Prior to Army's faceoff against UMass, I contacted @TheCursiveU on Twitter with a few questions on their thoughts about the future of the UMass-Army rivalry with Army joining the AAC
1.) What are your initial thoughts on the possibility of losing the yearly game with Army?
Sucks. Losing a nationally recognized program coming to McGuirk every two years is awful for UMass. Money is everything to UMass; it would seem pretty important to our Athletic Director, Ryan Bamford, to keep a bus ride opponent on the schedule.
2.) Did UMass fans view Army as a regional rival?
Regional rival, sure. Rival? Ha, we need to win a few tilts to make it a rivalry, right? We can tell you this: getting alums to travel to West Point every other year is an easy sell.
3.) What did it mean for the program to have a program as recognizable as Army come to McGuirk?
Shockingly, we got USF, BYU, and Missouri to schedule games at the old girl. But yes, that ten-year deal with Army was huge for the program, mainly playing on CBSSN is a win for UMass.
4.) Who is UMass' biggest rival after UConn and the occasional BC game?
Temple has a lot of history on the basketball side with UMass but not much on the gridiron. Still, we wish to be connected to them at the FBS level.
Buffalo has some heat behind it from our MAC days. Although we'd rather fly than drive through upstate NY to end up in Buffalo, it's "regional" enough for us to call it a regional rival.
Although there has yet to be a success at the FBS level, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will make our list from our D1-AA days of making national championship runs.
The Cursive U's Questions For Me
1.) Do you believe Army ends up terminating the scheduling contract with UMass?
Sadly, yes. Our AD Mike Buddie said in an interview that Army wants to schedule an FCS school and a Power Five school. This means regional games against UConn and UMass will fall to the wayside as well as series against strong Group of Five programs like Coastal Carolina and Marshall.
Most Army fans value the Power Five game over a game against UConn or UMass, especially after the brief period from 2017-2019 when Army was a threat to beat any Power Five in the country. Personally, I would prefer we schedule a Group of Five team as well as an FCS school. I love the Patriot League, but Army gains little from those games, even though it is cool to see the tradition-rich programs of that conference come to Michie
2.) Have you been to McGuirk? If so, which game and what were your thoughts of Amherst?
I never have. The closest I came was when I was a sophomore in college, I took a bus to Boston to watch UMass’ last game to date at Gillette Stadium against BYU. I love intersectional matchups, so I am really considering going to the 2027 UMass-Hawaii game at McGuirk. I remember watching the 2018 game on TV and seeing it be a back-and-forth affair in Amherst.
3.) How do you feel about the new plans for the Army-Navy game, including the caveat of both making the conference championship?
I like that the Army-Navy Game remains a standalone game. In an age where the Playoff dictates everything and even the Rose Bowl, the genesis of college football’s postseason, can lose its revered spot on New Year’s Day, it is refreshing to see Army-Navy preserved. I recognize that the conference championship game caveat is a needed sacrifice for this to happen.
Still, I can’t help but argue that conference championships are mostly just cash-grabs for conferences, and if Army and Navy need to play to decide the AAC title, why would they have to play twice? TCU-Kansas State last year showed how pointless conference championship games could be at times when TCU had already beaten Kansas State earlier in the year, then lost the Big 12 Title Game, but still made the Playoff. An Army-Navy conference championship just seems like a formality if it were to happen.
Are you happy leaving for the AAC? Also, there are rumors that VCU will be joining for hoops only. Does the AAC continue to grow on the gridiron?
As a lifelong lover of bowl games, I am a fan of the move. Army’s path to a bowl game becomes easier. Since 2014, Army scheduled two or more FCS teams in a year eight of those ten years. In 2022, that came back to haunt us as we went 6-6 but stayed home for the postseason since we had just four FCS wins. Replacing an extra FCS game with a winnable AAC game aids us immensely and the AAC is a league we can compete in, given six of their 14 members were C-USA members in 2022.
Additionally, we have history with Memphis, Tulane, East Carolina, USF, and UAB from our previous stint in Conference USA. We have a regional rival in Temple, an opportunity to play multiple games near military bases in Texas with North Texas, Rice, and UTSA, and alignment with schools with solid academics like Rice and Tulane.
It does hurt to see our schedule lose diversity, but overall, Army maintains its “national program” distinction that Army fans love to wave around.
Finally, I do not see the AAC growing further in football. They have covered most major markets in their footprint save for the Nashville market, but it is hard to see them feeling a need to add WKU or Middle Tennessee. Buffalo provides some intrigue, but I think they are content to be in the geographically-compact MAC. Same for NIU. The most fascinating option is Delaware, but I do not see the AAC dipping into the FCS after years of branding itself as a Power Six league.
If so, do you see an opportunity for UMass to join at some point to be a travel partner?
If more schools leave for the ACC, especially after the rumored moves of Miami, FSU, Clemson, and UNC happen, then I can see UMass join as a full-member. The UMass-Temple basketball rivalry would become valuable TV inventory and UMass does not receive much of a drop-off from the Atlantic 10. Otherwise, without other moves, it is hard to see the Minutemen join the AAC for football, much less all sports.
***Please follow @TheCursiveU on Twitter. I have thoroughly enjoyed their UMass commentary and banter for years and they have helped me learn a lot about the UMass program.***