Bar the door and pass the handwarmers; UMass to the MAC is official. This momentous occasion is being celebrated with a splash page too girthy for any reasonable person's computer monitor and a plucky graphic announcing the Minutemen and the Mid-American are one. Together, they make fourteen, in point of fact, but it's a day of celebration, so let's not argue semantics! All confirmed facts via the university's official release:
• UMass is leaving the CAA and joining up with the MAC, which also involves a jump from NCAA Division I-AA to I-A. You will hear a lot about FCS-to-FBS; just continue to ignore that as you always have.
• Regarding the timing: "UMass will play a full FBS and MAC schedule beginning with the 2012 football season and by 2013 be eligible for the MAC championship and bowl participation. In 2011, UMass will continue to participate in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) but will not be eligible NCAA postseason play."
• UMass' "expansive alumni base" gets a shoutout, and it had better, because here's the kicker feared by many: All home games will be played at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro (that Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots), a good 95 miles from the Umass campus. Quite a haul for all the weeknight games they'll be playing.
• Here's one tidbit to puzzle over: The last section of the press release, announcing that "UMass will continue to maintain its current conference affiliations for its other 20 athletic programs," would seem to indicate the university has no intention of becoming basketball members of the MAC. This kind of arrangement takes place up and down the East Coast, but curious that they felt the need to point that out.
For more MAC expansion news, visit SB Nation's Hustle Belt.