UMass Amherst football has its first “home” game as a Division I team tomorrow at Gillette stadium in Foxboro, almost two hours from the flagship campus. They faced the Indiana Hoosiers, a Big Ten team, and were defeated Saturday, 45-6.
The irony of playing “home” games on the other side of the state isn’t lost on anyone in the university’s administration. But Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy regards the move as a major boost to the UMass football program.
“We have so many alumni on the East Coast, in the Greater Boston area, that I think this make it exciting. It also allows us to schedule non-conference games of very prominent teams.”
Subbaswamy says the University will provide bus service between Amherst and Foxboro. UMass Athletic Director John McCutcheon says there have been discussions to move to Division I for over twenty years. He says reaching a deal to play in Foxboro, and being accepted into the Mid-Atlantic Conference, finalized the move. He says playing in Foxboro allows UMass time to update McGuirk Stadium in Amherst, which will be completed by mid-2014.
“That was a major misconception when this whole transition started, that we were gone and never coming back to western Mass., but that really just isn’t the case.”
Starting in 2014, UMass will play one or two games a year in Amherst, McCutcheon says. For fan Kirk Pazzani, the prospect of playing at Gillette is exciting, but the commute is not.
“It’s a positive, the drive sucks, that’s all. You just deal with it.”
Despite the trip, Pazzani says he still plans to attend two “home” games this year. But the biggest challenge for the Minutemen may not be playing in a big stadium, but their new competition. Last week, the team lost to UConn 37-0. This week, they face the Indiana Hoosiers, a Big Ten team.