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What About UMass?

So you remember how the Big East was actively looking to get a new member of the conference so that the football schedule would be an even four-and-four for home and away game? We reached out to Army and Navy who politely declined. We discussed current 1-A teams like East Carolina and 1-AA programs such as Villanova. Nothing seems to have stuck.

Perhaps its still the after-effects from the 107-100 loss to the Minutemen talking, but...what about UMass?

Ron Chimelis at The Republican writes about a topic very much on the mind of folks in Amhearst at the moment...
their athletics programs are all, like, really good:
  • Their win over the Orange is what's newsworthy but the basketball program hasn't exactly been a slouch lately. Last year, UMass captured a share of the Atlantic 10 Regular-Season Championship with a 24-9 record. They made it to the 2nd round of the NIT, defeating Alabama 89-87 in the first round.
  • In football, the Minutemen have returned to the 1-AA playoffs this year with a 9-2 record. Last season, they reached the championship game where they lost to Appalachian State.
  • The men's hockey team is coming off a season in which they reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
  • Men's lacrosse has been highly-competitive in recent years, reaching the NCAA tournament quarterfinals in 2005 and the finals in 2006 after defeating Maryland in the Final Four.
  • The women's field hockey team recently won the Atlantic 10 Conference championship.
I think you get the point. Their athletics programs currently make Syracuse's look like Prarie View A&M. But besides their on-the-field prowess, there's other reasons that make UMass a decent choice for inclusion. A chance for the conference to get back into Boston territory would be huge. Sure, Amhearst isn't exactly down the street but it'll give the conference a much-needed presence in the area.

While the last thing we want is to make the basketball conference more bloated, at least it would be a decent program with something in their history to point to (the '96 Final Four) as past success. The lacrosse program would be a great addition to the Big East conference idea that Syracuse may or may not become a part of. Also, UMass and UConn is a natural rivalry waiting to happen.

Of course, "promoting" Villanova probably makes the most sense because of the basketball situation but let's face it, conferences do things to help football first, everything else second. We've seen how quickly a team can make the transition from Division 1-AA to being a 1-A contender (UConn) so that's not too much of a concern. Definitely something to chew on, especially as UMass' athletics programs keep winning.