UMass players celebrate

The Minutemen face Boston College today, but then not again until 2025.

It should be the biggest game on the New England football calendar. That it isn’t is a darn shame.

UMass is hosting Boston College in football this afternoon at McGuirk Alumni Stadium. Looking at this game, put aside the expected result and look at the bigger picture. These two teams should be playing every year.

Expand that to include Connecticut. The three Division I-FBS schools in New England should be on each other’s schedules every season.

When the Minutemen and the Eagles take the field, it’ll mark only the seventh time in the 21st Century that these two Massachusetts Division I schools have faced each other. The Minutemen are 0 for the 21st Century. In fact, the last time BC lost to UMass was in 1978, when the Minutemen scored a 27-0 win. That was a really good UMass team that lost to Florida A&M in the NCAA Division I-AA championship game.

There is likely to be the largest crowd in McGuirk in a long time, probably split 60-40 between UMass and BC fans.

“It’ll be a great day for our program,” UMass coach Walt Bell said in a story in The Eagle. “It’ll be a great day for the state of Massachusetts.”

Boston College coach Jeff Hafley, during a video conference with reporters, had similar sentiments.

“I think it’s great for the region,” he said. “Any chance we have to spread our brand across the region, we should.”

This year, there’s no doubt whose brand will be spread in a good way. Boston College received votes in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll, and the Eagles are the superior team on paper.

Which leads to a question: Why is Boston College coming to Amherst?

When the game was set up, it was originally going to be played at Gillette Stadium. UMass officials decided they wanted to play all of their games at the little old stadium off of North University Drive in Amherst.

So, during his conference, Hafley was asked about why the Eagles are flying west.

“They asked me for my opinion and said hey, would you mind playing UMass at UMass? I’ll play anybody wherever they want to play us,” he said. “Our team and myself, we don’t care where we play. That has very little to do with anything. We play at UMass, it’s just like any other game. We’ll go there and play them. I don’t see why they haven’t played there in the past.

“I don’t know why we wouldn’t play there.”

Which leads me to the next question: Why not play every year?

UMass isn’t on BC’s schedule now until the 2025 season. UConn, which hasn’t played Boston College since 2004, has a matchup with the Eagles in 2022 and 2023.

The three teams should meet annually. It would be good for Boston College, potentially expanding its brand beyond the 617.

For UMass and UConn, it’s an opportunity to try and raise the bar to be competitive with the ACC team. Both schools have a long, long way to go in order to catch up to BC on the football field. If they played every year, there is no doubt the margins would shrink.

And for an area where pro sports are kings and queens, having big time college football games would be an extra, added attraction to our fall sports calendars.

So UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford and UConn’s David Benedict, get BC’s Pat Kraft on the phone and get this set up.

It would be good for all involved.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6253.

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.