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Friday, September 14, 2012

Know Your Foe - UMass 2012

Michigan tries to go above .500 this Saturday when they take on the newest entrant to FBS, UMass, at Michigan Stadium. This will be the second meeting between the schools. Two years ago, the Minutemen came within a recovered onside kick from probably beating Michigan, finally falling 42-37. But that was in 2010, one of the three years that didn’t happen. So you probably don’t remember who these Minutemen are and you’re probably wondering who are these Bay Staters and what should we know about them? To answer these and many other questions, the MZone is proud to present this year’s special cupcake (Mmmmmmm....cupcake) edition of KNOW YOUR FOE.

History – The University of Massachusetts was founded in 1863 thanks to the Morrill Land-Grant Act. KYF was surprised to learn that a school in New England was a land grant college – that seems like much more of a Midwestern thing. The original name was Massachusetts Agricultural College and was referred to as Mass Aggie or M.A.C. That means that Michigan will face two M.A.C.s this season. Four years after its founding the school still had no students, no instructors, and no buildings. Finally, in 1867 about 50 students enrolled and the school was in business.

The campus underwent widespread expansion in the latter part of the 19th century. This included the creation of the Campus Pond which was created by damming a small brook. The Pond remains a central aspect of campus to this day.

By the 20th century, more expansion was undertaken, both with the physical campus and the curriculum. The first female students graduated in 1905 and liberal arts were introduced to go along with the original studies in the “agricultural, mechanical, and military arts.” Due to this broader curriculum, the name was changed to Massachusetts State College in 1931. Following more growth post-World War II, the name was changed again in 1947 to the University of Massachusetts. The name often includes Amherst to distinguish it from the other four schools in the UMass system. Currently, around 27,000 students attend UMass.

Location – Amherst, Massachusetts. This town of under 40,000 in the Connecticut River valley is one of the few in the country that might be more liberal than Ann Arbor. The town’s nickname of “The People’s Republic of Amherst” attests to this. The liberalism, no doubt, is a result of being the home of three colleges: UMass, the more prestigious Amherst College, as well as Hampshire College. Mount Holyoke College and Smith College are just one town over. It’s no wonder that MSN.com named it the best college town in 2009, and U.S. News and World Report ranked Amherst in its top ten college towns (along with Ann Arbor) in 2012.

Amherst (pronounced without the “H”) was named for Jeffery Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst, an officer in the British Army in the 18th century. Amherst’s claim to fame are victories in the French and Indian War when he conquered Louisbourg, Quebec City, and Montreal. Along with the town that hosts UMass, there’s an Amherst in New York and New Hampshire as well as Ontario and Nova Scotia (Wikipedia says those two are in a place called "Canada").

Amherst is the home of Emily Dickinson, Uma Thurman, and the National Yiddish Book Center. It’s location in western Massachusetts places it much closer to Springfield, MA (18 miles) and Hartford, CT (43 miles) than to Boston (74 miles).

Nickname – Minutemen. KYF was surprised to find out that the Minutemen nickname is a somewhat recent phenomenon in UMass lore. The original name for the school’s teams was Aggies (it just doesn’t sound right for a New England school) and then Redmen. However, in the early 1970s, the name received objections from Native American groups and the administration decided a change was the correct thing to do. A student vote produced the Minutmen name and it’s been in use since 1972. Know Your Foe has a long history of supporting the elimination of Native American imagery in sports, but the problem is that the replacement names are invariably lame. RedHawks? Red Storm? Eagles? Please. Use the opportunity to come up with an appropriate and great-sounding name like UMass did.
For those that have forgotten their high school history, Minutemen were teams of select men who fought (on our side) of the Revolutionary War. They were highly mobile, and were rapidly deployed (get it, minutemen?) which allowed the colonies to react quickly wherever fighting men were needed. 

Around the time of the new nickname, women’s sports were formed and those teams have been called the Minutewomen (it’s as tough to type as it is to say). There are a number of college teams that use different names for their women’s teams, but most of those just add “Lady” to the nickname (think Lady Vols, or Lady Razorbacks). UMass joins Oklahoma State and Wyoming (Cowboys to Cowgirls) in changing the gender of their nickname. In looking over the list of schools that have different nicknames, there are some really creative schools out there. Arkansas Tech calls their men’s team the Wonder Boys and their women’s teams the Golden Suns. Centenary’s men are the Gentlemen and the women are the Ladies. And Central Missouri’s men are known as the Mules while the women are the Jennies.

Mascot – Sam the Minuteman. For a school that doesn’t have very prominent athletics, Sam is a widely seen mascot. He’s appeared in two ESPN commercials and has shown to be extremely versatile.

Colors – Maroon and white. A number of college teams use maroon, but only Mississippi State and Texas A&M are like UMass and pair it only with white. The maroon and white combo strikes a nice contrast on the football field. The problem with UMass is that they use black as a major and often predominant color. Not only does this not make sense (black is not an official school color) but black and maroon look horrible together. Because of this, UMass has lightened up their maroon to be closer to a crimson. Though this looks slightly better, it’s not true to their school colors.

Logo/Helmet – The UMass logo is plagued with the same issue that so many modern, computer-generated logos have. It’s cartoonish and took very little imagination. Why is the U larger than the M? Is the Minutemen needed along the bottom? And does this logo not apply to the women’s teams at UMass? The Minuteman has potential but not when drawn as a cartoon character. A re-do is necessary on this logo that’s been in use for 10 years. For a decade before, a strange but somewhat unique logo was in place. The logo, a mix of a script U and ‘70s style font spelling “Mass,” is probably most familiar to sports fans as it was the logo during the Minutemen’s rare basketball success.

While the UMass logo is merely lame, the helmet is a disaster. For some unknown reason, the school uses a black shell and black facemask with a generic “Mass” spelled out across a bold U. Just an absolute clusterfuck. Of course UMass doesn’t have a great history of football or football helmets. When the Minutemen previously came to Ann Arbor the team sported a white helmet with UMass spelled out in progressively smaller letters. At least they got the colors right. There’s no doubt they should return to a version based on the helmet they wore from 1974-84 when a Minuteman stood in between a U and M.

Fight SongUMassFight Song. OK, it’s not the most original name but it’s a surprisingly good fight song. KYF has to admit to never having heard it before writing this blog post, but it’s a quick march with a fun chant in the middle.

The lyrics are rather unimaginative. Of the 41 words, “Fight” appears 11 times. Why so angry, UMass? And though the Bee Gees used it to great effect in 1967, as did Ra Ra Riot in 2010, getting “Massachusetts” into a song can’t be easy. Plus, the use of the state nickname (Bay State) earns points from KYF.

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.

The song was written by Captain Edwin Sumner, a military instructor at the university in 1930. The UMass marching band is called the Power and Class of New England. The band was directed by George Parks from 1977 until his death two days before he was to lead the band at Michigan Stadium in 2010. The band performed in his honor for that Saturday's game. The band building on campus that bears his name was opened a year ago.

Academics - According to the most recent U. S. News ranking of America's Best Colleges, UMass ranks #97, which would place it only above Nebraska if it were in the Big Ten. UMass is tied with Florida State, Colorado, and Missouri. Amazingly, the ranking puts UMass as the 10th best college in the state, trailing Harvard, MIT, Tufts, Boston College, Brandeis, Boston U., Northeastern, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Clark University. And this doesn’t include Amherst College which doesn’t offer enough programs to be considered.

Athletics – The UMass athletics program has 21 varsity teams (Michgan has 27), 10 men’s teams and 11 women’s teams. The football team is in its first year in FBS and is a member of the Mid-American Conference. Most of the rest of the teams compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference, while the hockey team is in Hockey East.

Only one UMass team has ever won a national championship - in 1998 they won the 1-AA football crown. They’ve also had some success in men and women’s lacrosse as well as men’s swimming. The men’s basketball team had been good over the years, though it’s been almost 20 years since they were a national power. The Minutemen won five straight conference titles from 1992-96 and made the Final Four in ’96 under head coach Jim Calipari. Shockingly, the Final Four appearance was vacated when it was discovered that star player Marcus Camby accepted money from agents. The team has only won one conference title since then.

As mentioned above, the football team won an FCS championship in 1998 and made the finals two other times. They’ve won 22 conference titles in the various incarnations of the Colonial Athletic Association. The most successful NFL player from UMass is former Detroit Lion quarterback Greg Landry. KYF doesn’t know if this is an indictment of UMass football or the Lions. Current New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz wore the maroon and white. The Minutemen play in typically empty Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL's Patriots. 

Famous alums – The alumni list for UMass is decent if not outstanding. The entertainment world has plenty of Minutemen and Minutewomen. Singer Natalie Cole, musician Frank Black, actor Bill Pullman, and comedians Bill Cosby and Dana Gould are UMass alums. Los Angeles Kings goalie and 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Quick played for the Minutemen. And from the college football media world, Dan Wetzel from Yahoo! and ESPN’s Wendi Nix are UMass graduates.

The list also includes plenty of local politicians, an astronaut but, alas, no U.S. Presidents

The Game – After starting with NFL-caliber Alabama, then taking on difficult-to-prepare-for Air Force, and with talented Notre Dame next, this is Michigan’s only cupcake on the schedule this year. UMass has been smoked by two of the weakest FBS schools out there (UConn and Indiana) and could be looking at a winless season. Certainly they won’t give Michigan as tough a time as they did a couple of years ago. Last week, Denard Robinson was the entire offense for Michigan. But on Saturday Denard won’t run much because he won’t need to, and he’ll only play the first half. The running backs will finally pick up some yardage in an easy win.



616goblue said...

There is only one place on the interwebs with this kind of jouranlistic insight: "The most successful NFL player from UMass is former Detroit Lion quarterback Greg Landry. KYF doesn’t know if this is an indictment of UMass football or the Lions."

Another outstanding edition of Know Your Foe.


Mikoyan said...

Just in case you need a recap of the last time these two teams met:


And very good KYF as usual.

Clay said...

55-3? I hope so we need a big win like that, even if it's just UMass to give a confidence boost.

Go Blue!

Brandon said...

"No UMass team has ever won a national championship...The football team won an FCS championship in 1998"

Is that an error or are you not counting it because it's not FBS?

Yost said...

Brandon, yeah, I think that's what Benny meant, although it is confusing. Will clarify.

john statham said...

Really Awesome matches.. I really want to see the next match of Michigan state football. Is its Tickets availble Now!!!

Adam said...

Agreed. Excellent KYF. I thoroughly enjoyed the Versatile Sam graphic.

Best UMass preview of the week.

Raoul Duke said...

UMass - Birthplace of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, without whom i would not have lost my virginity in Bursley -Lewis. Without beer and those wingmen, probably not at all.

Raoul Duke said...

TMI. I know.

Ramona said...

So happy we don't have to see another healing pic this week!!!