Clearly, the UMass Minuteman cannot wait to partake in some MACtion. And really, who can blame him? (AP)
You didn't ask, but we answered:
• What's all this, then? On July 1, a crop of the realignment changes we've been so resistant to took effect. Among the movers was UMass, which joins the MAC as a transitional member, replacing Temple.
• So we still have a 13-team conference? We do! The MAC prefers to think of itself as "prime."
• What do we, as MAC fans and/or schedulers of profiterole paycheck games, need to know about UMass before we see it on the opposite sideline this fall? First and foremost, that UMass' nickname is the Minutemen, and that they'll be playing their home games at Patriots memorabilia-encrusted Gillette Stadium. So, let that Revolutionary War smack talk fly. "More like Jamarion Smith! He slipped through that defensive line like the Swamp Fox, Gary! Back to you in the studio."
• Any purple prose on offer from the University regarding its mascot? Glad you asked! "Massachusetts Minutemen is a word combination with eye and ear appeal. The combination lodges quickly in the mind and falls easily from the lips."
• Any famous alums we should know about? You mean besides the SI Vault?
• Wait, so the deal with UMass being "transitional" is ... ? Exactly that. Via the NCAA: "Massachusetts will move its football program from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision beginning with the 2012 football season. The Minutemen will become a football member of the Mid-American Conference. [...] In 2013, the team will be eligible for the MAC championship and bowl participation." And via UMass: "The NCAA would make a formal announcement of UMass' admission to FBS in the Summer of 2013 after the program successfully meets the specified measures over its two transitioning years. The primary criteria center around average attendance, an increase in scholarships from 63 to 85 and specific scheduling requirements."
• Is it not super unfair to let UMass into the MAC without letting it compete for a conference title? Well first of all, it's got to prove to the NCAA that it's worthy of inclusion, as outlined above. And second, as we said in our spring primer, the Minutemen might be lucky to win a game in 2012, so it's more than likely postseason play won't even be an issue.
• So this won't be pretty. It will not. They're also operating under a new coaching staff, headed up by former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Charley Molnar.
• But if that first win involves them beating Indiana, will you buy an expensive UMass sweatshirt as penance for your hateration? Absolutely will.
• Any other programs getting in on this netherworld action?
Three other schools will play their final "transitional" seasons in 2012: South Alabama, Texas State and UTSA, all with the intent of becoming full FBS members in 2013. More on them later this week.