It is game week in Amherst, and it is the start of the home stretch for the University of Massachusetts football team.
While nobody knows what the results of games against Florida Atlantic and Liberty will be, one thing is for certain. There will be no games added in December.
“Yes,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said, when asked if the next two games would be the final two games of the season.
The Minutemen will travel to South Florida for a Friday night tilt against 4-1 Florida Atlantic. The Owls are coached by Willie Taggart, and are coming off a 38-19 win over Florida International last week.
UMass will then travel to Southern Virginia Thanksgiving week for a day-after-Thanksgiving game against Liberty. UMass will travel back and forth for both games.
“We’re going to come back Friday night from FAU and continue to test just like we’re doing this week. The protocols for us coming back have changed a little bit in that they’ve loosened some of what we’re able to do as long as we keep our travel party together,” Bamford said in an interview with The Eagle, “so we don’t have any outside contacts with any other folks.”
On the field, things may not look that good. The Minutemen are 0-2 and have lost twice by margins of 41 points. Two of the four teams on the schedule have been ranked in the Top 25, and all four faced the Minutemen with winning records.
But off the field, things have gone a little bit better.
“Our football revenues, and that includes not getting guarantees and not getting ticket sales money, our revenues are going to meet our expenses,” Bamford said. “We’re fine. This didn’t cost us any more money. For us to have four games where we get reps for, as you know, a really young football team, that’s four very important game dates for us.
“So, it’s well worth the minimal investment it took to get these games played.”
The Georgia Southern, Marshall and Florida Atlantic games were one-offs, with no return games scheduled. The Liberty game, which ends up being the only one of the 12 games on the original 2020 schedule to get played, now does not have to be made up in the future. It was the second game of a home-and-home. As independents, UMass and Liberty will continue to play home-and-home games through at least 2025.
“The other games were add-ons, so we were able to cover most of the costs,” Bamford said. “It’s not a boom financially, but our expenses will meet our revenues at the end of the year. I’m not worried about that one bit.”
Looking ahead, according to the FBSschedules.com website, UMass has a full 12-game schedule set for 2021 and 2022. The UMass schedule in 2021 does not appear to be an easy one, as the Minutemen will play three ACC teams. Pittsburgh and Florida State will be on the road, while Boston College will be “at home” at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
”We’ve protected ourselves where now, by the time we probably sit in 2021 in January, we will have ‘21 through ‘26 completely built,” Bamford said. “Obviously, that’s a good thing for us as an independent.”
As to the future?
”I think in ‘27 and ‘28, we’re going to leave it a little more flexible right now, because I want to see the maturation of the program under Walt [Bell],” Bamford said. “I want to see where we want to take it. I kind of knew what our philosophy needed to be for at least the next five years.
”We’ve certainly seen an interest of scheduling home-and-homes in the future, even potentially with Power 5 institutions, so we might take advantage of some of those. All in all, we’ve been fortunate to get four games, but it gives me great hope to what we can do in the future.”