Collegiate football made its debut in the Connecticut Valley by the 1870s, and the first team at Massachusetts Agricultural College was organized in 1875 by Francis Codman, class of 1880, though the first intercollegiate game was not played until Nov. 22, 1879, when they defeated their rival Amherst College, 4-0, on Alumni Field. In the following year, the team played its first road game, playing to a scoreless draw on Nov. 13, 1880 at Amherst College. “We had no uniforms then,” wrote one player, “and were a hard looking bunch with our old clothes on.”
In 1880, the MAC side appeared in new uniforms purchased through subscriptions by faculty and students. White canvas jackets and knee pants were set off against maroon knee socks and a maroon stocking cap with white stripe. The early days of MAC football, however, were not uniformly successful. Although student support for athletics was high, faculty resistance and the lack of adequate facilities dampened the growth of sports on campus. Only by the end of the century, with the revival of interest in physical culture for young men, did the conditions change for the better. In 1899, Professor Richard Swann Lull proposed fitting out the Drill Hall to serve double duty as a gymnasium, and the growth of sports in the region – exemplified by James Naismith's invention of basketball in nearby Springfield – both spurred a campus commitment to athletics.
The lack of facilities had a strong impact on football. Games were originally played in open space adjacent to the Drill Hall, but a campaign to build a proper athletic field began in 1892 under the lead of William P. Brooks, though it was not until 1914 that Alumni Field was finally drained and improved. Finances for football also began to improve. In 1899, Professor R. E. Smith collected $400 from the alumni, enabling the college for the first time to hire a coach for the entire season.
By 1901, the football team was playing a full slate of games against other colleges, rather than filling out the schedule with prep schools, and the teams enjoyed a modicum of success. Early MAC teams were frequently coached by former players from Dartmouth College, and among these early coaches was Matthew W. Bullock (coach 1904, 1907, 1908) who is considered the first salaried African American head coach in college football. In 1905, the football team at MAC also unanimously elected an African American man, William H. Craighead, as team captain, the second African American to be elected captain at a predominantly white college.
Despite mixed results in most years, the Aggies enjoyed strong seasons in 1901, 1924 and 1925, and the early 1930s, when coach Mel Taube ran up a 29-13-2 record in five seasons, earning him the highest winning percentage among UMass coaches with over 40 games. The star of Taube's teams, Halfback Lou Bush, became the first All-American at UMass, winning the national scoring title in 1931 and 1932, with an average of over two touchdowns per game.
The UMass Minutemen have found more consistent success on the field since 1960, winning six Yankee Conference championships each in the 1960s and 1970s under coaches Vic Fusia, Dick MacPherson, and Bob Pickett. The 1963 squad (8-0-1) surrendered only a single touchdown and a total of 12 points in the entire season, producing the only undefeated season in the history of the school when the team played a full schedule. In 1965 construction of the Alumni Stadium was completed, providing the football team with a new home field.
In 2010 UMass had seven alumni playing in the National Football League including second-round NFL Draft selection Vladimir Ducasse of the New York Jets.
In 2011, UMass Amherst announced that the team had accepted a bid to play in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) of the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), beginning in 2012. UMass Amherst will play all of its home games in 2012 and 2013 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. After two years as a transitional member during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the NCAA would make a formal announcement of UMass' admission to FBS in the Summer 2013 after the program successfully meets the specified measures over its two transitioning years.
UMass in the Postseason
Through the years, the football team has captured the 1998 I-AA National Championship and 22 conference championships, and appeared in nine postseasons tournaments, eight as a member of the NCAA FCS/I-AA.
- 1977 Div. II playoffs
- First round loss 30-23 vs. Lehigh (Nov. 26, at Amherst, Mass.)
- 1978 Div I-AA playoffs
- Semifinals: 44-21 victory vs. University of Nevada-Reno (Dec. 9, at Reno, Nev.)
- Championship game: 35-28 loss vs Florida A&M (Dec. 16, at Wichita Falls, Tex.)
- 1988 Div. I-AA playoffs
- First round: 17-28 loss vs. Eastern Kentucky (Nov. 26, at Richmond, Ky.)
- 1990 Div. I-AA playoffs
- First round: 0-38 loss vs. William and Mary (Nov. 24, at Williambsurg, Va.)
- 1998 Div. I-AA playoffs
- First round: 21-19 victory vs. McNeese State (Nov. 28, at Lake Charles, La.)
- Quarterfinals: 27-21 victory vs. Lehigh (Dec. 5, at Amherst, Mass.)
- Semifinals: 41-31 victory vs. Northwestern State (La.) (Dec. 12, at Natchitoches, La.)
- Finals: 55-43 victory vs. Georgia Southern (Dec. 19, at Chattanooga, Tenn.)
- 1999 Div. I-AA playoffs
- First round: 30-23 victory vs. Furman (Nov. 27, at Greenville, S.C.)
- Quarterfinals: 21-38 loss vs Georgia Southern (Dec. 4, at Statesboro, Ga.)
- 2003 Div. I-AA playoffs
- First round: 7-19 loss vs Colgate (Nov. 29, at Hamilton, N.Y.)
- 2006 FCS playoffs
- First round: 35-14 victory vs. Lafayette (Nov. 25, at Amherst, Mass.)
- Quarterfinals: 24-17 vs. New Hampshire (Dec. 2, at Amherst, Mass.)
- Semifinals: 19-17 vs. Montana (Dec. 8, at Missoula, Mont.)
- Finals: 17-28 loss vs. Appalachian State (Dec. 15, at Chattanooga, Tenn.)
- 2007 FCS playoffs
- First round: 49-35 victory vs. Fordham (Nov. 24, at Amherst, Mass.)
- Quarterfinals: 27-34 loss vs. Southern Illinois (Dec. 1, at Carbondale, Ill.)
The Minutemen have appeared in two other postseason bowl games:
- 1964 Tangerine Bowl, Orlando, Fla. Loss 13-14 vs.East Carolina
- 1972 Boardwalk Bowl, Alantic City, N.J. Win 35-14 vs.U.C. Davis
All time record (Coaches)
For year by year results, see the UMass Football website of the UMass Amherst Athletic Department.
|1899–1900||Fred Murphy Brown||12||8||0||.600|
|1904, 1907–1908||Matthew Bullock||13||8||5||.596|
|1906||George E. O'Hearn||1||7||1||.167|
|1909||J. W. Gage||1||6||2||.222|
|1941–1942, 1946||Walter Hargesheimer||11||11||1||.500|
|1945, 1947–1951||Thomas Eck||17||23||4||.432|
- Cary, Harold Whiting, The University of Massachusetts: A History of One Hundred Years. Amherst, 1962.
- Sullivan, Steven R., University of Massachusetts Athletics. Charleston, S.C., 2006.