UMass confirms sports programs moving to the Mid-American Conference as it becomes 13th member

University of Massachusetts  Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford introduces Don Brown as the new head coach of the football program during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Dec. 1, 2021.

University of Massachusetts Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford introduces Don Brown as the new head coach of the football program during a press conference at the Martin Jacobson Football Performance Center on Dec. 1, 2021. STAFF FILE PHOTO

By GARRETT COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 03-10-2024 1:40 PM

AMHERST — As of Feb. 29, it was officially official.

The UMass athletics department press release at 3:30 p.m. that day confirmed its move to the Mid-American Conference (MAC) as a full member, as the baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s indoor/outdoor track & field, women’s lacrosse, women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s swimming and diving and women’s tennis teams will all make the jump.

The Massachusetts hockey program will remain in the Hockey East Association moving forward, and according to the press release, “more information will become available in the coming months regarding future conference membership plans for the UMass men’s soccer, men’s lacrosse and women’s rowing programs.” Those are all sports that the MAC does not sponsor.

A press conference was to be held with Chancellor Javier A. Reyes, Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford and MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher at 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 7. Both UMass football head coach Don Brown and men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin were to speak at the conference.

“Our entire athletics program will benefit greatly by aligning and partnering with the Mid-American conference and its member institutions,” Bamford said in the press release. “As we consider our future in a very challenging and choppy college athletics landscape, having conference peers with similar institutional profiles, aspirations and commitments toward athletics excellence will provide stability and strength. Furthermore, our transition to the MAC will provide additional resources allowing our department to evolve and grow in a manner that will support student academic success and competitive excellence.”

“Today marks a historic moment for the Mid-American Conference as we proudly welcome the University of Massachusetts into our family,” Steinbrecher said in the statement.

“Adding UMass is an exciting next step as we increase the strength of our collective programs. We are thrilled to welcome their student-athletes, coaches, administrators, alumni and fans to the Conference. The opportunity to add a state flagship institution with exceptional academics and a storied athletics tradition does not come along often. I look forward to our collaborative efforts in providing outstanding opportunities for student-athletes to maximize their intellectual and athletic pursuits.”

UMass will leave the Atlantic 10 Conference, where it was a founding member in 1976, following the 2024-25 season. After talks swirled around UMass joining Conference USA, the university instead will make a return to a familiar conference.

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How familiar? UMass joined the MAC in 2012 as a football-only institution, staying in the A-10 for all other sports. That move ultimately didn’t work, and the school left the conference in 2015 to become a football independent after refusing to join the MAC in all sports.

The school has remained an independent in football since then, but UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford had said finding a conference for the program has been a priority.

Each UMass sport that is currently participating in the Atlantic 10 will continue to do so through the 2024-25 academic year, and maintain eligibility to compete for both the conference and NCAA postseasons.

“As one of the nation’s leading public research universities, with a rich tradition of intercollegiate athletics, UMass Amherst is well suited to join the similarly situated institutions of the Mid-American Conference,” Chancellor Reyes said.

“We are aligned with the MAC in our institutional missions, our values, and the profound impact we have on our respective communities. We join the MAC with great enthusiasm knowing that this affiliation through athletics will elevate and extend the profile and exposure of both UMass Amherst and all members of the MAC’s member institutions significantly.”

UMass will become the 13th member of the MAC starting in the fall of 2025.