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UMass leaving the MAC after 2015 season


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.

Wisconsin announces 10-year agreement with Under Armour

Joel Stave
Associated Press

What has long been rumored became fact Friday, as Wisconsin announced a 10-year agreement with Under Armour.

“I am absolutely thrilled about our new partnership with Under Armour,” AD Barry Alvarez said in a statement. “Kevin Plank and his team have established a brand that fits perfectly with the Wisconsin athletics story and culture. Our primary focus at Wisconsin is, of course, our student-athletes, and Under Armour’s passion and commitment to high quality and innovation will benefit our student-athletes for years to come. Our entire department is looking forward to a long and mutually productive relationship with the Under Armour team.”

The new deal will pay the Badgers a total of $7 million in cash and product in 2015-16 and is valued at $96 million over the life of the contract, good for second in the Big Ten, trailing only Nike’s new contract with Michigan.

Hidden within the contract are two nuggets that UA offered to sway the Badgers away from Adidas, from the Portland Business Journal:

Wisconsin will get as much as $500,000 from Under Armour to “rebrand” athletic facilities. It’ll get $150,000 to build out an Under Armour retail space in a campus gift shop called Bucky’s Locker Room. It also gets two summer internships for students at Under Armour’s Baltimore headquarters.

“The University of Wisconsin is an institution built on the highest values of academic excellence, and we are extremely proud to be teaming up with one of the most vibrant, distinctive and successful athletic programs in the country to help elevate the performance of all Badgers with innovative footwear and apparel,” added Plank.

Wisconsin’s departure continues to weaken the stronghold Adidas had built in the Midwest after losing Michigan to Nike and Notre Dame to Under Armour in recent years (the company still owns apparel rights for Indiana and Nebraska). The Badgers are now the 41st Division I athletics department and 17th FBS program to join UA.

Video: There’s nothing wrong with Cardale Jones

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In the minds of some in the media and even more in the fan base, Ohio State in general and Cardale Jones specifically have been underwhelming through the first five games of the 2015 season.

Jones, in particular, has been a rather large target of much of the angst.  Coming off a Cinderella-like three-game postseason run that helped OSU to a national championship, the perception is that Jones has been underwhelming and underperforming; even head coach Urban Meyer appeared to be leaning in that direction as he considered making the switch to J.T. Barrett prior to the Western Michigan win before reaffirming his commitment to the redshirt junior.

Is that perception valid?  Statistically, he’s not that far off from where he was in the 2014 postseason, at least in a couple of categories.

He’s completing 61.3 percent of his passes this season compared to 59.4 percent in the games against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon.  It was 9.9 yards per attempt in that three-game stretch last season, 8.2 in five games this season.  When it comes to scoring and turning the ball over, however, that’s another matter entirely.

He threw a touchdown pass every 15 pass attempts in the 2014 postseason; this season, it’s one every 21 attempts.  Even more glaring, he’s currently throwing an interception every 21 attempts as well.  During the run that made him a household name, it was one pick every 37.5 throws.

So, fewer touchdowns plus more turnovers equals validation of the angst, right?  Not so fast, at least as far as the college arm of Pro Football Focus goes.