UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford has faith in coach Mark Whipple and the football program

  • UMass Head Coach Mark Whipple shouts in a play during his team’s loss to Boston College during the season at Gillette Stadium. AP

  • University of Massachusetts athletic director Ryan Bamford expressed confidence in UMass coach Mark Whipple and the football program on Saturday. GAZETTE STAFF/FILE

@MattVautourDHG
Published: 11/27/2016 4:12:49 PM

Despite a tough season, UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said he’s still confident that Mark Whipple is the coach who can make the football program successful.

Reached by phone on Saturday prior to UMass’ 46-40 season-ending loss at Hawaii, the athletic director expressed faith in his coach.

“Given the maturity of this program, I would take this season and build off it and Whip is absolutely the guy to do that for us,” Bamford said. “I think we acquitted ourselves well throughout the year. With a couple plays here and there, we might have had the opportunity to get a couple more wins.”

In three seasons Whipple has gone 9-27 since taking over for Charley Molnar prior to the 2014 season.

With four Power 5 opponents, including three on the road, Bamford said he expected it to be a potentially tough year even before the season started.

“Building the schedule I understood, and so did coach Whipple, that this was going to be a hard year for us,” Bamford said. “We’d try to make our way through and do the best job we could. I thought we did that this year. I’m proud of the way we hung in there.”

He thought despite the 2-10 record, UMass had made strides as a program.

“I hope we’d continue to make progress next year. I think independent of the wins and losses, I think we’ve continued to make progress,” Bamford said.  “I don’t know if a lot of people thought we would hang in against Florida or South Carolina or be in a shootout with Mississippi State. I think we learned a lot about ourselves that will help us down the line. I do think we’ve made progress.”

The Minutemen play a more manageable slate in 2017 with all six of their home games at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst.

They’ll play at Tennessee, Mississippi State and BYU, but the other games are all against either Group of 5 teams or FCS teams. UMass will also travel to Temple, South Florida and Coastal Carolina, while hosting Old Dominion, Ohio, Hawaii, Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Maine.

“I think it’s still a really good schedule. We don’t have as many Power Five schools. We do have Tennessee, Mississippi State and BYU again, but I think there’s a chance to make hay,” Bamford said. “At some point, and I’m hoping sooner rather than later, we’ll turn the corner and start to win some of these 50-50 games. We caught a year where Louisiana Tech, Old Dominion and Troy are among the top teams in their league. I don’t know if anybody thought that was going to be the case a year or two ago.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage


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