Michigan and Massachusetts meet for the first time in the history of the schools at noon on Saturday at Michigan Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. I am pleased to see that announcer Thom Brennaman no longer works for the BTN, thus he won’t get a chance to work his evil magic like he did in the 2007 Appalachian State or the 2008 Toldeo games.
UMass is the 18th-ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). The Minutemen are 2-0 after defeating William & Mary (27-23) and Holy Cross (31-7) at home during the first two weeks of the 2010 season. The Wolverines are also 2-0 following the win at Notre Dame last week. We are ranked 20th in the Associated Press media poll and 22nd in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
History: The University of Massachusetts was founded in 1863 under the provisions of the Federal Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act. Like all other land-grant schools, the primary mission of the school was to provide instruction to Massachusetts citizens in the "agricultural, mechanical, and military arts." Accordingly, the university was initially named the Massachusetts Agricultural College, popularly referred to as (cough, cough Sparty) "M.A.C."
Four years after its founding (1867) the college had yet to admit any students, had fired two Presidents, and still had not completed any class buildings. Then an action oriented leader named William S. Clark was appointed President of the college and Professor of Botany. Clark quickly appointed a faculty, completed the construction plan, and in the fall of 1867 admitted the first class of approximately 50 students. For his efforts, Clark is recognized as the primary founding father of the college. In 1879, Clark requested a leave of absence to establish a “floating college”—a ship which would carry students and faculty around the world. His request was denied and he resigned.
The first female student was admitted in 1875, but only on a part time basis. It took 19 more years before the first full-time female student was admitted in 1894. And another 11 years before the first female students graduated.
In 1931, based on the higher enrollment and broader curriculum, the college was renamed, "Massachusetts State College". Following World War II, the G.I. Bill, facilitating financial aid for veterans, led to an explosion of applicants. The college population soared and they pushed through some major construction projects. Accordingly, the name of the college was once again changed in 1947 to the "University of Massachusetts."
Today, UMass is the largest public university in New England.
Location: The campus located in Amherst, which is 90 miles
The area that makes up AM-ERST was purchased from the local Indians in December 1658. The deal between Major John Pynchon and three native inhabitants, according to the deed, the indians sold the entire area in exchange for "two Hundred fatham of Wampam & Twenty fatham, and one large Coate…. ". The word wampum comes from the Narragansett word for 'white shell beads'. So essentially, the English bought Amherst for some beads, 20 fat pigs, and a large coat. Brilliant.
The town is named after British Army officer Jeffrey Amherst. Amherst was a hero of the French and Indian War, according to popular legend; singlehandedly won Canada for the British and banished France from North America.
Despite his fame, Amherst's name will forever be tarnished as he is likely the architect of one of the worst genocides in world history. It was Amherst that first suggested the use of smallpox-infected blankets against American Indians. It is impossible to arrive at a number for the millions of American Indians killed by European diseases, with smallpox the deadliest by far. In the 1500s, the American Indian population in North America has been estimated at approximately twelve million, but by the early 1900s, the population had been reduced to roughly four hundred and seventy-four thousand.
Like most college towns, this place has a definite liberal slant. Amherst is among relatively few towns of its size that does not have a mayor-council form of government. Instead, it has maintained the traditional town meeting for making decisions. I have heard Amherst referred to as the People’s Republic of Amherst by many people over the years.
On the night of September 10, 2001 -- just 12 hours before the first plane impaled the North Tower, the Amherst Select Board voted unanimously to restrict the display of American flags to just six times per year. A UMass professor testified before the board calling the flag “…a symbol of terrorism and death and fear and destruction and oppression. It’s not something to be proud of.”
Refusing to get caught up in the silly national wave of patriotism that followed the attacks, the flag limitation remains in effect today. Recently, they have reconsidered and have agreed to fly flags every third anniversary of the 9/11 attack. Go America.
Academics: The school has a total undergraduate enrollment of 20,873. The USNWR 2011 edition of America's Best Colleges ranks Massachusetts as the 99th best National University, tied with SUNY Stony Brook, Texas Christian, Dayton, and Pacific. They finish just above Tennessee, Florida State, Kansas, and future Big Ten member Nebraska. I was surprised to see UMass ranks as only the the 10th best school in their own state.
With over 85 majors, UMass students have a wide array of choices, including a Bachelor's Degree with Individual Concentration (BDIC), which allows students to create their own major. If that had been an option at Michigan when I was an undergrad, I might have gotten all A’s in my chosen double major of beer drinking and video games.
Famous Alumni: UMass has a nice list of famous grads, highlighted by former GE Chairman Jack Welch, former GM Chairman Jack Smith, and Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor. They also claim actors Bill Cosby, Richard Gere, and Bill Pullman plus singers Natalie Cole and Taj Mahal. Other names you might recognize are New York Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and Louisville basketball coach Rick Pittino.
My all-time favorite UMass grad is basketball hall of famer Julius Erving. Although he did not graduate with his peers because he left school early to join the ABA. Dr. J returned to the school in 1986 to complete his undergrad career and has since been presented honorary Doctorate degrees from UMass and Temple. You young whipersnapers can keep Michael Jordan and LeBron James, but I will always prefer Julius Erving. No one did it better.
No US Presidents and one astronaut.
Colors, Helmets, Mascot, and Fight Song : The maroon and white colors of UMass date back as far as the 1870s. There is also a reference to wearing green and white, and even earlier, it was red and blue. Considering the school did not even have students until 1867, the folks wearing green and white and/or red and blue did not do it for very long.
Today they wear a plain white helmet with a white face mask with the UMass wordmark on the side. Over the years they have played around with different variations of stripes, UM, and UMass logos. The current design has been in place since 2005. My favorite is the version from 1974, which features a block UM and the silhouette of a battle ready Minuteman.
Depending on which gender is playing, they call themselves Minutemen or Minutewomen. Like many other land grant schools, they first called themselves the Aggies. Then they ironically, considering the name of the town, changed their nickname to the Redmen.
In the spring of 1972, a group of American Indians from New York wrote a letter to the school asking them if they were aware of "defamatory" and "undesirable racial connotations” with their nickname. They asked if UMass could curtail the use of the word. The administration quickly replied by asking all campus personnel and media to refrain from the use of the word Redmen “as much as possible”. The Student Senate quickly resolved that the nickname connoted a stereotype of violence and savagery and created a "false picture of American history."
Instead of making the next logical step and choosing the nickname “small pox infected blankets”, the UMass Student Senate, through a poll of the student body, came up with a new name: The Minutemen.
Today, the character that runs around on the sideline and has been featured in ESPN commercials is named Sam the Minuteman. According to the school, he came in 5th during the 2005 Mascot Nationals.
In 1998, the Minuteman Marching Band received the Louis C. Sudler Trophy, the highest honor awarded to a collegiate marching band. The legendary UMass band director, Captain Edwin Sumner, wrote the fight song in 1930.
Edit: The UMass Marching Band will be playing on saturday with heavy hearts. The Director died last night in Ohio while the band was making the trip to Ann Arbor. Very sad news. Godspeed Mr. Parks.
Fight, fight Massachusetts,
Fight, fight every play,
Fight, fight for a touchdown,
Fight all your might today.
Fight down the field Massachusetts,
The stars and the stripes will gleam,
Fight, Fight for old Bay State,
Fight for the team, team, team.
Football program: They have been playing football at UMass since 1879, which just happens to be the same year Michigan started.
The Minutemen football team competes at the NCAA Division I FCS (formerly I-AA) level. UMass has captured a total of 22 conference championships, the most recent one being a share of the Colonial Athletic Association title in 2007. Last year, they finished with a 5-6 mark, which just happens to be the same number of wins the 2009 Wolverines had.
They also won the 1998 D1-AA Football National Championship. That title is sandwiched between two losses in the finals in 1978 and 2006. The 2006 loss was to Appy State, which just happens to be the team.... oh never mind.
The most famous UMass football player is former Detroit Lions QB, Greg Landry. Behind his golden arm and running ability, UMass won two Bean Pots (the Yankee Conference trophy) in three years. Landry's quarterback efficiency rating of 145.4 in 1965 is still a school record. He spent 14 years in the NFL with both the Lions and the Baltimore Colts. He was an All-Pro in 1971. Landry also had a stint with the Chicago Blitz in the now-defunct USFL and was the offensive coordinator for the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears. He was inducted into the UMass Athletic Hall of Fame in 1980.
Other sports: UMass fields 20 other varsity sports. Most of them compete in the Atlantic 10 conference. They are best known for their basketball program. In 1996 they made it to the NCAA Final Four, led by head coach John Calipari and National Player of the Year and recent UMass Hall of Fame inductee Marcus Camby.
Unfortunately, as is the case with every other school Calipari goes, a subsequent NCAA investigation follows. The NCAA found that Camby illegally accepted a total of $28,000 from sports agents attempting to lure him into the NBA Draft after his Sophomore season. The school was forced to vacate its Final Four appearance as well as return their 1996 NCAA Final Four trophy. In defiance of the NCAA ruling, a Final Four banner still hangs from the rafters of the Mullins Center.
The UMass Minutewomen lacrosse team won the national title in 1982. In 2008 Minutemen skiing took home the United States Collegiate Skiing and Snowboard Association National Championship, which was the first time in 23 years an east coast team has won. The men's lacrosse reached the NCAA Championship Game in 2006, where they lost to the #1 ranked and undefeated Virginia Cavaliers. The men's soccer team reached NCAA Men's College Cup in 2007. They were defeated by Ohio State, 1-0. UMass has had 17 baseball players reach the major leagues. The best known are former Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan, Red Sox relief pitcher Jeff Reardon, and Angels shortstop Gary DiSarcina.
The game: With the painful memories of Appalachian State and Toldeo still smoldering in my soul, I hope everyone approaches this “gimme” game with caution. This UMass team is nothing like the pathetic Delaware State team we destroyed last year. They are pretty good and ranked 18th in the FCS sub-division. Quite frankly, we are not good enough yet to roll out the winged helmets onto the turf and win.
That being said, there is absolutely no way we should lose this game. If the game is even close, expect the torch and pitchfork crowd to gather in front of Rich Rodriguez’s house on Saturday night looking for blood. I see the defense getting a lot of game speed reps and gaining some more confidence. I hope the offensive starters only get to see the field in the first half. Watching Devin Gardner & Tate Forcier run the offense the entire second half against these guys would be wonderful. The Devin Gardner for Heisman campaign starts saturday.