The Boston Herald reported today that UMass would be joining the MAC as a football member. The story sounds clear that we are talking a Temple-like arrangement, where UMass would play in the MAC in football but no other sports. They are currently FCS, and would be provisional FBS in '11 and '12 and then compete for the MAC in '13.
They are also making arrangements to play at least some home games in Foxboro, where the Patriots play their home games.
A MAC official confirmed the MAC's interest to the Boston Herald...
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a MAC spokesman would say only that the conference is “exploring” the possibility of adding the Minutemen for football.There are some pluses. First, there would be 14 MAC teams, and an even number would make a lot more sense. Every team could play every other team in their division and 2 cross over games, eliminating a situation like this year where BG and Akron did not play. It opens the MAC up geographically and UMass would (as the article mentions) become only the second FBS football program in Boston.
I am sure most MAC fans, who don't like the fact that Temple is a one-sport member (memorably described as "sleeping on the couch") will not want to see UMass get similar accommodations.
Would I prefer that Mass and Temple be full MAC members? Sure. But, they're not going to drop their other conferences in basketball, and they don't want to pay to travel their swimming teams all over the Great Lakes. I think they both have the potential to raise the profile and quality of MAC football, and I think that's worth it, on balance.
One surprising thing is that there seems to be talk of a number of teams heading up to FBS. I always understood that the requirements for joining FBS had been built to prevent that from happening---they didn't want to demote anyone but they also didn't want any new schools coming up. Clearly, the lure of FBS football is very strong, because a commitment like this comes with a huge price tag. They must want it pretty bad.