It’s an exciting day to be a University of Massachusetts Alumni.  After more than 15 years of debate and speculation it was announced today during a press conference at Gillette Stadium that the Minutemen will be joining the Mid-American Conference and the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"We feel the time is right for this landmark decision of UMass football elevating to the FBS level," UMass athletics director John McCutcheon said. "Playing in the FBS is where UMass should be positioned as the flagship campus of the state system. The opportunities to play on a national level and what that means for exposure and visibility will be a tremendous asset not only for athletics, but for the entire university."

The move will elevate the UMass football team out of the Colonial Athletic Association of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS or Division 1-AA).  There will be no immediate changes for UMass as far as scheduling goes.  The 2011 season will be untouched.  2012 will see a mixed bag of FCS and FBS opponents.  2013 will be UMass’ first full season as an FBS team and they will become eligible for postseason bowl games.

There are going to be some changes down the road though.  NCAA guidelines stipulate an FBS program must average 15,000 fans per home game over two years or face review, currently UMass averages 13,004 and McGuirk Alumni Stadium, the campus site, can accommodate the needed fans.

To help outt hough the Minutemen will start playing home games at Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots, starting in 2012.  Last season UMass and New Hampshire played a game at Gillette and drew 32,848.

The current agreement between UMass and The Kraft Group will have the Minutemen playing all of its home games at Gillette in the 2012 and 2013 seasons and then a minimum of four home games there over the next three years.  While this is going on the school is fundraising in hopes of renovating McGuirk.

"We see this venue as an outstanding opportunity for us for a very, very, very long time," McCutcheon said. "By nature of coming here, we probably have, if not the best collegiate venue in the country, it's pretty close. We do want to do some improvement of our stadium on campus so we could move one or two games back there when it's in a position that we could host I-A caliber games. … But the primary home for UMass football for the foreseeable future is going to be here at Gillette Stadium."

Also being added to the program will be 22 football scholarships, upping their total number to 85.  It will also add 22 scholarships for women’s athletics to maintain the gender equity balance.

The move is being taken very seriously by all involved.
"We seek greatness in all we do at UMass," said University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Robert C. Holub. "We promise national excellence and prominence to the citizens of the Commonwealth, and we deliver on that promise. Moving to the FBS is consistent with our upward trajectory, as Minuteman football becomes part of our overall move toward national prominence."

As one who called UMass home for awhile, I love this news.  The school has the student body that will go crazy for football and playing games at Gillette is awesome though I do hope they are able to remodel and improve McGuirk to play a majority of their home games on campus.

I always figured my first time writing about UMass here would revolve around the hoops team or a scandal, go figure and go UMass.