UMass to reportedly join the MAC in 2025

By Brian Wilmer -

The UMass Minutemen will reportedly join the Mid-American Conference in 2025, sources reported to ESPN’s Pete Thamel Monday.

The sources indicate that MAC presidents voted earlier Monday to approve UMass’ addition, and that UMass would likely accept the invitation.

The Minutemen were prior members of the MAC from 2012-2015, amassing a combined 8-40 record (7-25 conference) during their time in the circuit. UMass went independent following the 2015-16 campaign, and has gone 16-72 in that period.

The proposed move would give the MAC 13 football-playing institutions. No further moves have been announced at this time.

Then-athletic director John McCutcheon defended the Minutemen’s decision to leave the MAC.

“We remain committed to FBS football,” UMass athletic director John McCutcheon said at the time. “Many institutions have successfully navigated this challenging period of conference realignment and we will do the same.”

McCutcheon departed the university shortly thereafter for another role.

More on this news as it becomes available.

Future UMass Football Schedules


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Comments (38)

Agreed. Southern Illinois and Youngstown State would be better fits. YSU in particular has been waiting for that MAC invite for decades. With scheduling issues that come with an odd number of members YSU might actually get that invite now especially if MTSU and WKU say no again.

The MAC can lock down Northeast Ohio by adding Cleveland State as a non-football member, and Robert Morris would also bring their Olympic sports into the MAC, keeping football in FCS, so that the MAC can be in Pittsburgh where many of its teams have rivalries with teams from Ohio.

I see why UMass really wants this for football. The A10 is a better basketball league, but what does the MAC get out of this? Who is the 14th member?

It seems like UMass was competitive against some good teams before they made the transition. Once joining FBS, half of the wins over 12 years came against FIU, Akron, and FCS programs. Here’s hoping that the Minutemen find some success this time around.

Would the MAC accept any football-only schools? It seems like UConn is just sort of hanging out as the last minor independent.

With my posts above advocating for Cleveland State and Robert Morris as non-football members, UConn and Richmond could be good as football-only members of the MAC. Richmond has a fairly new stadium that can be expanded to meet FBS standards.

The football rivalry pods would then be these:

Akron, Kent State, Northern Illinois, Youngstown State
Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan
Bowling Green, Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Toledo
Buffalo, Richmond, UConn, UMass

These games would be played on Thanksgiving week:

Akron-Kent State
Ball State-Western Michigan
Bowling Green-Toledo
Central Michigan-Eastern Michigan
Miami (Ohio)-Ohio
Northern Illinois-Youngstown State

For basketball the MAC would go to a 20-game conference schedule with each school having five opponents they play twice every year for half of their allotted conference games as follows:

Akron: Cleveland State, Kent State, Toledo, UMass, Youngstown State
Ball State: Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Western Michigan
Bowling Green: Buffalo, Central Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Toledo
Buffalo: Bowling Green, Cleveland State, Ohio, Robert Morris, UMass
Central Michigan: Ball State, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Western Michigan
Cleveland State: Akron, Buffalo, Kent State, Robert Morris, Youngstown State
Eastern Michigan: Ball State, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan
Kent State: Akron, Cleveland State, Miami (Ohio), UMass, Youngstown State
Miami (Ohio): Ball State, Bowling Green, Kent State, Ohio, Toledo
Northern Illinois: Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan
Ohio: Buffalo, Miami (Ohio), Robert Morris, Toledo, Western Michigan
Robert Morris: Buffalo, Cleveland State, Ohio, UMass, Youngstown State
Toledo: Akron, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Ohio
UMass: Akron, Buffalo, Kent State, Robert Morris, Youngstown State
Western Michigan: Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Ohio
Youngstown State: Akron, Cleveland State, Kent State, Robert Morris, UMass

Talk amongst FCS chat boards is that Richmond is readying for a jump. Would make for a landing spot, at least. My guess would be they wanna go Sun Belt with James Madison.

@James Groomes

Sun Belt would be a downgrade for Richmond basketball plus they want to stay in the same conference as crosstown rival VCU.

Eastern Kentucky and Stephen F. Austin are my picks for the next Sun Belt expansion so that these games can be played on Thanksgiving weekend:

Appalachian State-Coastal Carolina
Arkansas State-Southern Miss
Eastern Kentucky-Marshall
Georgia Southern-Georgia State
James Madison-Old Dominion
South Alabama-Troy
Stephen F. Austin-Texas State

ESPN wants every FBS conference to embrace Thanksgiving week as rivalry week.

Cleveland State, even as a non-FB member, is a no-brainer for the MAC to add. The CSU campus is literally just a mile away from conference headquarters in Public Square plus CSU and the MAC have co-hosted March Madness games on numerous occasions

MTSU and WKU declined and instead choose to help “rebuild” C-USA.
Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. MAC should call them again, and consider UConn as football only. 16 football and 15 in all else is not a bad move.
Don’t need any FCS schools….

I want Liberty to stay in C-USA and for McNeese to also join C-USA so that the divisions can be these:

Kennesaw State
Middle Tennessee
Western Kentucky

Jacksonville State
Louisiana Tech
New Mexico State
Sam Houston

These would be the Thanksgiving weekend games:

FIU-Kennesaw State
Jacksonville State-Sam Houston
Louisiana Tech-McNeese
Middle Tennessee-Western Kentucky
New Mexico State-UTEP

Outside if MTSU/WKU, Delaware makes more sense and could be the “natural rival” for UMass.

If I had a MAC game being played on Thanksgiving Weekend it would be Northern Illinois vs Bowling Green My co-favorites from Conference. UMass vs UConn would make a excellent Thanksgiving Weekend game even if UConn remains independent.

Z-Man I wish you would start liking Conference games more & more & more & Conference games are important in week 4 where it generally begins just as much on Thanksgiving Weekend.

Z-Man, you trip me out for your imagination and conference affiliation desires. :-) I think if it was up to you they would do away with the FCS level.

Ahhh, another realignment move, another situation where it feels like it makes a little sense in some ways but doesn’t make a ton of sense in other ways, another chance for us all to make a post about how this would work in a way that makes more sense for us, another chance for Z-Man to present his master plan in 60 parts.

I think I’m starting to get it though.

All of us see this and think, “but why would the MAC do this given the travel?!” The MAC is maybe the most condensed regional conference in the country right now, so this stands out to us. But look at it a different way. A handful of MAC teams will play at UMASS in football per year, and then not play there for a year or 4. And it’s still a location closer than a lot of OOC options. And travel is something that’s pretty easily mitigated by refocusing the OOC slate to other teams in your region. Most of the travel situations affect UMass more, so if they’re ok with it, that’s the bigger factor. And given the travel involved with being an independent, it’s not hard to see why they’d be ok with it. Besides, that all really came into focus for me when I thought about SMU. Sure, part of the equation there is that SMU has rich alumni that they’re counting on to fund the unpaid move to the ACC. But also, SMU moved from the AAC to the ACC. Have you looked at the AAC map? Or the MWC map for that matter? On one hand, they both have some nearby opponents. But these are both mid major/G5 conferences that are super spread out! And somehow the travel works. Adding UMass to the MAC, compared to the other G5 conferences, still leaves them a pretty tightly regional conference, relatively speaking.

All of us see this and think, “who will be #14?” Because we aren’t lunatics, and an even number just makes sense. And again, I think that’s a bigger question on UMass’ side than on the rest of the conference. Would it make sense for UMass to want a travel partner? Definitely. (Though, I’m pretty sure UConn would say no…) But is it important to the rest of the conference? Depends on who you ask. Someone who looks at the ACC or Big 10 might say no. First, you have to consider that, divisions are going away in all the bigger conferences. Is that going to carry over to the MAC? If so, that’s one situation that makes an even number less important. If no one has to play x number of division opponents, then suddenly scheduling is a lot more fluid, for better or worse. Second, the ACC just decided they don’t need an even number. They’ll play with 15, and they’ll have 1 team that isn’t a football member but plays them a bunch. And they are ok with that I guess? And with the Big 10, they have an even number, but rather than picking a set number of protected annual rivalries per team, they have some with 0, and at least one with 3! They’re embracing the uneven scheduling model in a way that makes my mild OCD feel not very mild. In my brain, the SEC should stick to either the model where everyone has 1 permanent rival or the model (that works more neatly for some key teams) where everyone plays 3. They should have a major (and ideally regional) rivalry game the last week of the regular season every year. Things should line up like teeth in a zipper. Buuuut even with the SEC more likely to get close to a model like that, there will be bits that don’t line up as nicely. And while the MAC may be vetting candidates for #14 as we speak, or maybe they already have a 16 team master plan with MTSU and WKU rounding out the group! But… we cal all see bigger, louder examples of the fact that some conferences may not care if it hurts our brain for them to stay at an uneven number.

This is where we’re at. A 13 team conference can schedule things to work. They can travel a little further once every couple years or so. Or maybe they’ll add someone else this year. Or next. Or sometime but to be determined. Who knows.

“Travel partners” aren’t a thing for football (and this half-article hasn’t made it clear whether this is football-only, or for all sports) since football is only once a week, and teams go to play others on the road individually.

Travel partners (should be called “road-trip pairings” since the teams don’t travel together) are for the other sports, where more than one game is played in just a few days – a team visits one, then the other, on the same road outing, like playing at UMass on Thursday, then fairly-nearby URI on Saturday.

For clarification, what I mean by “travel partners” (and what usually seems to be the thing people are talking about with regard to college sports) is another team that is closer to home than most of the rest of the conference. I realize the name implies something else. But usually in college sports, that’s what people seam to mean. For example, USC and UCLA both agreed to join a conference where, at the time, Nebraska was the closest opponent, so by this definition, they joined as travel partners. Otherwise, maybe USC would have considered joining solo or maybe would have tried to persuade their rival, Notre Dame to join. Without UCLA, USC would have been out on an island. With them in conference, it means that at least some of their sporting events will just be across town instead of roughly 1,500 miles away or further. Washington and Oregon, and Stanford and Cal for the ACC serve similar roles. Conversely, when West Virginia signed up for the Big 12 originally, they did so without a “travel partner” and that came up regularly when it came to the pros and cons of joining the Big 12 for the Mountaineers. Obviously for other members of the conference it wasn’t as big a deal to have @WVU on various sports’ schedules from time to time since they’re surrounded by closer conference teams. It’s also part of why Cincinnati was one of the next 4 teams added.

And yeah, I get that it’s not as big a thing for football in some ways with fewer contests per season, but it also is the team that has the largest number of athletes and staff traveling, so it does matter in that respect. It’s easier to send a swim team or a basketball team somewhere, you just have to do it more often.

And as was mentioned, it sounds like UMass is joining the MAC in every sport they the MAC hosts.

Here is My mock Big Ten Football schedule for Thanksgiving weekend. Friday 11/29 Nebraska at Iowa 2:30PM,CBS Fresno State at UCLA 4:00PM,BTN Washington at Oregon 7:30PM,NBC/Peacock Saturday 11/30 Michigan at Ohio State Noon,CBS Illinois at Northwestern Noon,FS1 Purdue at Indiana Noon,BTN Maryland at Penn State 3:30PM,FS1 Rutgers at Michigan State 3:30PM,BTN Notre Dame at USC 4:00PM,FOX Minnesota at Wisconsin 4:00PM,Peacock Outside of Big Ten West Virginia at Texas Tech will be shown on FOX Big Noon Saturday & CBS will show Mountain West game at 3:30PM & keep in mine Mountain West will have it’s 2024 Football schedule be release very soon.

Actually this is a dream schedule more than a mock schedule & please excuse me on this god bless & have a safe & happy day.

My dream is Nevada at UNLV on CBS at 3:30PM 11/30 & should My dream come true for Michigan & Ohio State to be televise on CBS continue it’s Noon Traditonal kickoff.

The MVFC would be reduced to 10 schools with YSU’s departure.

As 6 of the remaining schools are MVC full-time, the MVFC can actually merge with the MVC as 6 schools is the minimum a conference needs to sponsor a specific sport.

MVC football can adopt the same schedule format that the Sun Belt Conference used from 2018-2021, with the Dakota schools (which would be associate members of the MVC) and Northern Iowa forming the North Division, and the remaining schools forming the South Division. Missouri State-Northern Iowa would be the only protected crossover.

Remember Z-Man There was a Packer that is true southerner Brett Favre & he put three things ahead of Pack Faith,Family & his hometown Kiln,Mississippi.Unfortunatley Aaron Rodgers was to darn selfish of a player & cost Packers from becoming a dynasty.

You guys and your crazy scenarios. Cleveland State and Robert Morris offer nothing to the MAC. Any realignment going forwarded is all football related. If you don’t play football, you don’t get into the MAC. It’s al football conference that plays other sports.

Connecticut would join if the MAC allowed them to be football only, BUT agreed at play three MAC schools per year in basketball with one game of the three at the MAC arena. I’m sure Danny Hurley wouldn’t want that, but it might be the only way to save the football program. UConn has tired to get into the ACC and the Big 12 and for now, they remain unwanted.

I like the move for UMass. They were willing to save football by joining in all sports, but they are leaving a much better basketball conference, but the $$$ is in football, so it’s a compromise that they felt they had to make.

More about that here

As for returning to FCS—-not gonna happen. Too much egg on face, too much ego involved; they’d drop football before they’d go back to FCS. My column addresses this.

If UConn football can’t find a conference, I could see them dropping to FCS because they can win MBBall natties in the Big East. UMass was never going to do that in the A10.

As a Buffalo native, I like the idea of Buffalo playing Massachusetts in a conference game. That could develop into a fun, little rivalry.

Would love to see Western Kentucky come in, too. The Battle of Bowling Green would also be fun!

John your commentary is fantastic & excellent news you have somebody that is A Bills fan one of my top five NFL Teams that I like along with my Hometown Bears,Eagles,Colts & 49ers & Dan is A Fan of Bills-Dolphins rivalry & I enjoy it today just as much days of Jim Kelly & Dan Marino best Quarterback rivalry ever & really like to see Bills & Dolphins play on NBC Sunday Night Football when 2024 NFL schedule is released.