Had things gone a little different, Rene Ingoglia could have learned the ropes from Brent Moss, the Wisconsin running back who led the Badgers to a Big 10 title in 1993. He also could have played for a Syracuse team on the verge of a Fiesta Bowl berth.
Instead, the heavily recruited running back blew out his knee and had every scholarship offer taken off the table. That’s when Dick McPherson, then head coach of the Orange, told UMass coach Jim Reid to take a look.
Reid offered Ingoglia a scholarship on McPherson’s recommendation, and the Minutemen acquired one of the best running backs in school history.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to get hurt, but now that it’s done, and I’m through it, and I have my degree from UMass, I wouldn’t change anything,” said Ingoglia, a 2007 UMass Hall of Fame inductee.
By the time he left Amherst, Ingoglia broke nearly every school rushing record. He was a two-time All-American, broke two Yankee Conference rushing records and finished his career second on the all-time Division I-AA career rushing touchdown list. Aside from all the records and accolades, Ingoglia gave UMass a feared reputation – it was the tough New England school that liked to run the ball down your throat.
Ingoglia, who now works for ESPN as a broadcaster, took some time to do a Q&A with the Maroon Musket.
On UMass’ Upgrade to FBS
I was ecstatic. To be honest, the day it was announced I had tears in my eyes.
There’s been talk at UMass for the longest time about upgrading. When I came in 1991 there was talk about it. I was under the impression that UMass is a great university, it’s the flagship university of Massachusetts, and so it could support a program. With the campus and the facilities and the potential to have the facilities, I really think UMass can be a sleeping giant in football.
I’ve always been a proponent of UMass going to the FBS in football.
On the Team’s Growing Pains
My thought was that, if they could get two wins last year, it would have been a success. They fell a little short of that, but they almost beat Ohio. I had the fortune of calling that game for ESPN alongside Bob Picozzi, so I was at Gillette for that game. They played great.
What people don’t realize is the difference in scholarships. When you make that move from FCS to FBS, you’re going from 62 to 85 scholarships, and most schools in the FCS don’t even carry their full allotment. A lot of these schools are working with 50 scholarships. All of a sudden, boom, you’re competing against teams will full scholarships, and you have players going in there that really were never recruited at that FBS level. They have to overachieve.
They had one win, and in a way that’s a type of success. They got a conference win, and they played well in other games. It’s definitely trending in the right direction, and this year is going to be another building year. I think this is a three- to five-year project, and anyone who thought it would be less was kidding themselves.
On Coach Charley Molnar
I think he’s doing a wonderful job reaching out to the Commonwealth. You see him out there, and he’s on Twitter, and he goes to different functions. That’s what you need to do. When you’re the head coach, you’re really the CEO of the program, and I think he’s done a tremendous job so far with hyping up the program.
That’s something UMass has always lacked in the past. For the longest time it was only Boston College. We’re the flagship university of the state, but we’re kind of like that red-headed stepchild out in Western Massachusetts. Now that we’re playing in Gillette and bringing in the notoriety, I think it’s great for the entire university.
On the McGuirk Stadium Improvements
In the early 1990s we had some of the better facilities in our level of football. During the past 20 years nothing has really been done to enhance those facilities. They kind of went by the wayside. UMass was just getting players on the reputation of having a good program.
Now that they’ve moved up, you can see what they’re doing on campus. With the new facility and the new press box and everything they’re doing out there, it’s phenomenal.
On the Gillette/McGuirk Situation
Some people view it as a hinderance to play 90 miles away. However, it’s a phenomenal complex to call your home stadium, and I think the Krafts did a wonderful thing to work this agreement and get UMass there. It’s a hassle, but the team drives up the night before and stays in a hotel, and home teams will stay at a hotel regularly, so it’s not really a big deal.
The biggest thing about playing in Gillete is this: We have a lot of long-time season ticket holders from Western Mass who are a little upset that they have to drive 90 miles after they’ve supported the team forever. Unfortunately, you have to move with the team and roll with it. If you’re truly supportive you’ve got to stay behind them.
Unfortunately, some people might be put out a little bit. But when that stadium on campus is complete, they’re going to play some games there.
I love that the MAC has Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday games on ESPN primetime. I can just see McGuirk packed with 17,000 people on a Wednesday game for a primetime game. We’re going to see that.
On the Mid-American Conference
You’re playing unfamiliar names but some very good football teams. I covered the Kent State game when they upset Rutgers, and Rutgers was a nationally ranked team. That is a very good program in the MAC, and UMass fans are starting to figure out that these teams are pretty good.
The problem is that fans don’t know the teams as much, but they will. They’re going to learn quickly what a good conference it is.
I think a lot of people were looking forward to maybe striking up a rivalry with Temple. Unfortunately they were out as soon as we were in, but that’s just the shuffling of realignment. I think rivalries will come against other teams with time. The MAC is a solid place to be and a solid conference. All UMass has to worry about is getting better and winning.
If you win, people are going to come.
On Fan Support
In the South, football is religion. In Massachusetts, people say that Boston is a professional sports town. I don’t buy that as much as I think the fans need to learn how college football works. It’s tough for some people, but if you’re an alumni of the school and you want to support your school, you have to do it.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to be a rabid fan like they are in the SEC, but you have to say, “OK, let’s get behind this program.”
On those Against the FBS Move
A lot of people don’t realize, but the reason Jim Reid left UMass and Mike Hodges took over was because [UMass was] talking about disbanding football. They were going to do something call “I-AAA” football. There was a lot of weird talk. Reid offered about five or six scholarships on the recruiting trail … and this is a guy who would save money by sleeping in his car – he would do anything for that university.
Anyway, the football team was run by the Physical Education Department, and the powers that be told Jim Reid that they would not honor the scholarships. He’s a man of integrity, he was in those families’ homes, and he said he was not going back on them, and that’s why he resigned. It was stuff like that, it was a coach like that, that created the family atmosphere around the football program. Stuff like that saved the football program. That tradition has always carried on.
Now, years later, similar things happen. UMass upgrades and moves up to the FBS level, and funny how there’s still a push back. We see the review panel – or whatever the official name for it is – jumping in and wants to vote football down. They say it’s a waste of money without letting it get off the ground.
You’re always going to have naysayers, but as a program, that makes you stronger.
When I got there, I immediately fell in love with the place. There’s the saying, “Everything happens for a reason,” and I truly believe that.
It was a family atmosphere right away, and I loved the campus. I loved the whole Western Mass setting. When I think of college, I picture UMass, the college town of Amherst, Antonio’s Pizza … all that stuff. Also, when I got there, the players were like a family. That’s one of the best things about UMass that differentiates itself from other schools. It’s a very close-knit community, and from what I can tell, it hasn’t changed at all.
I don’t care if you’re Alabama or Akron, you need to recruit and get the players in there. If you get them in there and coach them up, you’re going to win.
UMass is in a good position because it is in a position to grow. They are going to grow on campus, and if they can get kids on campus they are going to be able to compete on a high level relatively quickly.
I think out of all the MAC schools, UMass brings name recognition more than any other school. Even a MAC power like Northern Illinois – if you ask a casual fan about both schools, they’re going to recognize UMass. Granted, a lot of it is from the basketball days with Marcus Camby or Dr. J., but I think they have that recognition right away.
I spoke to a coach in the MAC, whose name I will leave out, who said privately that a lot of schools were like, “Oh no, UMass is coming in.” There’s a lot of teams that are privately talking about how UMass, in a few years, is going to be competing for MAC championships. A lot of that has to do with UMass’ ability to recruit and use its name recognition.
As long as they can keep building on their recruiting classes, they’ll be fine. The fifth-year transfers help, too. Those guys are going to get a chance to play when they couldn’t at their other school.
On the Running Backs
Lorenzo Woodley is going to come in and compete, but Jordan Broadnax isn’t just going to step aside and give that position up. Those are two very different running backs. Woodley is a bigger kid and a strong back with great speed. Broadnax is that scat back who is lightning quick.
I’m excited to see what Molnar is going to do with these guys. Maybe he will put them in the backfield together. Maybe he can put Broadnax in the slot position. They can do some exciting things, so the sky is the limit for them.
I’m a firm believer that competition is great. Competition is great at every position.
Where will UMass be in Five Years?
The hard thing about that is the conference thing. It’s hard to put your finger on it with all the realignment. Now, with the ACC getting a grant-of-rights deal, that basically put the brakes on everything, but you just never know. Football drives the bus.
In five years, what I would hope is that UMass is in a good, strong conference and competing for championships. Will it be the MAC? I don’t know if UMass can even dictate that. I think movement will dictate it. What UMass has going for it is the brand recognition, the flagship status, its academics and its size.
Right now, you have UConn in the American. So, if an opening did come open, and they were to align with UConn, what a great rivalry that would be. We used to play them all the time in the Yankee Conference, and that was great.
UMass is is a great position to sit and watch what happens.