Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Jack Cosgrove on timing of UMass, UConn jumping to FBS
I have to admit it. When it comes to major college football in 2018, I really have no answers for anything.
After all, the University of Massachusetts team ended a three-game losing streak on Saturday with a decisive 49-31 win over Charlotte, in a game that was not as close as the final score indicated. That's the same Charlotte team that eked out a 28-25 home win over Old Dominion on Sept. 13.
And that's the same Old Dominion team that took out 13th-ranked Virginia Tech.
The UMass win might just cool off the heat in Amherst for a little while.
A lot of that heat came from a percentage of folks, many of whom talk to me about it regularly, who believe that the move to Division I-FBS has been an abject failure for UMass, and the program should be scaled back or should be dropped.
So I asked Colby football coach Jack Cosgrove about it. Cosgrove had a front-porch view of the move. He was the coach at the University of Maine, when the then-CAA rival Minutemen made the move up. He was also the coach at Maine when UConn left the old Atlantic-10 Conference for the Big East and the FBS level of football.
"We have a long history at Maine with UMass. When I played UMass in the '70s, we were lucky to score a touchdown, they were so dominant back then," Cosgrove said to me last week, before Colby came to Williamstown and lost 36-14 to Williams.
"Over the years, I always felt the Maine program caught up to the UMass program, especially in the years after Donnie Brown left," said Cosgrove. "We had some real battles with Donnie's teams, in '05, '06, '07 and '08, we had some donnybrooks with them.
"We had a great win down [in Amherst] in 2008 that got us into the playoffs."
Maybe that was when UMass should have made the jump.
"It felt like after that, they kind of became just another program in the league," said Cosgrove. "They weren't the majestic bosses of the league that they had been."
Three years after Brown left UMass, the Minutemen were a combined 16-17, which is not a good jumping off place for any team trying to make the move up from the FCS level. In fact, UMass' last FCS season had the Minutemen finishing up with a 5-6 record.
Maine, as a matter of fact, knocked off UMass 24-13 in the Minutemen's second season as an FBS school. That game was played at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
"I would have said the same thing about UConn," said Cosgrove when I asked him about the difference between an Appalachian State team moving up and a UMass team moving up.
"They weren't ready," said Cosgrove of the Minutemen.
Appalachian State had won seven conference titles in 10 years before making the jump. Then Appalachian State won three straight bowls in its first three FBS seasons.
Neither UMass nor UConn were at that level when they jumped up.
"I thought UConn had less of a right to make the jump than UMass, but UConn's made the jump," Cosgrove said. "The basketball has certainly helped. During my time coaching in the A-10 at the time, UMass was a far superior program than Connecticut. Connecticut made the jump in 1999 and that was when UMass was winning the national championship.
"Probably, the shoe should have been on UMass' foot."
Cosgrove said that after two disastrous seasons with Charley Molnar, the right coach is there now.
"I think Mark's the guy that should have been the guy way back when they made the decision," Cosgrove said to me. "I have great respect for Mark Whipple. We had some great games when they won the national championship back in 1998 and some battles we had then. They had some great players there, and we were very good too. We had some unbelievable games."
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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