A moving MAC moment: UMass formally introduced as 13th member of the Mid-American Conference

From left, UMass football head coach Don Brown, Chancellor Javier Reyes, MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford and men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference.

From left, UMass football head coach Don Brown, Chancellor Javier Reyes, MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford and men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford, center, speaks along with MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, right, and Chancellor Javier Reyes during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference.

Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford, center, speaks along with MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, right, and Chancellor Javier Reyes during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

UMass football head coach Don Brown speaks during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference.

UMass football head coach Don Brown speaks during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Chancellor Javier Reyes, from left, Director of Athletlics Ryan Bamford and MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher speak during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference.

Chancellor Javier Reyes, from left, Director of Athletlics Ryan Bamford and MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher speak during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Chancellor Javier Reyes, from left, Director of Athletlics Ryan Bamford and MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher speak during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference.

Chancellor Javier Reyes, from left, Director of Athletlics Ryan Bamford and MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher speak during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

From left, UMass football head coach Don Brown, Chancellor Javier Reyes, MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford and men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference.

From left, UMass football head coach Don Brown, Chancellor Javier Reyes, MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford and men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference. STAFF PHOTOs/DAN LITTLE

UMass football head coach Don Brown, from left, Chancellor Javier Reyes, MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, Athletics Director Ryan Bamford and men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin hold the conference’s pirate flag, part of a new tradition begun in 2018. The flag is meant to be flown at home after MAC teams pull off huge wins like beating a Power 5 team or winning a bowl game.

UMass football head coach Don Brown, from left, Chancellor Javier Reyes, MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, Athletics Director Ryan Bamford and men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin hold the conference’s pirate flag, part of a new tradition begun in 2018. The flag is meant to be flown at home after MAC teams pull off huge wins like beating a Power 5 team or winning a bowl game. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Chancellor Javier Reyes during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference.

Chancellor Javier Reyes during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

UMass Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford speaks during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference.

UMass Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford speaks during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, right, speaks along with Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford and Chancellor Javier Reyes during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference.

MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher, right, speaks along with Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford and Chancellor Javier Reyes during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

UMass men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin speaks during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference.

UMass men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin speaks during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Thursday regarding the University of Massachusetts joining the Mid-American Conference. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 03-07-2024 5:54 PM

Modified: 03-08-2024 9:27 AM


AMHERST — After more than a week since the news first broke, University of Massachusetts athletic department officials held a press conference Thursday morning to celebrate their joining the Mid-American Conference.

UMass Chancellor Javier Reyes, director of athletics Ryan Bamford and MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher addressed a packed crowd at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center with opening statements — each building off each other expressing their excitement for what’s to come — to kick off the day.

“It’s an exciting day for this university, and it’s an exciting day for the MAC,” Reyes said. “This is the outcome of the hard work that has happened over the years.”

Turning to Bamford, Reyes said, “Ryan, thank you for all of the work you have put into this university — it doesn’t go unnoticed how you have transformed our athletic programs across the board. It is a day of change, it is a day of going into the next chapter of our athletic programs.

“Of course, joining the MAC provides a home for our football team, but it continues our investments in all of our athletic programs,” Reyes said. “We know this brings stability to our programs across the board.”

UMass will complete the rest of this academic year competing in the Atlantic 10 conference as well as the next before joining the MAC as its 13th full member starting in the fall of 2025.

Before Bamford dove into his feelings about the move to the MAC, he made sure to acknowledge the Atlantic 10 — a conference UMass was a founding member of all the way back in 1976. The A-10 was a springboard for Massachusetts athletics and without the conference, Bamford said, UMass certainly wouldn’t be in the position it is today.

“I want to start by really recognizing and showing our gratitude for the Atlantic 10 Conference, a conference that we were a founding member of back in the ’70s, a conference that has been a wonderful home for us for 48 years,” he said.

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“I can tell you, in the nine years that I’ve been in the league, our athletic programs have thrived. … It’s really pushed us to meet the challenge of being great.”

According to Bamford and Steinbrecher, conversations between the two sides began in late September and ramped up throughout the fall with weekly check-ins. After several meetings throughout February and one final meeting where MAC’s council of presidents voted to formally invite the school to join the conference, UMass accepted the offer, becoming the first new full member of the MAC since 1998.

“On behalf of the student-athletes, of the faculty, the coaches, the administrators and the council of presidents of the Mid-American Conference, I am pleased to welcome Massachusetts into our membership,” Steinbrecher said.

“Given that this is the first invitation that we have provided since the late 1990s, it should be evident that we don’t open our door to just anyone. The opportunity to add Massachusetts was simply too great to pass up. It is rare to be able to add a flagship university that is among the finest institutions in the country, along with an athletics program that is broad in its sport offerings and deep in tradition,” he said.

“The addition of Massachusetts offered the unique chance to stretch our geography in a sensible manner … allowing the conference to maintain the tightest geographic footprint among FBS conferences while establishing a presence in the Northeast.”

While football was the driving force behind this decision, Bamford said the move has the potential to grow athletics programs at UMass. He noted that football is the driving factor of college athletics, and with a successful program on the gridiron, “everyone else follows.”

The Minutemen and Minutewomen programs aren’t feeling any sort of complacency. Bamford said the new conference offers the opportunity to push forward and strive for greater heights.

“It’s time for us to meet the moment, and to do so with unapologetic ambition,” Bamford said. “I referenced in our email last week to all of our supporters that we were gonna go into the MAC with the respectful intent to be the standard of excellence in academics and athletics. And I believe that the future is extremely bright because of this relationship, because of the commitment to excellence that we’ve had.”

Seizing this opportunity will be a team effort, the athletic director said.

“The impression that I get from everyone associated with this university is that we’re not just going go in and think that it’s time to relax or rest or be content, but it’s time to accelerate. It’s time to do more, it’s time to be better, and it’s time to be great,” Bamford said. “That’s what has me excited about what is ahead for our athletics program.”

UMass men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin and head football coach Don Brown also took time to answer questions and speak to the UMass supporters in attendance.

All told, it was a day the University of Massachusetts had been waiting for, and for quite some time. Its football program — and the rest of the athletics teams with it — have found their new home.

“This is a really special day for our athletics program,” Bamford said. “It’s as much about what we’ve done in our past as it is where we’re going in our future.”