UMass took a major step towards making its football program relevant in the New England area on Wednesday when it announced it would join the Mid-American Conference for football only starting in 2012.
Not only are the Minutemen leaving the FBS, but they will also be issuing in a new chapter in their "rivalry" with Boston College.
The Eagles and Minutemen have met 23 times, with Boston College leading the series 18-5. The two in-state rivals have played twice in the past decade, with BC topping UMass 29-7 in 2004 and 24-14 back in 2007.
The two schools are only rivals because they share the same state, but now that UMass has made the move up to Division I, it could go a long way towards revamping the meetings between BC and UMass.
Should Boston College fans be nervous? Probably not, at least not yet. However, the Minutemen could pose a threat to the Eagles' hold on the college sports market in Boston, so says BC Interruption.
There's only so much college football talent and media attention to go around in New England. In a sports market that is already saturated with coverage of the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, UMass football is just another sports team that BC will have to share the spotlight with. And at the end of the day, BC is still a small, private Catholic school that isn't fully embraced by the Greater Boston market, while UMass is the state's flagship school with a student body two and a half times the size of BC's and an alumni base -- a ton of them local -- in the 100,000s.
It's clear that there are more UMass fans in the Boston market than there are BC fans, and that is a result of UMass being a state school and Boston College being a private institution. That could wind up paying off big time for the Minutemen, especially since they will be playing their home games at Gillette Stadium.
This season, UMass and New Hampshire played in front of a Gillette Stadium crowd of 32,848. And that was against UNH. While UMass is going from one event at Foxborough to 5-7 a season, I doubt the Minutemen will have any problems attracting BCS conference teams to Gillette. And the school will do much better than draw 32k the first time Michigan, Penn State or Ohio State travel to Foxborough. With those extra fans will come extra media coverage. If these two games were played on the same weekend, which game do you think will get more coverage in the papers? UMass-Michigan or Boston College-Northwestern? (Hint: One of the Herald's main college sports writers is a UMass grad). (via BC Interruption)
Coincidentally, Boston College and Massachusetts will face off in Week 4 of the 2011 college football season on September 24 at Alumni Stadium. The outcome probably won't be close, seeing as the Eagles are a much deeper team (and they should be at the FBS level), but UMass' move to college football's premier division will undoubtedly improve their recruiting and should make them into a formidable opponent for Boston College.