I think it’s pretty universally accepted that at the time they added Tulsa that they were the best card left on the table. However, rumors were spreading that the University of Massachusetts was under heavy consideration. Should the American (then Big East) have added the Minute Men instead?
It’s hard to make an argument athletically for a school that has only one season of FBS play under its belt, and a terrible one at that. But name recognition means something, and that’s why I always thought they were an interesting case.
The American is short on state flagship universities, with UConn being the only one. The conference is a collection of second-bests and under dogs in their own states. Quality schools, no doubt. But name brand flagships, they are not. Take a peak at any of the remaining “Power Conferences” and you’ll see a number of schools that are the academic and athletic flagships in their state. Look at any of the lower conferences and you’ll see they’re lacking.
The other reason UMass sounded like such a good idea is that it gets the American away from the whole Conference USA 2.0 mantra. UMass has a different feel than those schools: a New England footprint school with good hoops, a great college town in Amherst, quality academics, and loyal alums.
At the end of the day, Tulsa is probably the better bet. But UMass would have added a nice flavor, and I’m sorry they aren’t a member of the league.
Image Credit: UMass Basketball