Howard Herman: Thoughts on UMass and other local schools

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Things I was thinking about while waiting for the bagel to toast.

Ryan Banford is the athletic director at the University of Massachusetts. His job might as well be filled by Rod Serling, because the Minutemen remain in the football Twilight Zone.

UMass' best shot to leave its current independent status may have been dashed on the rocks of championship games by the NCAA and by the Big 12 Conference.

The NCAA's convention in San Antonio, Texas, last week included a proposition that the Big 12 be allowed to hold a football championship game without expanding.

Every Division I-FBS conference, from the ACC to the SEC to the AAC, has a 12-team league with a championship game. The Big 12 has 10 teams and hadn't been allowed to have a title game.

But the convention approved a plan where D-I leagues with fewer than 12 teams would be allowed to play a title game if same league has a full round-robin schedule. That's what the Big 12 does.

"This vote does not automatically mean the Big 12 will implement a football championship game," said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby in a written statement.

Boiling things down to the basics — UMass isn't going anywhere now.

Had the NCAA decided that the Big 12 needed a dozen teams to have a potential football playoff game, you can bet your bottom dollar the American Athletic Conference would have had at least one team poached. Whether it was Cincinnati, Memphis, Temple or UConn, one or two of those schools would get Big 12 membership, and would create an opening in the AAC.

Were that to happen, UMass would likely say goodbye to the Atlantic 10 upon receiving an invitation. As good as the A-10 is for UMass' other sports programs, football independence in the long-term is untenable unless you're Notre Dame or Brigham Young. Football is the tail that wags the D-I FBS athletic dog.

So, the Twilight Zone is where we stay for a little while. How long is an unanswerable question.

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Former Williams College football coach Aaron Kelton Ianded on his feet last week.

Kelton was hired as the head coach of Division II Shorter University in Rome, Georgia.

"We're ready to get to Rome and get things going, do positive things for the program and get on a winning track," Kelton said in a statement.

Kelton was 23-25 in six seasons at Williams. He replaces Phil Jones, who retired after guiding Shorter from the NAIA to the NCAA. Shorter was 7-25 in its last three seasons.

And as far as the coaching search at Williams? The search is ongoing for another week, as the school has a Jan. 22 deadline for applications.

Athletic director Lisa Melendy and the search committee will have a good group of candidates to consider. I've been told the list of potential candidates runs from Division I assistants to Division III head coaches and even some with NFL experience.

It's a big hire, and we'll see how the process plays out.

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Former Berkshire School boys soccer standout Jack Harrison was the first player chosen in last week's MLS Super Draft, and then was promptly traded from Chicago to the New York City Football Club. That's the MLS team that calls Yankee Stadium home.

"He's a modern winger," NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said. "He can come inside, he can go on the line, he can score goals, and he's really good in the 1-v-1 situations. He's the type of modern winger than you like to have in the team.

"He's young, but I'm sure he will have a massive part to play in our squad. He's enthusiastic, he's full of energy, and this is what we want."

According to a release from the team, NYCFC tried to sign Harrison as a homegrown player, but MLS rejected the request.

Harrison, who calls England home, gives Berkshire a pretty nifty trifecta of pros. Kevan Miller is a defenseman for the Boston Bruins and Kacey Bellamy plays defense for the Boston Blades of the new women's pro league. That's a pretty good run for the Sheffield school.

Welcome to the trifecta Jack Harrison.

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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