It is clear the University of Massachusetts Amherst Football team has undergone a facelift in recent years. A new division, moving from the D-1AA to primetime Division 1-A FBS football has enhanced their visibility. The new coach brought in, Charley Molnar, did anything but capitalize on the move the team made in 2012, going a combined 2-22 in his time with the team before being released from his contract before the 2014 season.
Enter Mark Whipple. Whipple is a coach who is no stranger to UMass, coaching the team to great success in the late 90s and early 2000’s, winning the D-1AA Championship in his first year with the team in 1998. This was a great hire, and a good marketing move by the university to shift the face of their football team from a failed transition, into a familiar face that has experienced success in the community of Amherst, with many alumni willing to offer their support. With the return of Whipple, the marketing focus for the Minutemen has shifted to almost a ‘return to glory’ promise from the athletic department, hiring a coach who knows how to win, and has done it under tough circumstances before. Preaching coming home to his ‘true home’ and ‘family’, Mark Whipple has said all of the right things, and conveyed the message that UMass Football wants to return to it’s winning ways.
Along with rehiring Whipple, the team has also increased their brand with a new $35 million dollar state-of-the-art Football Performance Facility. This is aimed to attract the recruits necessary for the team to succeed in the future with Whipple at the helm, attracting players to transfer to the school such as graduate student and starting QB Blake Frohnapfel from Marshall University, who is finding success in Whipple’s offense this season. This stadium renovation is critically important because of the home games they have lost with their upgrade to Division 1-A. Losing and having home games at Gillette have demoralized the fan base, and detached the students from the football team over the past 2 years.
Although the performance for the team this year has yet to translate into victories, sitting at 0-5, the homecoming game this past weekend tells you all you need to know about the marketing the football team has done. With banners hanging from McGuirk looking back on the success of teams from past decades and Whipple’s face front and center, the team sold out their homecoming game against Bowling Green, amounting to a sell-out ~17,000 fans at the stadium. The product of the team on the field has been much improved as well, with a string of heartbreaking losses, that although are losses in the record columns, signal a return to competitive football again for the university. All-in-all the team has sparked interest in football yet again on campus, and no one is more excited than the student body.