THE GRUDGE REPORT: Time to Pull The Plug on UConn, UMass and N. Mexico St. in FB

Mark Blaudschun

I met a girl who sang the blues

and I asked her for some happy news,

she just smiled and turned away.--Don McLean, American Pie

It is November and we are into the portion of the college football season where games mean something, championships are won--and lost- and long time rivalries bloom once again

At least that is the way it is in many of the 130 precincts of FBS level football.

But here in the Northeast, where college football is a sport enjoyed on television played mostly in other parts of the country, and in the land of (Dis) Enchantment known as New Mexico State, a much bleaker story is again unfolding.

For the University of Massachusetts and New Mexico State, both staggering through another season of discontent as independents and for the University of Connecticut, competing as a lame duck in the American Athletic Conference before moving to an independent status next season, it is time to concede defeat.

"No Mas'', which means just that.

No more.


Now there will be legitimate arguments from the school athletic officials that too much money has been invested and there is a way to make football work--from a financial viewpoint.

That may be true. But that does not change the product being produced. It isn't quality stuff and it should be discontinued.

This won't happen, but this is what should happen.

Finish this season and then make the announcement that football no longer will be played--not at the FBS level, (cynics will suggest that is already happening), but at any level.

Here's why.

Overall, the three schools have a combined record of 3-23.

UConn is 2-7, UMass is 1-8 and New Mexico State is 0-8.

One of those three victories came when UConn played and beat (56-35) UMass.

UConn's only other victory was a 24-21 squeaker against an FCS school Wagner, which is a woeful 1-8 this season.

UMass's only win was against Akron, a Mid-American Conference team with an 0-9 record.

Then there is New Mexico State, which is 0-8 this season and allowed more than 40 points five times.

One season, of course, should not be the basis of making any long term decisions.

In a world where trending is a vital measuring stick, there are no signs of anything positive at any of those schools.

New Mexico State, which actually made it to a bowl game a few years ago, has had losing seasons in 16 of the last 17 years and posted winning records only 4 times since 1983.

UConn, at the end of Coach Randy Edsall's first stint, actually made it to the Fiesta Bowl in 2010 when the Huskies posted an 8-5 record.

They haven't been above .500 since and have had nine or more losses in 5 of their last 6 seasons.

UMass, was an FCS power, winning a national championship 20 years ago and competing in the title game in 2006.

But life as an FBS school and as an independent has been brutal.

The Minutemen have won a total of 17 games in the last 6 seasons and have never been above .500 since moving from the FCS level in 2012 and have not had winning season since 2010.

Let's look at the big picture here.

All three schools will play as independents next season which means that if they disappear in football, no leagues will be negatively impacted.

At worst, the opposing schools will have to scramble to find a replacement game, which can be difficult on relatively short notice.

Only Notre Dame, Army and BYU can have any reasonable expectations of succeeding as an independent and even BYU has expressed some concern about it since leaving the Mountain West a few years ago.

Scheduling, for example, is a major challenge.

Without the financial comforter of a conference, offering both money and bowl affiliations, surviving as an independent is a challenge.

One way to make money to make up for any conference television shares which are no longer available, is to schedule so called "guaranteed'' games against FBS schools, who will guarantee schools such as UMass and New Mexico State a few million dollars to play on their home field.

New Mexico State has had two of those already--against Washington State and Alabama. The Aggies lost both games by a combined score of 120-17. They will play another such game on Saturday at Mississippi.

In addition, New Mexico State has been forced to schedule Liberty twice this season in a rare home-and home arrangement.

UMass faced Rutgers in its season opener and closes with BYU as its main FBS opponents.

UConn hasn't had a scheduling problem yet since it was part of the American Athletic Conference until the decision was made to bolt the AAC for the Big East in most major sports.

Since the Big East no longer plays football, and since the AAC didn't want UConn as a partial member, finding another conference or playing as an independent were the only choices.

There has been so significant movement on joining another conference (in football only), which left UConn as an independent contractor in football.

It is a tough sell for any coach. No incentives of a bowl game at the end of a season since most bowl bids are tied up with conferences, as well a schedule filled against teams who are looking for home games against teams they should beat easily.

If any of the three schools had a football heritage, it would be tougher to shut down football. (Dropping back to the FCS level doesn't make sense because it is not a money maker at the best of programs).

That is not the case. At UConn, life without football will cause a stir for a few days among a small group of backers and fans and then life will settle in for the winter as basketball grabs the attention, especially next season when the Huskies come back to the Big East.

At UMass, football will be as quickly forgotten as leaves once they fall off the trees in Amherst, which is weeks, if not days ahead.

Again, few will miss football, as the Minutemen concentrate (as they should) at getting better in the Atlantic 10 in basketball (they were a Final Four team).

As for New Mexico State, the sun never really rose on football as anything more than a casual fall activity. The Aggies have been a consistent winner in basketball and with basketball season expanding into early November (games will be played on Tuesday), another Saturday blow out loss in football will hardly be missed.

It is not the state of the union that fits the master athletic plan at any of those schools, but it is the harsh reality of the future, which should come sooner, rather than later.


Mark Blaudschun