In an era of expanding conferences, the MAC is headed in the other direction.
In a press release issued Wednesday afternoon, the MAC announced that UMass will be leaving the conference following the completion of the 2015 football season. UMass has been a football-only member of the MAC for the past two seasons, with most of its other sports parked in the Atlantic 10.
Part of the contract between the MAC and UMass when it agreed to join the conference in April of 2011 was that, if the school was offered full membership, it could either accept or remain as a football-only member for two additional years if the offer was turned down. The MAC offered UMass full membership in February and the university declined, leading to the Minuteman’s departure after the next two football seasons.
The conference did not hide its disappointment in UMass’ decision.
“This is not the outcome we anticipated when UMass was admitted as a football-only member. However, circumstances changed regarding our football membership and this is a result of those circumstances,” commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in a statement. “I want to thank University of Massachusetts Chancellor, Dr. Kumble Subbaswamy, and Director of Athletics, John McCutcheon, for their professionalism and understanding in reaching this amicable decision.”
By any measure, the Minutemen’s brief time in the MAC has been an unmitigated disaster. UMass has finished each of the past two seasons 1-11 overall and 1-7 in conference play.
UMass began its transition from the FCS to the FBS in 2011; a school spokesperson stated that the Minutemen intend on remaining at the highest level of college football and join another FBS conference. Just which league they could be targeting — and would have them — remains very unclear.
Following the departure of UMass, the MAC will be back down to a 12-team league: an East division consisting of Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, Miami (Ohio) and Ohio, with Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan comprising the West.