UMass FB: A Season Like No Other

Mark Blaudschun

If there is anything that describes the 2020 college football season, it has to be what can best be called the hybrid campaign of the University of Massachusetts.

Officially, Coach Walt Bell's Minutemen are 0-1 and are not scheduled to play again until Nov. 7, when they travel to West Virginia to face Marshall. 

After that, it will be another three weeks before they are scheduled to play at Liberty on November 27th.

That could change-at any moment. 

Have game, will travel has become the UMass motto of this COVID-19 plagued season in which games and seasons have been cancelled, postponed, and revived.

Put UMass, one of only a scattering of FBS independents, in the "All of the Above'' category.

Bell came to Amherst two years ago from an assistant's role at Florida State given the task of reviving a program that quite frankly has been on life support the past few seasons.

The program is a money loser and its long term future is tentative at best.

Unless you’re a national based program such as Notre Dame, BYU or Army, life as an independent is basically a no win situation, literally as much as figuratively, in some cases.

Ask New Mexico State and UConn, a pair of independents who cancelled their fall seasons several weeks ago.

UMass followed that path and then changed its mind and has tried to put together a "we will play anywhere, anyone, any time scheduling philosophy.”

The problem was that the inventory was scarce and UMass, which has been in a rebuilding mode since moving to the FBS level nearly a decade ago, has very little equity.

Under the best of circumstances, it would be a difficult situation. UMass, starting nine true freshen a year ago, was coming of a 1-11 season, in which they ranked last in total defense, allowing a staggering 52.7 points per game.

Then COVID-19 arrived and UMass, like colleges everywhere, had to scramble to put together a plan in which football was even an option.

At first it wasn't, and then it was. "The players want to play,'' said Bell, who was part of a group of administrators who basically rejected the idea of playing a fall season next spring. 

That is more difficult than it seems on many counts.  

The players are going to virtual classes in what is basically an empty campus,  preparing for games which may or may not be held.

The Minutemen's season debut was a 39-0 loss at Georgia Southern on Saturday.  

There will be no home games this season and Marshall and Liberty are the only opponents thus far, which might be the season, although a road game at Army remains a possibility.

"It's a little bit unique,'' said Bell describing the UMass situation in a conference call this week. "But we're able to do whatever we have to do do.''

The Minutemen can't do much and one wonders about what kind of an "experience'' this season really is, where merely scoring a point this season might be regarded as an accomplishment.




Mark Blaudschun