Busting Brackets

Atlantic 10 Basketball: Impact of UMass leaving the A-10 for MAC Conference

UMass will reportedly join the MAC in all sports beginning in the 2025-26 academic year. Does this move help or hurt Frank Martin's program?
Massachusetts v Murray State
Massachusetts v Murray State / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

The Mid-American Conference board voted to add the University of Massachusetts as an all-sports member, including football, effective at the beginning of the 2025-26 academic year. The news broke Monday afternoon on X by the Athletic's Nicole Auerbach. It was a massive surprise to many UMass fans and Atlantic 10 supporters, especially after the conference expanded last year with the addition of Loyola Chicago.

UMass had been a member of the Yankee Conference since 1946 before leaving to become a founding member of the Atlantic 10 Conference in 1976 for all sports, excluding football, and then eventually for football between 1997 and 2006 when the A-10 expanded to the sport. Massachusetts was previously in the MAC as a football-only member between 2012-15; however, the school and conference ultimately agreed to part ways because they refused to leave the Atlantic 10 as one of its founding members. They have competed as an FBS Independent since the 2016 season.

Now, the Minutemen will rejoin the Mid-American Conference in not just football but all sports. This move should significantly help their football program but will be extremely interesting among other programs, especially for their basketball programs. UMass has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2014 and has struggled to become a legitimate contender in the A-10; however, the program is making strides to return to the big dance under head coach Frank Martin.

This season, the Massachusetts Minutemen are 17-10 overall and 8-7 in Atlantic 10 play, a significant improvement from Martin's first season with the team a year ago, where they finished 13th in the conference ahead of Rhode Island and Loyola Chicago. The team is also 12-3 in games at the Mullins Center, with significant home wins over George Mason, Rhode Island, and VCU this month. UMass also recently earned a crucial road win over Richmond, where four players finished in double-figures.

Does moving to the MAC help or hurt the Minutemen?

The move to the Mid-American Conference should help UMass. I expect the program to benefit from joining a mid-major conference less competitive than the A-10 in basketball; however, I expect the first few seasons in the MAC to be an adjustment for the school, but I am curious to see how this will impact their recruiting. Still, with the program's storied history throughout college basketball, they should continue attracting top talent on the East Coast and eventually dominating the Mid-American Conference once established.

Since the program's existence, they have formed many East Coast and New England rivalries within the Atlantic 10 Conference, with schools like Rhode Island, Fordham, George Washington, and St Bonaventure. It will be interesting to see what new rivalries form within the MAC and how the Minutemen's introduction to the conference alters the standings. The top teams in the Mid-American Conference currently are Akron, Toledo, and Central Michigan, but Buffalo is the closest school to UMass. We'll see if this means a Northeast rivalry between Buffalo and Massachusetts will form.

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On the flip side, this is a bad move for the Atlantic 10 as they lose one of their founding members, but at least the conference will return to an even number with 14 teams starting in 2025. We'll see if this changes anything in the A-10. Could this open the door for more teams to join the Atlantic 10, or is this the beginning of the domino effect for more schools to leave? There is a lot of uncertainty about the future of the Atlantic 10 and whether UMass will or will not benefit from the move.