In the wake of overly critical articles in two major newspapers, the news surrounding the UMass Football program has been less than positive in recent days. New Jersey Linebacker Shane Huber has decommitted from UMass. In an interview with NJ.com, Huber said “One of the things that have been a little troublesome to me is the lack of support the school had moving to FBS football.” Our own Bob McGovern reports that Huber is not the program’s only recruit to voice his concerns on the matter.
Many UMass fans were already upset with the recent coverage of the team, and these latest developments serve as salt in their wounds. Some fans have placed blame on The Boston Globe and The New York Times for their pieces attacking the program. Others have been angry with UMass Faculty Senate members Max Page and Nelson Lacey. The person I place a great deal of blame on is current UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy.
Subbaswamy took over as UMass’ Chancellor more than a year after UMass announced the move to the Football Bowl Subdivision. Subbaswamy’s predecessor, Robert Holub, was a strong supporter of the move and helped lead the effort to make the jump possible. Shortly after the announcement of his appointment, Subbaswamy made his thoughts on UMass Football known on the UMass website.
Here is what the University published on UMass.edu on May 13, 2012:
Dr. Subbaswamy is also supportive of the recent elevation of UMass football to the FBS, which he sees as consistent with the role of UMass Amherst as the flagship campus of the Commonwealth. “As chancellor,” he said, “I’ll do everything in my power to ensure that the transition of Minutemen football to the FBS is a resounding success. UMass Amherst is the largest public research university in New England, with an expansive alumni base. Playing in the FBS is a more accurate reflection of our presence in Massachusetts, New England and the nation.”
By the time the season arrived, it was noticeable that Subbaswamy’s tone had changed in his comments to Bob Hohler for a story in The Boston Globe on Sept. 7:
“I hope people see this as a balanced, modest approach,” said new UMass Amherst chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, whose predecessor, Robert Holub, spearheaded the upgrade. “We really are managing to keep our eyes on the downside, and we will under no circumstances sacrifice academics for the sake of moving up in football.”
Bill Pennington quoted Subbaswamy in his piece in the New York Times on Saturday. The first part seemed to be another less-than-enthusiastic yet realistic opinion:
“If managed properly, we will come out better for it,” Subbaswamy said in an interview before the football season ended. “There are risks to academic investments, too. When we build a new research center, it is with the hope of attracting more research grants. So that is a risk.
“It’s important to keep in mind that the total athletic budget is 4 percent of our expenditures.”
The second part may be the most damaging thing anybody has said about UMass Football since the team’s transition began:
Subbaswamy also did not rule out the possibility that UMass would reverse course and retreat from the F.B.S. level.
“It’s a very easy matter to one day say we won’t do it anymore,” he said.
I can only imagine the awful feeling that Shane Huber and other UMass recruits had when they read that quote. How could any prospective student athlete read that and still feel good about their commitment to the University of Massachusetts football program? In Less than 8 months, UMass’ Chancellor has gone from doing everything in his power to ensure the move to the FBS is a resounding success to now telling one of the nation’s largest newspapers that it would be very easy to reverse course. This is certainly alarming.
UMass president Robert L. Caret is responsible for the appointment of Subbaswammy. Caret has certainly been a major factor in UMass making its leap. I wonder if Subbaswammy was supportive of the idea of moving up in order to make himself a better candidate for his current job. What other reasonable explanation could there be for his level of commitment to seemingly decline in such a short period of time?
Regardless of the reasons behind it, Subbaswammy’s latest comments hurt UMass Football in a significant way. The Chancellor deserves to start taking blame for helping create perceived instability with the football program. Not only has he done a poor job of representing the university and its athletic department, but he has also begun to undermine the hard work of those who are legitimately doing everything in their power to make the transition to the FBS a successful one.