Daily News

Opinion: A Losing Proposition for UMass

UMass is looking for a new head football coach. Again.

Yes, the Walt Bell era is over. Not quite three years in, and after a bad loss to the University of Rhode Island at home (and on homecoming weekend), Bell was fired. This was a bad loss not because of the score (35-22), but because URI plays one division down from UMass. And such a setback inevitably triggers discussion of why UMass is in that higher division to begin with.

Indeed, this loss, coupled with Bell’s firing, has brought out some new calls for UMass to end its experiment with big-time football and go back to where it was — playing schools like URI every weekend, and even beating some of them. Often, quite a few of them.

Those calls make sense. UMass has been trying to succeed in the Football Championship Subdivision for almost a decade now. It is not only not making any progress, it is going backward. The team has simply not been competitive on the field, as the scores would indicate — a 51-7 loss to Pittsburgh, 53-3 to Coastal Carolina, 59-3 to Florida State, and 62-17 to Liberty — and in recent years, the program has become nothing short of an embarrassment to the school.

If one were an optimist, one would point to the success of the school’s hockey team, which returned to Division 1 in 1993 and last spring won a national championship, as reason to stay with this experiment and press on. But this situation calls for realism, not optimism. And realistically speaking, UMass is simply not positioned to succeed with this experiment. It’s not the coach, and it’s not the stadium, or the lack of one befitting a school at the top tier. It comes down to the fact that it’s very, very difficult to succeed at this level. It takes money, facilities, a passionate fan base, and a foundation on which to build.

UMass doesn’t have any of those things, really, and neither does another school that should give up the ghost when it comes to the Football Championship Subdivision: UConn, the only school UMass has beaten this year.

Coach Walt Bell is gone, but the problem remains. UMass is in over its head. And it’s time to come back to shore.