The other day, the Springfield Republican reported that UMass would announce some future non-conference games soon. After reading the article, I started to think about what teams I would like to see the Minutemen square off against on a regular basis.
Aside from Boston College, which I can’t even begin to talk about right now because I promised myself I wouldn’t start drinking this early on a Friday, the first team to come to mind was Army.
On November 12, 2005, the Minutemen travelled down to West Point, N.Y. to play Army in front of 34,000 fans. UMass came up short that day, but from all accounts Minutemen fans were treated well and enjoyed the experience at Michie Stadium. Full disclosure: I had a particularly good time as one of my friends snuck me a press pass, which allowed me to stand on the sideline and almost get clipped by Steve Baylark when he scored a touchdown in the second quarter.
A home-and-home series with the Black Knights would be good for a number of reasons. First, Army is a winnable game against a recognizable opponent. Sure, everyone knows that Army isn’t exactly a football powerhouse anymore, but people still follow the team, and most Americans pull for one or more of the military academies. People would show up at Gillette or Michie to watch UMass play the Black Knights, and if you haven’t been to West Point for a football game, you need to add it to your sports bucket list.
Second, Army doesn’t exactly pose a threat to UMass’ recruiting strategy. While Army is a Northeast team, it doesn’t follow the standard follow-the-pipeline recruiting mantra that other FBS teams employ. The Black Knights recruit soldiers, and do at a national level – for example, check out their 2012 commitment list. Also, UMass has historically done some recruiting in New York, and having an occasional game at West Point would allow for some more visibility in the area.
Lastly, Army is relatively close for UMass fans. Sure, travel shouldn’t be a huge deal for FBS fans, but when most of your games are in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, it’s nice to be able to simply hop in the car and make a day trip. Also, the drive to Army is absolutely beautiful (save for that whole Connecticut thing), so it makes the four hours from Boston go by a little better.
Of course, in order to play a team, there has to be room on their schedule. According to FBSchedules, Army has a pretty full dance card during the next few years. However, as we saw with Notre Dame, teams don’t seem to mind overbooking. Also, Army is no stranger to scheduling MAC opponents and will play one of UMass conference foes every year until 2019.
UMass fans seem to be on board as well. I asked our Twitter followers whether they would be interested in a home-and-home series with the Black Knights, and only one person was against it.
I particularly liked this response: