It isn’t a perfect solution but the University of Massachusetts may have been in a “can’t win” situation when it made the decision to leave the Colonial Athletic Conference in football and join the Mid America Conference, upgrading to the Football Bowl Subdivision. Currently a Football Championship Subdivision team in football, the Minutemen are watching their league, come apart around them. In-state rival Northeastern has dropped football and Villanova is expected to announce an upgrade into the Big East, now that the requirement on stadium size has been dropped. The former 1-AA division in football is considered the biggest financial loser in college sports, but the upgrade to the upper echelon is very costly. UMass has vaulted one hurdle with it’s stadium deal, obtaining use of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro rent free, the deal calling for them just to split revenues with their landlords, the New England Patriots. But the stadium deal comes with one big drawback, a ninety five mile drive from campus. UMass is putting more of it’s apples in a basket with alumni, 120,000 of whom reportedly live within a half hour of Foxboro, while hoping a 200 mile round trip by bus won’t be a turnoff to students. The Foxboro deal comes with a few strings, not the least of which is the Patriots right to call it off after five years if attendance isn’t producing acceptable revenues, which would send the Minutemen back to rickety McQuirk Stadium on campus. The caveat is the more fans attracted to Foxboro, the less satisfying the overall experience when compounded by traffic problems. While UMass officials expect the upgrade to generate the revenues to support the increased expenses, an additional twenty two scholarships and travel costs, now that every home game becomes a road game, just to name a couple, they have to weigh those expectations against the conference in which they’ll play. They’ll be at the eastern most extreme of a conference with a heavy Ohio and Illinois emphasis, further increasing travel costs, and, while the eligibility to play for a major bowl berth can produce revenues, for non BCS leagues, of with the Mid America is one, the most likely bowl games fall into the second tier, where the cost of sending a team often turns into a deficit situation. Even if they become the elite program in the MAC the chances of a BCS bowl berth are quite limited. UMass sees itself as recruiting against just the other two 1-A schools in New England, but will soon learn what those two schools already deal with, a Big East team just to the west, Syracuse, much closer to UMass than the others, a school with superior on campus facilities and no hundred mile bus trip to home games. With all of it’s other sports continuing to play in the Atlantic Ten, UMass has one other problem the other New England schools had already adressed, building an infrastructure to support big time football. It takes time, and if the Foxboro experiment isn’t a success in five years the entire effort hits a fast slope to failure. The pot of gold at the end of the Football Bowl Subdivision rainbow is full of untold riches, but the road to that rainbow’s end is full of potholes that have left many good intentions in ruin. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.