The Daily Hampshire Gazette is reporting that UConn Football will play former Yankee Conference rival UMass on September 10, 2016. The report states that the game is part of a larger series which will include at least one future date at Rentschler Field.
UConn has faced UMass on the gridiron 72 times, with UMass holding the advantage, 36-34-2. The last time the two teams played was in 2012-- a 37-0 UConn rout.
After the 2015 season, UMass will no longer be a member of the MAC and currently has no set plan for afterwards. There are even rumors that they may move back down to the Football Championship Subdivision. They need this game more than we do, so hopefully there are advantageous terms for UConn.
After the news that Tennessee isn't happening in 2016 as planned, scheduling UMass and Holy Cross isn't the most exciting follow up news to receive. Here are our non-conference opponents through 2020, per FBSchedules.com:
Villanova, Army, at BYU
at UMass, Virginia
Holy Cross, at Virginia
at Boise State
Illinois, at Indiana
at Illinois, Indiana
There are a few positive angles to take on today's news. First, it will be an easy away game for students and alumni to attend as Gillette Stadium is 1.5 hours away from Storrs, ~40 minutes from Boston, and 3.5 hours from NYC. In the AAC, such opportunities are basically non-existent. The gameday experience has promising potential. With strong crowds from both sides and the cool autumn breeze of New England, the tailgating should be pretty fun.
Nobody is impressed with Massachusetts football, but old/new head coach Mark Whipple has two years to wipe off the stink from last years 1-11 campaign. The Minutemen can't possibly be as bad as they were last year, right? RIGHT?!?
Moreover, with the American Conference slate actually presenting a decent challenge, it doesn't hurt to have a lighter schedule to support operation #riseup in year 3 of the Bob Diaco Era. With solid teams from East Carolina, Cincinnati and UCF every year, there's enough challenge for our growing team to handle-- don't forget we were 3-9 last year. No matter how fluffy, an 8-4 season would represent the kind of positive momentum this program needs.
I'm all for playing the best teams possible, and there's still room on the schedule for more games in 2016, but most "power conference" schools are fully booked through the next few years. With Tennessee's late cancellation, we're probably filling these years out with an FCS opponent and/or mid-majors. I'd love to be wrong but that's how it looks.
No matter what, this will be easier to go to than the directional Michigan or Buffalo types that have been on the schedule. It would be good for the program's image to show that it can help fill an NFL stadium against a mid-major opponent. For this to happen though, we need to be able to draw some optimism from Bob Diaco's first two seasons.
How would you feel about a multi-year series with UMass? Any realistic suggestions to add to the schedule?