While the University of Massachusetts' first season in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision was a loss financially, it should be remembered as a step-forward in the history of UMass athletics.
UMass averaged 10,901 fans through five games at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. in the teams' inaugural season of college football's highest level. The move was a risky one, but necessary in many ways, all benefiting UMass long-term.
With the future of the Football Championship Subdivision uncertain, UMass made the right choice by taking the opportunity to join FBS. This allowed UMass to compete at the most competitive level, while giving the Minutemen the best opportunity for future national exposure. Joining the Mid-American Conference places UMass in competition with larger programs, as well as revenue sharing opportunities, which can help offset some of the added costs of the move. Bottom line, UMass football's program looks to have a brighter future.
It is hard to overlook that the program was $700,000 short of expectation for the 2012 season. Although that figure is significant, it should be noted that UMass will be receiving $900,000 to play a road game in Wisconsin next year, and $750,000 to visit Kansas State next year as well. Payouts like this would not exist in the FCS level of play, and are opportunities UMass will be able to capitalize from in the years to come.
For this reason of long-term opportunities, UMass football is in a much better place than they saw themselves in 5 years ago. They are playing in a state-of-the-art NFL stadium, and in a conference which attracts national television exposure, which by the way has a team this year in a BCS bowl.
UMass can reap financial benefits and national exposure from their new conference, but it will take some time. It will not happen over night. This program will get better, we must be patient, and look at where UMass football is now, compared to the uncertainty of the past.
Zach Baru also blogs for Sports Business Boston. He can be followed on Twitter @zbaru, and reached at email@example.com.