A New Day in Amherest: Coach W.D. Franklin and the Minutemen Prepare for UMass' Inagural FBS Season “I don’t know anything about big boys, but football is a man’s game and that’s how we’re going to play it. Like men”. Those are the words of W.D. Franklin, the man chosen to lead the Minutemen of Massachusetts in their first season of gridiron competition amongst those affectionately known as the “big boys”; the Football Bowl Subdivision. Franklin does not lack for confidence, of this much we are certain. He also seems to hold charisma and optimism in great abundance. Whether or not he possesses the requisite skill to guide UMass through its baptismal foray into Big Boy Football and bring them out on the other end anew—and breathing, is yet to be determined. Now, make no mistake. The majority of melees awaiting the Minutemen hardly qualify as clashes against titans. Their ticket into the FBS show is good enough for nose-bleed seats; good enough for a spot amongst the all the big boys who end up going to prom with girls named ‘Bertha’ or ‘Opal’. That ticket, of course, is a general admission entry to the Mid-American Conference, home to the likes of programs such as Buffalo, Northern Illinois, Ball State and virtually every team in the state of Ohio not named Ohio State. At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be enough firepower amongst the MAC’s combatants to strike a match, let alone strike fear into the hearts of the spirited bunch from down Amherst. After all, in the Colonial Athletic Association, annual battles against the likes of Football Championship Series contenders Delaware, William and Mary, and Villanova certainly stand as comparable challengers as anything the MAC offers, no? They couldn’t be considered a steep step down in competition. Could they? “They definitely play a good brand of ball down there [in the CAA], especially at the top of the division. Those guys definitely know how to compete,” says Franklin. And he has a point. Think back to 2009, when four teams from the CAA claimed victory over FBS schools, including two from the MAC and two ACC programs. This may lead one to conclude that, despite all of the hub-bub being made over UMass’ jump to the FBS by way of the Mid-American Conference, the transition may be much ado about nothing. One may be mistaken. Especially if one were to let Coach Franklin tell it. “This move, this is a huge deal,” he preaches. “The CAA is a very competitive division, but the MAC is still a whole other monster. Top to bottom, there’s just more talent and more depth in the MAC than the CAA. Being a MAC member, we have more resources to sustain that success, more profile on the national stage, to some extent. Look at what Boise State did out west. Having the run they’re having, even out in the WAC, made them a program every college football fan knows. This is a chance for UMass to be relevant in a way that wasn’t possible before [in the CAA]. This move is a major step for this program. No doubt about it.” And when Franklin says the move is “a major step”, he actually has the audacity to be speaking about a lot more than the actual move to FBS; he’s actually talking about competing. And succeeding, too. “We’re not here just to exist,” boasts Franklin. “We’re not here for revenue streams or paydays. We’re not here to be anybody’s Homecoming game. We’re here to win. If you come to our house, then we’re making sure you’re leaving with a limp. And if we come to your house, we don’t plan on being house guest that you intend on having back. We want to be the flagship program for the MAC, we want to be the premier the team on the East coast, and we want to compete for National Championships.” Now, we’re not sure if Franklin’s ambition necessitates a visit to the psych ward before summer practices open up, but one thing is for certain; Franklin is not bashful about his expectations, nor is he short on high-in-the-sky-apple-pie aspirations for his Minutemen. The latter may prove an essential nutrient to be taken together with a large dose of resiliency when considering the schedule’s opening stanza. The Minutemen’s indoctrination begins August 30th in East Hartford, Connecticut against the UConn Huskies of the Big East Conference. That game is followed by a pair of contests against Big Ten opponents, a home game against the Indiana Hoosiers on September 8th and a trip to the legendary Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan against the Michigan Wolverines. There is also a trip down south into SEC country to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores later in the year and on-going conversations with the ACC’s Boston College about an annual rivalry ‘Tea Party’. Whew. When pressed for comment about UMass’ out of conference schedule, Franklin echoed what appears to be the foundation of his philosophy in regards to America’s newest favorite past time in his signature saucy fashion. “They bleed just like we do. This is a man’s game and that’s how we’re going to play it.” One can only hope that Franklin’s recipe for success has as much substance to it as it does sauce. Only time will tell.