are well documented. This can be attributed to many things: bad coaching, lack of talent, lack of depth, and poor recruiting.
One thing that most people tend to overlook is that the Minutemen haven't played a home game in those two years. There hasn't been a true student section at Gillette when compared to other campus events such as the hockey and basketball games. Anyone who has been to the Mullins Center can tell you how loud it can get.
To get to Gillette Stadium from the UMass Amherst campus you would need to travel 92 miles, which takes about two hours by car without traffic. By bus it can take even longer. College students, who are notorious for being broke, are probably not very likely to shell out that kind of gas money on a regular basis. The University tried to combat this problem by providing a bus service for the students that cost 10 dollars and included a ticket to the game. In theory this sounds good, but for a noon game that means buses would have to leave campus by about nine in the morning. Considering most of the students who would go to the game are also hungover from the previous nights activities, waking up before nine is a monumental task. Trust me, I have first hand experience. By playing on campus, that 2 hour ride turns into a 10 minute walk for most students living in the Southwest Residential Area. This should give students a much bigger incentive to attend the games and give the team a real home crowd.
Before the game there are various other events hosted by the university to kick off homecoming. The first event to kick off the homecoming week is a guest speaking event featuring Jenny Dell. You may know her from the Red Sox games on NESN. On Friday, the new Football Performance Center will be dedicated and the very popular student event, the Nearly Naked Mile, will take place. This all leads to the Homecoming Parade Saturday at 11 AM along with a pregame event on the newly created Minutefan Way. With an actual home game on campus to go to most students are more excited for these events than in previous years.
September 27th, 2014 marks the real official date that UMass has become an FBS program. When fans can tailgate and cheer on the maroon and white in Amherst, it will truly be UMass' coming out party. Hopefully all of the second guessing about whether UMass made the right move to jump from the FCS will finally go away once people can tangibly feel what it's like to play big time football right here at home. So if your in the Amherst area or you call yourself a Minuteman, showing up to this game should be a priority. Bring the family, the friends, and the Bud Light and make some noise at McGuirk, because we all know the team needs all the help it can get.