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Subbaswamy Submarining UMass Football

Kumble Subbaswamy

UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy (Photo: UMass Amherst)

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.

Yikes.

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.

22 Comments

  1. Student says:

    As a current UMass student, reading the negative comments about this team makes me think back to a John Calipari comment from 1993 as the Mullins Center neared its grand opening:

    “We represent the state. BU doesn’t. BC doesn’t. Harvard doesn’t.”

    Give the program a chance.

  2. UM51 says:

    Well put Jack Pardi, anything less than a full commitment for the first 5 years of FBS would be a major embarrassment to the athletic dept. and more importantly the entire University. Rome was not built over night!

  3. Jack Pardi says:

    What amazes me is that people thought there wouldn’t be a transition period. How can anyone really judge the team until at least 1 full recruitment cycle. Did anyone really think they would have 25,000 people at games for a 1 win team? I really hope the administration gives Molnar the time because there is a chance to grow a competitive program that could do very well at foxboro. It would be great to have another major college football team in the area other then BC. Great article bertrand, hopefully the school stays the course.

    1. UMatt says:

      Because a lot of people in New England don’t get it. And by it I mean college sports. Especially when it comes to UMass and what UMass could be.

      Here’s the issue. UMass students don’t care about UMass athletics (and, as a Philly fan, I’d argue they only pretend to care about Boston teams too, but that’s another conversation). Students become alumni. Alumni don’t support their school because they feel no connection. That connection (usually, at most other schools, certainly state schools) comes via athletics, mainly the football team.

      Something has to be done (if anything is possible) about the attitude towards sports on campus. I’ve seen improvement in my 5 years here and this year’s Freshman class has been great coming to Gillette and now Mullins for Winter sports. I hope the trend continues.

  4. ms says:

    This would be an embarrassment to the University. Prevarication coming from glib politicos have never worked in this state. I think the university understands the implications of backing out and how poorly this would reflect on the athletic department, the University, and the state. Made a commitment. Stick to it.

  5. Bumpa says:

    ..my beating a dead horse statement(s)..

    The Athletic Department needs to expand a bit.

    A few low paid (young professionals), commissioned sales people..jammed in a room..and cold calling every single alum, youth football program, boy scout troop ..whatever to sell tickets.. and their not to just selling UMass football, but selling THE STATE UNIVERSITY that plays football at Gillette Stadium..wholesome inexpensive entertainment!

    The other IMPORTAND hire is real, industry experienced public relations & communications professional..a director level position (this is not an SID) ..someone who will have a bug in the ear of every media outlet on UMass behalf. That is constantly thinking brand, and positioning of not just the football program, but basketball (mens & womens) ..hockey, lax and all the other sports. I know UConn has this role filled ..and I personally know the kid at BC ..I am sure Beetle knows him too! He is a talent, and pays dividends for BC.

    These are important hires and adds to the process. The Athletic Department is now big time. It’s time to staff up like the big boys and make things happen 24/7/365!

    1. Bumpa, I agree with some of what you are saying but all of that could happen and yet we could still be in this situation with the Chancellor saying harmful things about the program. Athletics has no control over that guy.

  6. Mike says:

    The athletic department should put out a definitive statement saying, in the strongest possible language, that there are no specific plans for the school to move back to FCS. It doesn’t really matter how publicized (or not) this statement is; it needs to be in place to serve as a concrete support measure for Molnar and the rest of the staff to show recruits.

    1. The people in the athletic department are getting completely screwed right now. They are the ones who have put in the most work to make the transition to FBS happen, and yet now the Chancellor is dropping comments in the NYT that undermines their efforts. Now, they have to weigh the pros and cons of publicly defending themselves.

      The lack of a statement doesn’t look good for sure, but I’m also not sure how much it would really help the situation. A statement from John McCutcheon would have the potential of starting a UMass political war involving the Chancellor and President. That certainly wouldn’t be a good thing for the growth of the program. UMass’ best bet right now is probably having Charley Molnar get into the living rooms of the guys who have already committed.

  7. boris says:

    recruits and their parents would want to hear the interviews….waiting until september will not help

    good god

    1. locapo says:

      I’d love to hear it. I love when Marc gets Charley after the games, he has done a great job trying to get UMass football on the radio in the Boston market, props to him and 98.5 for giving him the platform. I agree about the September point, UMass needs to told that FBS football is a year round sport.

    2. Boris, I don’t think that interview will be happening. If you are curious as to what Molnar thinks about this, he spoke with Harry Plumer of The Republican: http://www.masslive.com/umassfootball/index.ssf/2013/01/umass_football_coach_charley_m_11.html

  8. boris says:

    - bertrand – please bring molnar to 98.5 for an interview
    a.s.a.p. and also – how much money did n.illinois make for that bowl game the other night?

    how about kraft and the umass a.d. on 98.5 a.s.a.p.?!

    please help attack this problem w/ the chancellor and the faculty senate people who can’t “see past their nose”

    1. Locapo says:

      No one will want to hear that interview besides us. Alumni need to go to games and pull their end of this agreement off.

      1. Andy says:

        I agree about the tiniest audience for such an interview. Of course your other statement about alumni pulling off their end of the agreement is interesting. I never remember alumni clamoring for FBS football. Honestly I don’t think most alumni thought about football much at all, and that’s really the root of the attendance/support problem.

        1. locapo says:

          From the start they thought with 250k alumni living in the Boston area they would get people to show up and they did during the 1st game, 16,000+ came with a shaky weather forecast. But once Indiana put up that 45 spot on us, I think that killed a lot of the alumni who thought of coming back or even going later on during the season that you are talking about. The hardcore fan shows up end of story, but we have about 6,000 of those, which is the problem.

  9. bob says:

    Kumble “Submarine Football” Subbaswamy- stop trying to agree with The Globe and NYT, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They want your school to fail on all fronts. Have you reached out to alums for help? You may have many degrees, but you have displayed no common sense. Shameful.

  10. Dave says:

    Marc, I agree that Swamy’s second comment in the NYT article was ill-advised. However, unintended consequences of that aside, I don’t think that the interpretation by some of his not being supportive is totally accurate. If anything, I think his first comment (an analogy to the academic investments they make) is more telling of his philosophy on this. Keep in mind he is trying to speak to multiple audiences, including the few troublemaking profs and a legislature that UMass still depends on for money (albeit just a little bit these days). That said, he should’ve stopped at the analogy, because the rest of his pitch is going to be misinterpreted and used to other programs’ advantage in trying to snag our recruits.

    1. How can we be certain as to what his philosophy is at this point? You just stated that he is trying to “speak to multiple audiences”. If that is the case, how do we know what he truly believes in? If he is just trying to appease everybody, is that really what we want in a leader at UMass? I want somebody in that position with a backbone and a vision. He has been wishy washy on both fronts. If he is a guy who just wants to make everybody happy, it lends credibility to my thought that he may have been trying to appease Caret and the board of Trustees when he was trying to get the job.

      I believe I gave him the proper credit for the first part of his comment, and I would agree with you that he should have stopped right there because his last comment was wreckless. This guy deserves to take blame. His actions are more than just “ill-advised.”

      1. Dave says:

        Marc, no argument on this – I would rather have a guy with a vision and some guts like Holub. Swamy is (or tries to be) a politician and tries to make everybody happy; fortunately, “everybody” includes us alumni, which is why we need to make sure we include ourselves in a dialogue with him too.

        1. Part of my frustration stems from the fact that UMass has had 6 different Chancellors in the new Millennium. They don’t hang around for long, and I have no reason to think Subbaswamy will be any different. As far as dialogue goes, his e-mail responses to alums have been pitiful.

  11. sleepy sheep says:

    The only public AAU school that plays FCS football is Stony Brook. UMass’ goal should be to join that association of premier research universities.

    The UMass administration exists to serve in the best interest of the university.

    Making comments that dropping football could be an option means that UMass has no aspirations as a flagship land-grant university higher than the University of Vermont which rings in at #92 in the US News rankings.

    If the UMass administration has no interest in aspiring to be higher ranked than the 92nd university in the United States, they need to be fired for failing to serve in the best interest of the university.

    You can argue all day that there are many higher ranked schools lacking FBS football but if UMass only aspiration is to be the Universities of Delaware or Vermont, please

    GET OUT OF MY ALMA MATER!







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