UMass football lands Missouri game with aggressive scheduling

  • The McGuirk Stadium enhancements (turf field, videoboard, south hospitality plaza, restrooms and ADA upgrades) will be complete by the start of the 2019 season. The bubble over the new turf practice field will be installed in November 2019 ARTIST RENDERINGS COURTESY UMASS

  • The McGuirk Stadium enhancements (turf field, videoboard, south hospitality plaza, restrooms and ADA upgrades) will be complete by the start of the 2019 season. The bubble over the new turf practice field will be installed in November 2019 ARTIST RENDERINGS COURTESY UMASS

  • The McGuirk Stadium enhancements (turf field, videoboard, south hospitality plaza, restrooms and ADA upgrades) will be completed by the start of the 2019 season. The bubble over the new turf practice field, below, will be installed in November. The improvements should help UMass attract Power Five schools. ARTIST RENDERINGS COURTESY UMASS

  • The McGuirk Stadium enhancements (turf field, videoboard, south hospitality plaza, restrooms and ADA upgrades) will be complete by the start of the 2019 season. The bubble over the new turf practice field will be installed in November 2019 ARTIST RENDERINGS COURTESY UMASS

  • RYAN BAMFORD

Staff Writer
Published: 4/22/2019 7:43:51 PM

AMHERST — It was an otherwise rather uneventful Thursday in January when UMass released a slew of new football games for future schedules.

It was the healthy mix of Power Five and Group of Five teams that could be expected given UMass’ unique perch in FBS as an independent needing to schedule 12 games each season. But there was one game that stuck out for fans and signaled a major coup for the school and athletic director Ryan Bamford. On Oct. 12, 2024, Missouri out of the mighty SEC was scheduled to play a game at McGuirk Alumni Stadium.

UMass had hosted Power Five teams before, but all of those home games were played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, roughly 90 miles away from the Amherst campus. This time, one of the big schools signed up to play in Amherst.

“No matter what market you’re in, it’s always supply and demand,” Bamford said in an interview last month. “We knew that we had a lot of supply because we’re an independent, and we knew Missouri didn’t want to pay a big payday for somebody to go there. If we’re going to play an SEC opponent, we’re not going to go (on the road) for less than $1.5 million at least. They weren’t going to pay that and they weren’t going to play in basketball, so I just threw out ‘You guys need a game badly, I know you do, and you need it in both years, let’s do a home-and-home.’”

Missouri had some initial pushback, especially when it came to the venue at UMass. However, Bamford said they were fortunate an old UMass employee now works at Missouri and was able to vouch for the environment in Amherst. Bamford also detailed the improvement plans for McGuirk Alumni Stadium and what he hopes the stadium will look like when the Tigers actually come to Amherst in five years.

“They wanted to play at Gillette, but I said ‘We love Gillette, we love our relationship with the Patriots, but if we’re going to make this thing go, we need to play it on campus,’” Bamford said. “That’s been our goal is to play these games on campus. It’s why we moved the UConn games back to campus, it’s why we moved BYU here.”

Bamford said he expects more deals like this one to emerge in the coming years as the money in college football continues to separate FBS into distinct tiers. He said the upper echelon of the Power Five is starting to separate from the rest of its peers, which may open the door for UMass to sign similar contracts with other major programs in the coming years.

“You’re starting to see as the economics of college football change, Missouri isn’t like Auburn or Alabama or Florida or Georgia where they’re filling, 90, 95, 100 thousand seats, they can’t afford to make that same commitment to guarantee,” Bamford said. “So they either have to do two-for-ones or home-and-homes, so we kind of held out for that and took advantage of that for the betterment of our program. … We’ve talked to some others about home-and-homes, I think it’ll be more than just Missouri, I don’t think that’s the last time you’ll see a Power Five coming to Amherst.”

Another tactic Bamford has used in filling out UMass’ football schedule is offering a home-and-home series in basketball to help lower the price point the Minutemen would request for one road football game. There are four examples already of a school signing on to play both sports against the Minutemen in a contract, including Penn State, which will begin the basketball series in 2021 in Amherst and will host the football team in 2023. UMass has completed its basketball series with Georgia last season and will finish its set with South Carolina this coming fall while also starting the home-and-home with Rutgers on the court.

Bamford said one of the earliest complaints he heard when he was hired centered around the weak basketball schedule, and he thought it was a good idea to combine the package to help both sports schedule the best competition possible.

“My first year, one of the things I heard from the fans was our basketball schedule stinks, why are we playing X, Y, Z and why aren’t we playing the Power Fives,” Bamford said. “It’s just not that easy, especially now with the NET rankings and everything else associated with tournament inclusion, a lot of schools just aren’t going to do that. Every time we talk with a Power Five, I always ask ‘Would you guys come and play us in basketball?’ You don’t want to take so many of them and you want to make sure you have them in the right years, but that’s something that Matt (McCall) and Derek Kellogg before him, they subscribed to that, they liked that. It allows us to get a good home game, and it’s a good road game for us from a NET standpoint.”

McGUIRK UPGRADES — UMass announced in February the first part of the school’s plan to upgrade the fan experience at McGuirk Alumni Stadium by the start of the 2019 season. The school is installing a new 48-foot-wide video board at the south end of the field and add an auxiliary video board on the far-right corner of the Martin Jacobsen Football Performance Center. UMass is also adding bathrooms to both the east and west sides of the stadium and a new fan hospitality area behind the south end zone that will include upgraded food and beverage options.




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2019 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy