It’s always good to be prepared. In the case of UMass football though, they might be a little too prepared in one particular case.
According to MassLive.com, the Minutemen are close to announcing a bowl-affiliation agreement for the program — one of the few FBS independents who do not have a ready-made path to a postseason appearance as things currently stand.
“We’re down the path with some relationships with some bowls that we’re going to be announcing in the next 30-45 days that we feel good about,” AD Ryan Bamford said. “We’re going to have a relationship that’s going to cover us through 2025. That will cover us so if we’re bowl eligible we feel very good about being placed in a bowl if we get to 6-6.
“It will have a number of iterations, a number of variables to it. We feel good about the relationships we’ve been able to build and our ability, when we become a bowl-eligible team for the first time, to have a place to go. That our fans will be able to travel there and support us and that will be a seminal moment for our program.”
Banford later confirmed that ESPN is likely to play a role in the agreement, which likely hints at a conditional spot in one of the 13 or so bowl games they own through a subsidiary.
While such a deal would be nice to have, UMass actually following through and using it remains another matter. The 2019 team is among the worst in the country at 1-10 on the year and the program overall hasn’t made a bowl game since the defunct Boardwalk Bowl pitted the Minutemen against UC Davis in 1972.
In fact, UMass has only finished above .500 once in the past decade and that came before the school transitioned to the FBS level. So while the deal is nice to have, it’s more of one that the program will utilize in theory rather than practice until proven otherwise.
Liberty entered its Week 10 game 30th in the country in passing offense. The football independent’s opponent, fellow independent UMass, came in 119th nationally.
Even without the headline, you knew where this was headed, right?
Through a mere two quarters of play, Flames quarterback Stephen Calvert has thrown for a whopping 441 yards. Calvert, whose nickname is, appropriately enough, Buckshot, has also thrown four touchdown passes as the Flames (5-3) hold a lopsided 49-14 halftime lead on the woebegone Minutemen (1-7).
The 441 yards already marks a career-high for the senior. His previous high-water mark was 417 yards against New Mexico in late September of last year.
All told, Calvert has 10 career 300- or 400-yard passing games, with five of those coming in Hugh Freeze‘s first season at the school.
There’s been a lot of discussion recently over life as an FBS Independent and how difficult it is for teams like BYU and others just from the standpoint of getting the right games at the right time on the calendar. Such a narrative might be changing if more programs join in on the bandwagon over the coming years however, as one person intimately familiar with a solo life on the gridiron can testify.
Speaking to the Greenfield Recorder this week, UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford told the paper that UConn’s decision to leave the AAC could be the first of many others doing the same and that conference realignment likely kicking off in the next few years could be a driving force for schools in similar situations seeing the benefits to such a move as opposed to the negatives.
“From a football standpoint, looking at a league like the American with UConn and Temple in there would have made some sense,” Bamford said of talk about potentially taking the Huskies spot. “Now, I don’t think it does and we’ve found that being an independent and getting a really good, competitive, balanced schedule is doable. Now having lived it for three years and scheduling for the next three or four, there’s no real impetus for us to get into a league when I think there’s going to be more independent football-playing schools in the next three-to-five years as there’s going to be conference realignment.”
That’s a bit of a contrarian view given how numerous programs expressed the difficulty of lining up everything from broadcast agreements to all 12 games on the schedule. It’s the latter point in particular that’s frequently cited as a big hurdle and one that typically leads to a very front-loaded docket full of Power Five opponents early and a hodgepodge of others as the season progresses. More independents being added to the ranks over the years (like Liberty and New Mexico State) have eased the burden though and Bamford seems to suggest that the hurdle isn’t like what it once was.
Will we see conference realignment actually result in more independents though? That remains to be seen though it would be fascinating to see others try their hand at the route just like many schools such as Florida State and South Carolina did back in the day. Even Notre Dame, which needs no help in getting games given their prestige and television dollars available, agreed to a partial scheduling agreement with the ACC several years ago but they’ve so far been the outlier in all this from the beginning.
One thing is for certain, the more in the club, the more merrier it is for its members as they go through things alone in a changing football landscape at the FBS level.
Another day, another portal post involving a college football player seeking greener playing-time pasture — although this one came with a bit of a twist.
On his personal Twitter account Wednesday afternoon, Kevin Brown Jr. announced that he has “decided to transfer from UMass, and finish my college career somewhere else.” The running back gave no specific reason for the somewhat surprising decision.
That’s not a complete picture, however, as head coach Walt Bell subsequently revealed that Brown was dismissed from the Minutemen football program last Friday. No specific reason for the dismissal was given at the time, although it was subsequently reported that academic issues were behind the back receiving the wrong end of the univrsity’s boot.
Brown signed on as a member of Bell’s first signing class, a three-star recruit who enrolled early and participated in spring practice. At the time of his dismissal, Brown’s 119 yards rushing were third on the team.
With its second first season as an FBS independent on the horizon, UConn is getting closer to wrapping up its slate for that next step for the program.
Thursday morning, UConn officially announced that it has secured agreements for nine games as part of its 12-game 2020 regular season. The announcement comes four months after UConn decided to leave the AAC following the 2019-20 academic year, moving its sports programs, with the exception of football, to the Big East.
The athletic department still has three games to fill in to complete its 2020 schedule. Additionally, the specific dates for two games, home against Maine and at Virginia, are still to be determined.
In at least one case, a school had to adjust its schedule to accommodate UConn’s fledgling independence voyage.
In a separate press release, Ole Miss announced that its game against Middle Tennessee State had been moved to Sept. 7, 2024. That game had originally been scheduled for Sept. 26 of next year.
“I would like to thank the many Universities that collaborated with us as we continue to work through the complicated process of constructing our schedule for the 2020 season,” UConn athletic director David Benedict said in a statement. “I feel that the schedule will be one that our football program and our fans can be excited about and I look forward to finalizing the 2020 schedule shortly.”