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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mass Appeal

If marching bands moved the needle with regards to conference realignment, UMass wouldn't be on the brink of homelessness.

Currently the Minutemen are a football-only member of the MAC, playing all of their other sports in the Atlantic-10. UMass will only play football in the conference through the 2015 season, and so far, there's no telling where their next home is. A recent callup from the FCS ranks, the Minutemen have gone a combined 2-22 over two seasons as full FBS members, not making them particularly attractive for potential conference suitors.

When the clock stops mid-game, however, it's a different story. UMass is the only FBS program (besides Notre Dame) with a Sudler Trophy not currently in a major conference. That should make them attractive, if such a thing mattered. The band is also home to the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy, one of the nation's premier camps for drum majors. If that's not a solid recruiting advantage, I don't know what is.

UMass' struggles to find a home underscore both the lack of college football options in the Northeast and the hierarchy that exists even among the non-power conferences. The best competitive fit for the Minutemen is likely the Sun Belt, typically regarded among the bottom of all FBS conferences. But the Sun Belt, as the name implies, doesn't have a single team above the 37th parallel; a team from Massachusetts simply isn't a good fit. Conference USA and the Mountain West are similarly geographic disconnects. The only non-power FBS conference with a team based in New England is the American, and while Commissioner Mike Aresco hasn't ruled it out entirely, it's clear that UMass, especially their football program, isn't a good fit. The American, after all, considers itself the top of the heap of the also-ran conferences. It looks like for not, the search will continue for the Minutemen and the Power and Class of New England.
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