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REACTION: UMass set to rejoin MAC in 2025

Mid-American Conference logo
Demetri Manousos
Mid-American Conference logo

After being an independent football program for the last eight years and one of the founding members of the Atlantic 10 conference, UMass will enter the Mid-American Conference in the 2025-26 academic year.

UMass became the first school to leave the A-10 since 2013 when it lost Butler, Charlotte, Temple and Xavier.

UMass has decided to become a full member of the conference, which means all sports will leave the A-10, with the exception of hockey, as it will remain in the Hockey East Association.

This will be the Minutemen’s second stint with the MAC, the first lasting from 2012-2015. 

During this time, the rest of the athletic department was a member of the A-10 conference. UMass elected not to bring all of their sports to the MAC, which eventually resulted in them leaving the MAC because of contractual issues with the conference.

Since the Football Bowl Subdivision was formed in 1978, UMass has spent most of its time in the Football Championship Subdivision, which is a step down from the FBS. 

The Minutemen were in the Yankee Conference through 1996, then they joined the Atlantic-10 Conference, where they stayed through 2006 before spending their final years in the FCS with the Colonial Athletic Association from 2007-11.

UMass’ 2012 season in the MAC was their first season in the FBS, where they have been since.

Like many teams who transition from the FCS to FBS, the Minutemen struggled. 

From 2012 to 2023, they had a record of 24-112, which is the worst winning percentage in the FBS in that span. UMass averaged just two wins per year over the 12-year timeline.

From 2012-15, Eastern Michigan was the only MAC team with a worse overall record than UMass.

After their time in the MAC, UMass football was without a conference and has been that way since 2016.

Their winning percentage has slightly increased by then, but not by much. During their time in the MAC, their record was 8-40; since then, their record has been 16-72. 

They have recorded two four-win seasons, and they came back-to-back in 2017 and 2018. Those two seasons are their best since joining the FBS.

As for rejoining the MAC, there doesn’t seem to be much appeal for the conference to get a program that’s been as bad as UMass. 

Geographically speaking, the MAC is the tightest conference, with Northern Illinois being the school furthest to the west and Buffalo the furthest to the east. Just over 600 driving miles separate those schools.

Ohio is the furthest south, and Central Michigan is the furthest north, with just under 400 miles between the two. 

The addition of UMass to the MAC will make the conference much more geographically spread out, but the conference will still be the tightest. 

From an athletic standpoint, the Minutemen do not have much to offer. The basketball programs have been better than the football program, but overall, they have not been impressive.

Since current Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari left UMass in 1996, the Minutemen have made March Madness just three times, losing in the first round each time. They were an 11-seed in 1997, a seven-seed in 1998, and a six-seed in 2014.

The women’s team, which was formed in 1968, has only been to March Madness three times and has not made it out of the first round. They made it in 1996 as an eight-seed, 1998 as a 13-seed, and 2022 as a 12-seed.

As for football, aside from their lack of success on the field, the MAC will most likely have to reconsider their new pod system or add another school to get to an even number of members.

UMass will be the 13th team in the MAC and may throw off the numbers, which worked out well with four pods, each with three teams. 

The MAC was one of the final division one conferences to stay silent amidst conference realignment, but like almost everyone else, they did finally get involved. 

They did it the right way, though. UMass does expand the conference, but it’s still in a state that borders New York, where Buffalo is. They didn’t go out and chase some team on the other side of the country just to get some extra money, unlike the Big Ten or ACC.

UMass is also a former member, so if the MAC was planning on expanding, it makes sense to go out and get the Minutemen, even if they are not a very strong school athletically.

We should not be surprised if the MAC does pursue another team, just to make the number of teams an even 14, which would likely result in the conference using divisions again.

After seeing the way the MAC has handled itself throughout conference realignment, we can trust that if the conference goes out to get a 14th team, they will choose one that geographically makes sense to bring in and not the one across the country that will bring in more money and television time.

In realignment, all the attention has gone to the Power 5 gaining and losing schools, but it can’t be said enough how conferences like the Mountain West, who hasn’t made any moves, and the MAC have not fallen victim to the dollar.

Demetri Manousos is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected].

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