Make no mistake, this weekend UMass will be playing its most important home game since they became an FBS program. It’s the Battle for the Bay State, and this time Boston College was willing to make the trip to Amherst. Not Chestnut Hill. Not Gillette Stadium. But McGuirk Alumni Stadium on UMass’ campus.
It may not sound crazy, but this was incredibly important to UMass. Boston College likes to big-time UMass, who certainly needs these types of local intrigue games to help build up a fanbase. The Eagles don’t need the game, but the Minutemen do. That’s just the reality, and even when they are willing to play UMass, they’ve never been willing to do it on campus. This keeps alumni off-campus for these key games and it keeps students from going to games.
This was going to be different, though. This time, they’ll play on campus, and as anyone who pays attention to UMass hockey knows, the crowds are much more intense when Boston College comes to town. Students might show up to this game in a way they haven’t since the FCS days, before the football culture was killed on campus by playing home games at Gillette for the first few seasons of FBS football while McGuirk was being updated.
This game, which undoubtedly UMass will be blown out in, promised some hope for the program. It promised some hope for what the fanbase for football could be. This could help to rebuild the football culture on campus as being more than an excuse to party in a parking lot on Saturday morning before skipping the game for a nap.
The administration at UMass wasn’t interested in that, though.
Despite the success across the country in week one, with full stadiums, tailgates, and traditions on full display, UMass decided that they were going to ban the student tailgate before the Boston College game. Health and safety during the pandemic were cited as a concern. Never mind that every student at the University of Massachusetts needs to be vaccinated. Never mind the tailgate was outside. Never mind the hypocrisy of stuffing hundreds of students in indoor lecture halls, some of which have more students than seats. The fun event for students was what went too far. The school never even consulted the student government about the decision.
Maybe students should just buy parking passes and tailgate with the alumni. They didn’t have their tailgate, equally outdoors during the same pandemic, but without the vaccination requirement, canceled by the school. Curious, isn’t it?
Of course, it’s no surprise that UMass wants to limit tailgates. The administration hates the aesthetic. Students openly drinking and partying. It looks too much like the old “Zoomass” of the 1980s. That’s why they banned bringing speakers to tailgates a few years back, after all. It’s why they moved the tailgates to a parking lot away from the street and behind the stadium. They want it hidden. As the UMass administration desperately pretends to be Cal, it’s failing to even be New Hampshire.
The worst part is that this won’t even come close to stop partying amongst students. It will just drive the partying indoors, and keep students away from the game. In a world where some students might have made the move from the parking lot to the stadium, no one is going to walk a mile or more from their party to the stadium.
All of this comes as rumors swirl about how the athletic department is being cultural poison and a horrendous working environment. This has led to several resignations, firings, and reshufflings internally.
One, now former, employee, posted this to Facebook and Twitter:
For those who don’t want to read that entire story, Matthew Komer is a UMass graduate who has worked in the athletics department for about three decades. Komer blasted the UMass administration for being all talk and no action, while also having no direction forward. He then accuses them of fabricating performance reviews, accuses them of cutting corners for athletes academically (like every other school in all fairness), and that his superiors lied during hearings. He’s done with the athletics until the current administration is shown the door, and it’s clear from alumni reaction to recent news that many of them are done too.
All of this comes in the face of multiple statue unveilings to the likes of John Calipari and the UMass Hall of Fame Induction for players like Marcus Camby Julius Erving. Well, it wouldn’t be on brand unless it was embarrassing for all programs. This, in all of its glory, is embarrassing and it’s only going to hurt all of the school’s sports programs going forward.
The worst part is that the athletics departments didn’t fight back. Ryan Bamford, the current athletic director, simply rolled over. It makes you wonder how much more leeway Bamford should have. He made a brilliant hire at hockey coach, which led to a National Championship, but every other major sport is in the tank. How long can UMass just accept failure from the athletics administration?
So, who cares if McGuirk is empty and Boston College never comes back? Who cares if the Eagles score 100? As long as you refuse to invest in your own programs, why should anyone else?