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UMass will be joining the MAC in all sports starting in the 2025-26 academic year, the conference announced on Thursday. This marks a return to the MAC for UMass' football program, which competed in the league from 2012-15 after making the jump from the Football Championship Subdivision. UMass' other sports currently compete in the Atlantic 10. 

UMass football has competed as an independent since its departure from the MAC in 2015. The Minutemen have gone through three different coaches and failed to make a bowl game in the years since. They just finished their second consecutive season under coach Don Brown, who himself made a return to the program ahead of the 2022 season. 

"Today marks a historic moment for the Mid-American Conference as we proudly welcome the University of Massachusetts into our family," MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said in a statement. "Adding UMass is an exciting next step as we increase the strength of our collective programs. We are thrilled to welcome their student-athletes, coaches, administrators, alumni and fans to the Conference.  The opportunity to add a state flagship institution with exceptional academics and a storied athletics tradition does not come along often.  I look forward to our collaborative efforts in providing outstanding opportunities for student-athletes to maximize their intellectual and athletic pursuits."

Brown led UMass from 2004-08 when it competed in the Atlantic 10 and then the Colonial Athletic Association. He won two conference titles and guided the program to two FCS playoff appearances before leaving in 2009. In two years since making his way back to Amherst, Brown has compiled a 4-20 record, but three of those victories came during the 2023 season to mark the program's highest win total since 2018 when it went 4-8. 

The addition of UMass will increase the MAC's membership to 13, an imbalance that would normally be rectified in a divisional format. However, the MAC announced in November that the 2023 season would be its last with divisions. Moving forward, teams will compete for a linear spot in the now 13-team standings, falling in line with a majority of conferences in the modern era. 

"Our entire athletics program will benefit greatly by aligning and partnering with the Mid-American conference and its member institutions," UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said. "As we consider our future in a very challenging and choppy college athletics landscape, having conference peers with similar institutional profiles, aspirations and commitments toward athletics excellence will provide stability and strength. Furthermore, our transition to the MAC will provide additional resources allowing our department to evolv

UMass' history with MAC 

UMass began a move to the FBS level and earned support from the MAC in 2011. It first started competing with the conference as a football-only member in 2012, and in 2013 it earned eligibility to participate in the conference championship game and other postseason contests. 

The MAC years weren't necessarily kind to UMass, which never won more than three games in a single season and failed to register a winning record in conference play. Five of its seven total MAC wins came in its last two seasons in the league with veteran coach Mark Whipple leading the way. 

In March 2014, UMass announced it would leave the MAC following the 2015 season after declining to become a full member of the conference. The Minutemen remained in the MAC for the 2014-15 seasons after the league's presidents enacted a clause that extended its original football-only contract, though an ultimatum was delivered that only full membership would preserve UMass' spot beyond that.