Posted by Jerry Hinnen
FBS football is about to get another new member, one that should make the already-competitive MAC that much more challenging.
The Midwestern league is set to announce that they will be inviting FCS power UMass to join as a football-only member, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. The MAC Twitter feed has already confirmed that a press conference has been scheduled tomorrow featuring both conference and UMass officials; it's all but official.
Per the Plain Dealer, the Minutemen will play a full conference schedule as soon as 2012 but won't be eligible for the league championship until 2013. UMass is the second football-only member that plays its other sports in the Atlantic 10, joining Temple, and brings the MAC's total football membership up to 14.
The addition of the Minutemen will allow the conference to return to two even seven-team divisions after an awkward set up the past few years with seven teams in the East and six in the West. (The league will likely move area rivals Bowling Green and Toledo into the same division to accommodate the addition.) But more importantly, the move gives the MAC a member with a strong history of terrific football at the FCS level.
UMass won the national championship in 1998 (then I-AA) and finished as a runner-up in 1978 and 2006, pulling in their most recent conference championship in 2007. The Minutemen provide a few "big-time football" advantages to the MAC, including the use of the New England Patriot's Gillette Stadium for certain home games. As far as the Minutemen are concerned, the move to FBS opens the door to plenty of new opportunities - bowl games, exposure, money - and should come as welcome new to the UMass faithful.