UMass will no longer be a football-only member of the MAC after the 2015 season. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Massachusetts will no longer be a football-only member of the MAC at the conclusion of the 2015 season, the conference revealed on Wednesday. The league exercised a contractual clause which offered UMass a choice: Become a full member or begin a two-year football-only provision after which the school will be free to join another conference. The clause was exercised on Feb. 17 during meetings with the MAC Council of Presidents. UMass declined full membership, putting the two-year time limit into effect.
This comes as a byproduct of Temple's decision to leave the MAC as a football member and join the Big East -- now the American Athletic Conference -- in 2012. When that happened, the MAC dropped down from a balanced 14 teams to an uneven 13, which made scheduling difficult.
"This has really been a multi-year effort at taking a look at what we want to do moving forward," MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher told SI.com. "You can call this an aftershock from the departure of Temple.
"Both Temple and UMass wanted deals which didn't have a sunset attached to them when we negotiated. They were not sustaining deals. We were willing to do so, but we also wanted some protection in case one of the football-only members left. We built in a clause that if one of the football-only members left, we could convert the contract to a term contract."
Discussions surrounding the Minutemen's future in the MAC began in October and continued into the Council of Presidents meetings in February.
"We got to the point where we decided we wanted people all-in, so we acted accordingly," Steinbrecher said. "We've had a great association with the University of Massachusetts and we look forward to the next two years with them. But it was time for us to move forward."
UMass, which agreed to join the MAC in 2011, began the NCAA's two-year transitional period and played its final season at the FCS level in '11. The Minutemen went 1-11 (1-7) in both '12 and '13. Steinbrecher said he believes UMass will make "a good member for whichever conference they end up in."
This move will bring the MAC to 12 members beginning in the 2016 season.
"I'm not going to hypothesize or speculate on what the future holds membership-wise," Steinbrecher said. "We like the 12 full members we have very much. We've been as stable a group as there's been. We'll look forward to building upon that."