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Operation UMass

For some reason UMass fans always expect less, and I don’t think that’s fair to themselves or their school.

Time and time again, the idea of FBS football at the University of Massachusetts was kicked around and then set aside. UMass was comfortable with what it was and where it was. It was a big rudderless fish in a pond containing fish of various sizes with a similar affliction.

Fans of the program would speak in borrowed phrases (“If you build it, they will come”) and make passionate promises of what would happen if some alarm ever woke up the sleeping giant in the Berkshires. These conversations predictably ended with the closing of a grill, a finishing of a beer and a long content walk to watch UMass play in a half-filled McGuirk on a chilly fall afternoon.

Now the alarm is going off, and UMass and its fans are pressing snooze.

There is a grassroots level of excitement surrounding the program, but most of that is generated by the motivated minority that was already paying attention. There are definitely additional alumni that are coming out in support of the football team, but the initial swell of excitement seems to have drained away.

There are no commercials, no billboards and no coverage in the Boston papers. In Western Mass, the Gazette and Republican are covering the program, but not nearly as in depth as other dailies in FBS areas this time of year (for example, the Republican had four articles about UMass football online last month; The Post-Standard in Syracuse has had about 20 in seven days).

Fans who flooded the football section of the UMassHoops message board have taken a breather, too. Of course there was the NIT run to distract Minuteman Nation, but once the nets are cut, it’s football season.

There is this baby-deer awkward feeling around the program right now as Greater UMass attempts to figure out how to deal with the next level. Meanwhile, Coach Molnar has the team practicing in the snow at 5:45 in the morning at McGuirk. He has the team show up at veterans halls and fundraising runs. He is actively bringing alumni back to campus so the current players can see this program’s successful past.

When he heard about #Operation50K, he asked for a full house:!/CharleyMolnar/status/186266056401231872

Molnar said he wanted to create something in the Boise State model, which is an amazing statement to digest considering many UMass fans would have gladly accepted the James Madison model three years ago. This is the problem I see with today’s UMass fan: They are willing to accept less for some mysterious reason.

I always hear this argument when it comes to the lack of interest in New England college football: “This is a pro sports area.”

The thing is, I don’t really buy it. I think New England is an “underdog area” despite its recent successes. Real New England fans hate the pink hats, the people that showed up after all the waiting, the losing and the heartbreak. They associate with the people that were there for the down times and stuck around long enough to enjoy a genuine victory pint.

Hell, the most famous game in New England college football history involved an underdog quarterback throwing an impossible Hail Mary to pull off an upset.

UMass is the perennial underdog.

For years the school has floundered in the money-making sports, and now it is attempting to raise its identity. It is trying to stand among the powerful schools in the Northeast while hoping that a new football culture holds it up. UConn and Boston College are terrified about this potential culture and are already starting to notice a new guy at the recruiting table. The wheels are moving, and the hope is that UMass fans get on and demand the best.

Operation50K is a great idea for the first home game, but the real concern is Operation UMass. What identity will this community take now that it has a top-level football team to get behind? What effort will the school make to get the community motivated?

I guess we will find out by August 30.

Until then, Coach Molnar and his squad can only hope that UMass and its fans are taking this as seriously as they are.


  1. Brian Long says:

    I hate the reality that this has to be a grass roots campaign, but it is what it is. And we all need to step up.

  2. Brian Long says:

    The best thing the department can to is get off their butts and promote, promote, promote. FIND the money, and FIND IT SOON!

    The best thing we can do as fans is buy as many season tickets as we can afford, and tell as many friends about this as possible. I’m much more concerned about this part than I am the department getting the word out. We also can continue to call up local sports radio and press the UMASS topic as much as we can. So what if Felger’s response will predictably be “this will be a failure”… more motivation to prove him and the other pundits wrong. Post comments on web articles related to college football. Post this blog post on your FB or twitter. Just spread the word as much as possible!

  3. tom massetti says:

    The suggestions above are really great ! I hope the AD takes notice. As has
    been mentioned, we won’t get a second chance to make a first impression!

  4. bob mcwilliams says:

    spoke to some in the athletic department recently, i was told,’we don’t have much money for promotion’, and ‘yea we need to do something soon’. This told me that they are not ramping things up nearly enough!!Expecting the casual fan to show up is unrealistic. Expecting alumni to just show up,after years of non- engagement is unrealistic. They need to get in the trenches and invite large and financially able people to come. Here is a start- have the presidents office send a email to all employees at The Medical Center and other campuses,offering discounted seasons tickets. Worcester is 40 minutes to Foxboro,Lowell 45 minutes, Boston 40 minutes. This can be done at no cost!!! Next take out ads in the local papers and invite football fans to come meet the coaches and sign up for tix. Local-meaning papers like in Metro West,Lowell Sun,Lawrence Eagle,Fall River,Brockton,Milford,Worcester Telegram to name a few. Give large employers discounts that can be given to their employees, target Fidelity, EMC,AllState Ins, Vertex,Pfizer,Novartis,Cubist,Raytheon,Analog Devices, Bank of America,TD Bank,TJX,Staples to name a few off the top of my mind. Get some local celebs,politicians, to pledge support and ask for support. Then target youth football groups for individual games. Have a single game promotions for police,firefighters,nurses for a buy one get one. There are thousands leaving Boston seaport every friday leaving on cruise ships who have plenty of disposable income,put up some form of advertising outside the parking areas there, or give merchandise/or tix away for contests on these cruise ships,to help get the word out to potential customers. Come on UMASS- youn only get one chance at a first impression, naming a good and enthusiastic coach was a great 1st step- but only one person can do so much. It will take a concerted effort to get 25,000 people to show up each and every week next fall,don’t rely on sympathy or just hope people come. The clock is ticking you only have five months left to make a good first impression. Don’t drop the ball. There are plenty of people like myself who could help out if asked, but the athletic department must lead. No excuses.

    1. Bob McGovern says:

      That’s what I’m talkin’ bout.

    2. Andy says:

      Bob- Well said. The “we don’t have much money for promotion” crap is intolerable. An email blast and ticket promos to area businesses and organizations cost next to NOTHING. This type of promo email needs to be sent out over and over again ’til it’s almost going to annoy people into noticing us. Has Kraft even been asked to put up some UMass football promos on the Jumbotron during Revs games? How about similar electronic board advertising at minor league McCoy stadium in Pawtucket. (25 minutes from Gillette?). If you can flash a message to even 7000 people at a minor league park it can’t hurt…and it also can’t be THAT expensive.

  5. Udaddy says:

    There should be Billboards on the pike, 495, 95 and 93 with the home schedule and emphasis on the Indiana game. The “Together We’re One” Logo would look great- hell even the Cheesy “u were, u are UMASS” slogan might be all it takes to get people nostalgic enough to pick up the phone and plan a long overdue reunion at Gillette. That is the essence of what needs to be tapped through the right marketing campaign. Radio/TV ads are a must during pro sports events. Molnar needs Metro Boston exposure- perhaps Bertrand can work in a weekly take with the coach on his Saturday show with Gasper? The Athletic department needs to spend the necessary funds NOW to get the hype into the mainstream. They will not get a second opportunity especially if the team goes 0-12.

  6. Bumpa says:

    The freakin’ athletic department has to get off it’s ass..I really think it should open a Boston office..maybe the Kraft’s have some space, and speaking of when is that relationship going to show itself. It’s to their benefit that people show up too.

  7. Andy says:

    Agreed this may have to spread via FB, and word of mouth, but UMass has to make an effort here. Mailings, radio ads etc. Maybe they think it’s too soon and that it’s baseball season. They really need a huge headstart with a marketing push. Not too early at all.

  8. SJGMoney says:

    Well said. Anybody that lives in the Boston area knows the Globe is useless when it comes to anything UMass related and the Herald is the Herald so I think the only choice we have is word of mouth. Maybe it’s a social media world now anyway so why not try and leverage those options if we can. It’s why I came up with #Operation50k (that and a hangover) so we can start discussing it and spreading the word. I’ve got my season tickets and I’m planning a big tailgate/reunion with all my UMass buddies for that first home game. I’m hoping they tell two friends and so on and so on and some of those friends show up at the next home game and the next etc. One step at a time, we have no other choice.

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