The Univ. of Massachusetts football team "will make its expected move to the Mid-American Conference official today" at a 3:30pm ET press conference at Gillette Stadium, according to John Connolly of the BOSTON HERALD. UMass will "upgrade the program to the Football Bowl Subdivision, play a partial FBS schedule in 2011 and 2012, and join the MAC on a full-time basis beginning in 2013." Because NCAA rules "require teams to have a two-year average attendance of at least 15,000 in order to participate as an FBS member, UMass will enlarge McGuirk Alumni Stadium, which has a capacity of 17,000." During the makeover of McGuirk Stadium, the school's home facility since '65, UMass will play its '12 and '13 home games at Gillette. Sources said that UMass "plans to pay for its stadium improvements through the revenue generated from the Gillette appearances" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/20). In Boston, Mark Blaudschun reports when the Big East "decided last fall to expand from eight to 10 teams in football," UMass officials, using Patriots Owner the Kraft family as "contacts, lobbied hard for consideration." But Big East officials "were focusing on conference member Villanova and were reluctant to add two more schools after announcing that TCU would join as a ninth full-time member starting in the fall of 2012." As a result, UMass officials "resumed talks with the MAC," which will become a 14-team football conference with UMass now in the fold (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/20).
NCAA Exec VP/Membership & Student-Athlete Affairs Bernard Franklin yesterday said that a “new state law that orders the University of North Dakota to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname won't shield the school from penalties for continuing to use a moniker the NCAA considers hostile to American Indians,” according to Dale Wetzel of the AP. The law states that UND “must use the nickname and a logo featuring the profile of an American Indian warrior." But Franklin said the law “cannot change the NCAA policy" against using American Indian nicknames, logos or mascots that are considered offensive. In a letter to UND President Robert Kelley, Franklin said that the university “must follow an agreement it made in October 2007 to discontinue using the nickname and logo by Aug. 15, 2011, unless it received approval from North Dakota's Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes.” The Standing Rock Sioux's tribal council, which has “long opposed the nickname, has declined to change its stand.” Wetzel noted Franklin's letter means UND “will be subject to NCAA sanctions after the new law takes effect in August.” According to NCAA policy, the school “will be barred from hosting NCAA postseason games and its teams will not be able to wear the nickname and logo on its uniforms in postseason contests” (AP, 4/19). In North Dakota, Chuck Haga notes “backers of the new state law had expressed confidence that such a declaration by the state, coupled with passage of a pro-nickname referendum on the Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation and evidence of support on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, could persuade the NCAA to modify its position” (GRAND FOLKS HERALD, 4/20).