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When: Sunday, Jan. Massachusetts looks to get back on its winning ways as it travels to the Bronx, N. The Minutewomen suffered a tough homecourt loss to Saint Joseph's Wednesday night and are now this season, in the Atlantic 10 East.

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The use of software that blocks hinders our ability to serve you the content you came here to enjoy. We ask that you consider turning off your ad blocker so we can deliver you the best experience possible while you are here. Print Text. He saw it 17 years ago when he bought the Patriots, then built a stadium, turning a mom-and-pop NFL franchise in terms of facilities into a state-of-the-art operation.

So when University of Massachusetts administrators asked Kraft for help in their quest to elevate the program from the FCS to the FBS level, Kraft not only helped, he made the biggest donation any backer could: He gave them Gillette Stadium rent-free.

For the foreseeable future. Kraft knew this, and he worked hard last fall to persuade the Big East to consider UMass. And UConn, quite frankly, probably didn't want the competition of another New England school. So UMass switched targets. The Owls had been kicked out of the Big East and needed a home for football.

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The MAC took them in because it wanted to expand its footprint to the East. All it asked for in return was a guarantee of four games a year against MAC teams in men's and women's basketball. But UMass needed a better venue. McGuirk Stadium in Amherst has a capacity of only 17, and is remote to thealumni who UMass officials say live in Eastern Massachusetts. It was not FBS-quality.

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Enter Kraft. He knew UMass was far from a cash cow, but he also knew he could make a deal that would be profitable -- eventually. He wouldn't charge the Minutemen rent, but he wanted a share of the revenue when and if the crowds came. But he also knows that schools such as Michigan, which hosted the Minutemen last year, might come here to play a UMass team at the FBS level. Sure, the deals will be on a two-for-one basis in term of home dates.

But the big schools are looking for paydays against competition they can beat -- which should be the case against a UMass team that will be in a transitional stage for a few years.

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So would UMass-UConn. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, isn't it? BC says it will think about it. And if a program gets too good too quickly, watch out. BC is now having problems finding dates to play Harvard in basketball next winter, which is strange until you look at the last three seasons, which brought three Harvard victories over the Eagles.

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But that is a problem for the future. For now, UMass ventures into what it believes will eventually be a more profitable operation than FCS football almost no program makes money at that level. It's all hugs and kisses right now. Asked if there would have been a deal had Kraft not offered the use of the stadium rent-free, McCutcheon said, "Probably not. That was the linchpin for everything.

A world-class facility which can attract big-time nonconference opponents. There is no way we could get that done without it. Rivalries will be hard to manufacture, and playing your sports in two different conferences can cause some headaches. And if the Big East called tomorrow and invited the Minutemen as their 10th team in football and 18th team in basketball, a deal would be ed in a Massachusetts minute.

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It is the kind of deal Kraft wanted. It didn't happen, but UMass came up a winner, and the man who deserves the most credit for that is Bob Kraft. They are going to bring Amherst to Greater Boston. In a move that is stunning in its simplicity, UMass plans to: a upgrade its football program to big-boy status, and b play its "home" games at Gillette Stadium starting in By "big-boy status," we refer to the hideous sounding Football Bowl Subdivision, which until now had only two other New England entrants -- Boston College and Connecticut. UMass will be ing the Mid-American Conference, and, sure, this is the part where hardened Boston sports fans are supposed to dismiss the MAC as a second-tier conference.

But let's Columbus this over. UMass was probably never going to come up with the dough to build a big-time stadium on the Amherst campus. And even if it did build one dating or update the ghastly McGuirk Stadium -- did anybody really think the Minutemen would ever earn a statewide following?

But by moving up and moving out -- that is, from Amherst to Foxboro -- UMass gets to play in a first-class facility. And how about an annual UMass-Boston College game? BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo hasn't been keen on playing any of his own home games at Gillette, saying he's concerned about students driving from Chestnut Hill to Foxboro.

Ohio an annual UMass-BC game is a logical fit and might, over time, build interest in both schools. I hope BC would look at it the same umass. So, who gets hurt here? Well, let's get the big-city obnoxiousness right out in the open: The only people who lose out are the Ma and Pa Kettles from Russell, Blandford, Sunderland and other two-mule western Massachusetts towns who'd make pilgrimages to McGuirk Stadium.

And, please, let's not wring our hands over how this move is going to lessen the college experience for the students. It's simple: Those who are hard-core fans will be bused from Amherst to Foxboro.

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The betting here is that more students will attend games in Foxboro then have watched the Minutemen at McGuirk. And the thousands of UMass alums living in Greater Boston are more likely to attend games at Gillette. Patriots owner Robert Kraft attended yesterday's press conference and brought some genuine news to an otherwise we-all-knew-this-was-coming affair when he dropped this bombshell: "Before I met my sweetheart, I used to date a girl on the Amherst campus. I probably shouldn't have mentioned that. I'll get in trouble for that one.

The current agreement between UMass and the Krafts is for five years and is based on revenue sharing. If it doesn't work after five years, it's back to McGuirk Stadium. For now, though, UMass has its long-awaited chance to go big-time in football. Even if they had to go to Foxboro to make it happen. It's not just Division 1 football, but it's part of strategy to enhance the reputation of the university.

But lawmakers said hard-pressed taxpayers won't be footing that bill because the money will come from higher ticket sales. It will strengthen the University of Massachusetts brand, it will strengthen our athletic components, and makes the university more competitive. Among other things, the move gives the university the chance to compete in the coveted, and lucrative, BCS bowl games.

Gillette Stadium will be the Amherst team's new home field in a five-year deal beginning in -- but the school won't be paying rent and instead will share a portion of ticket revenues and concessions. The move is expected to decrease the school's dependence on fees and tax dollars, said John McCutcheon, athletic director at the University of Massachusetts. The news comes as Gov. Other funds will be used to pay for two more coaches and upgrades to the Amherst sports facilities, as well as free rides for women athletes.

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Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College, cautioned that MAC is "a secondary tier conference" and won't be a major revenue generator. It will begin playing home games beginning in the fall of at Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots.

It will be eligible for bowl games, as well as the conference championship, starting in This fall, the Minutemen will continue to play in the Colonial Athletic Association, but will not be eligible for postseason play. The university will remain in the Atlantic 10 Conference for all other sports. The move will provide new sources of revenue for Massachusetts since the MAC has a television deal and several bowl agreements. But new costs will include the addition of 22 football scholarships to a total of Holub said in a few years "we will be using less funds from our budget to support athletics than we do now.

And since we believe that this is going to be very successful, I think it's a chance for everyone to make out well. I probably shouldn't have mentioned that, I'll get in trouble for that one," before once again reiterating the Kraft Group's goal at elevating the sport of football at all levels. It's a school that has a tremendous tradition, and its academic strengths are really excellent.

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Several concerns were raised, most ificantly the obstacles presented by geography. The addition of UMass now gives the MAC a foothold in 10 of the top 50 television markets in the country. But from the university's standpoint, questions were raised regarding the non-traditional rivals the Minutemen will face in the future. Aside from the UMass campus being roughly 95 miles from Foxborough -- making it a tough commute for students and fans from the western part of the state -- the closest opponents will be the Philadelphia-based Temple University and the University of Buffalo.

Those schools are not considered a natural rival like New Hampshire, which played UMass before nearly 33, fans at Gillette last fall.

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NCAA rules require an average stadium attendance of 15, Last season, the Minutemen averaged less than 14, at their on-campus stadium. Confident the Minutmen will maintain that attendance average, McCutcheon conceded upgrades will need to be done to facilities should they host FBS-caliber games.

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