UMass joins MAC

Massachusetts officially joined the MAC as a football-only member Wednesday, giving the league 14 teams.

UMass will move up to FBS and begin conference play in 2012. The team becomes eligible for the conference championship game and a bowl game beginning in 2013. The Minutemen will play their home games at Gillette Stadium, home to the New England Patriots.

“The University of Massachusetts will add to the academic stature of the Mid-American Conference and bring a strong tradition and depth to our conference,” MAC commissioner Jon A. Steinbrecher said in a statement. “The UMass football program will add quality to our conference’s football programs and balance our divisions. In addition, this addition allows our conference to expand our footprint into New England and into the Boston and Hartford/Springfield markets.”

Over the past 13 years, UMass has won five conference champions and participated in five NCAA tournaments, winning the 1998 national championship.

UMass athletic director John McCutcheon said in a statement, "We feel the time is right for this landmark decision. ... Playing in the FBS is where UMass should be positioned as the flagship campus of the state system. The opportunities to play on a national level and what that means for exposure and visibility will be a tremendous asset not only for athletics, but for the entire university."

I will have more on this after a conference call this afternoon with MAC and UMass officials. A few questions come to mind -- how will UMass financially support the move up to FBS and what are realistic expectations for playing in an NFL stadium that is two hours from campus?