This past Saturday, UMass football was shut-out in its opening game against Wisconsin 45-0 on a trip to Madison. The Minutemen have their home opener this coming Saturday against Maine, and UMass officials will be eyeing more than just the final score.
Expectations aren’t too high for UMass after a 1-11 season last year. But it was a different statistic that caught the eye of the NCAA: 10,901. That was the average attendance at UMass home football games.
“You have to average 15,000 fans once in a 2-year cycle,” says John Sinnett, the university athletic department spokesperson, explaining a requirement of the NCAA for schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision, which UMass joined last year.
If the team fails to draw an average of 15,000 fans this season, it’ll be ineligible to go to a bowl next year, and begin ten years of probation. Sinnett blames last year’s poor attendance in part on the team’s temporary move to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
“People just weren’t used to it. Weren’t used to not coming out to Western Massachusetts to watch the team play. Maybe there were some people that just didn’t know about the transition and what it really meant,” Sinnett says.
Sinnett says the school is confident it’ll hit the attendance mark this season.