UMass loses game at Auburn as Minutemen prepare to open preseason football camp

  • Warren P. McGuirk Alumni Stadium at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Photographed on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 7/31/2020 11:33:59 AM
Modified: 7/31/2020 3:42:06 PM

The UMass football team had a second hole punched in its 2020 schedule Thursday.

The Southeastern Conference became the latest Power Five conference to announce it will only play conference games if there is a season this fall.

UMass stood to gain a $1.9 million payout from its road game at Auburn on Nov. 14. What happens with the payout now that the game has been canceled has yet to be determined.

UMass Athletic Director Ryan Bamford was mum on the situation.

“We’re trying to sort through a whole host of things,” Bamford said Thursday night. “We’re in a position where we just have to try and navigate to our best ability, if a season is going to be played, to try and take care of our program.”

The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced that their teams will play only conference games.

The Atlantic Coast Conference announced on Wednesday that it will allow its teams to play 10 conference games plus one nonconference game that must be in the home state of the ACC team. Notre Dame is also joining the conference for this season only, since it originally had six ACC teams on its schedule.

The Big 12 and several other conferences are attempting to play all their games.

But with several conferences staying in-house, the schedules for many teams across the country suddenly have holes. This puts independent UMass in an envious position with potentially multiple suitors for the vacancies in its schedule.

“We’re just going to keep surveying the landscape and make sure we’re protecting our program and doing what’s in our best interests, and taking care of the agreements that we’ve already made, but also understanding that if those agreements go away, that we have the opportunity to make new ones if the opportunity presents itself,” Bamford said.

The loss of Auburn comes just as UMass is scheduled to start preseason camp on Wednesday. When camp starts, the Minutemen will be four weeks and one day away from their season-opener at UConn on Sept. 3.

Everything is contingent on the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think the unknown of when we are going to be facing competition still looms, but we have a lot of work to do and we’ve been telling our kids that we’re focused on getting some work done,” Bamford said.

UMass has conducted 425 coronavirus tests and only received one positive, according to Bamford. This puts the Minutemen in a good position as they head into full workouts.

Head coach “Walt (Bell) has done a phenomenal job, our players have done a great job of meeting our expectations for how they are conducting themselves on and off campus,” Bamford said. “Everything has gone exactly how we wanted it to go and scripted it. That’s a credit to our coaches, our staff, our medical staff and our student athletes.”

Here is a look at where UMass’ schedule stands:

UCONN (SEPT. 3) — Like UMass, the Huskies are an independent and if there is a football season this game should happen. Connecticut does not currently have a self-quarantine policy for people traveling from Massachusetts.

TROY (SEPT. 12) — The Alabama program is scheduled to be the Minutemen’s home opener. The Trojans lost their season-opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff when the Southwestern Athletic Conference postponed its season to the spring. If Troy doesn’t pick up another game, it’s possible the team could quarantine in Massachusetts prior to playing at McGuirk Stadium. As for the Sun Belt Conference, it has only delayed the start of its fall season to Sept. 3.

ALBANY (SEPT. 19) — The Minutemen lost their home game against the Great Danes when the Colonial Athletic Association canceled its football season. (Albany is a member of the CAA for football only.) Boston College could be a match here. When the ACC went to its 10-plus-1 model it created a situation where the Minutemen could match up with the Eagles. BC was scheduled to play at Kansas on Sept. 19, but that game will either be moved to Massachusetts due to the ACC’s in-state nonconference rule or be canceled. No announcement has been made, but if it is canceled, it opens the door for a potential UMass at BC game if the date remains open for BC.

APPALACHIAN STATE (SEPT. 26) — The Minutemen’s trip to Boone, North Carolina, could be the first time the team leaves New England. The Mountaineers were scheduled to play at Wisconsin on the 19th, but they lost that game and a $1.25 million payout when the Big Ten went to a conference-only schedule.

NEW MEXICO (OCT. 3); NEW MEXICO STATE (NOV. 7) — The Mountain West Conference hasn’t made a scheduling decision so the Minutemen could still face New Mexico in Albuquerque. Likewise, the independent Aggies could still visit Amherst later in the season. However, the Albuquerque Journal reported last week that New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham sent a letter to the schools calling for them to postpone fall athletics: “I know what I am asking you to contemplate is difficult and unprecedented, but these are difficult and unprecedented times,” Lujan Grisham wrote. “Fighting COVID-19 is a team sport. I am asking each of you to join me and take it upon yourselves to do everything you can to fight COVID-19.”

TEMPLE (OCT. 10) — The Owls are on tap to visit the Minutemen. The American Athletic Conference has not yet made a decision on the season.

AKRON (OCT. 17) — The Mid-American Conference lost 11 games and more than $10 million when the Big Ten dropped nonconference contests, according to the Detroit Free Press. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said the conference plans on playing as many nonconference games as possible. This includes the Minutemen’s road date with the Zips.

FIU (OCT. 24) — Conference USA intends to play its season, which means the Panthers are hitting the road for the Minutemen.

AUBURN (NOV. 14) — UMass now has an open date here. Boston College was scheduled to play Florida State on this date, but when the ACC restructured its conference schedule, the Eagles lost the Seminoles. Whether this date stays open for Boston College remains to be seen. The ACC has not released its official conference schedule.

ARMY (NOV. 21); LIBERTY (NOV. 28) — The Minutemen close the season with a home game against the Black Knights and a road tilt against the Flames. Both of these teams are independents and are both intent on playing a season.

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