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College Football in New England Gets Scheduling Boost

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College football fans in New England received good news on Thursday. Consider it a gift that will keep on giving – at least until 2022.

The University of Massachusetts issued a statement on its upcoming football schedules and, in the process, alerted the region of a deal that will result in New England’s three FBS programs playing each other multiple times between 2016-2022.

That’s a development that is tremendously overdue.

UMass and Connecticut have entered into a new four-year series running between 2018-2021. UMass will play Boston College in 2021 and 2022. With UConn scheduled to play Boston College in 2016 and 2017, the three schools appear ready to call a truce to their regional difference of opinion.

“UMass is fortunate to have the opportunity to help promote college football in this region while also enhancing our 2016 schedule to include an additional home game on campus,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in the statement. “I’m particularly excited about the changes to our first [FBS] independent schedule as they truly enhance the experience for our fans and football student-athletes.

“As a bonus, we were able to lock in future games with two respected regional rivals through a great partnership with Boston College and UConn. These match-ups are substantial for the UMass football brand and fans throughout the Commonwealth who support major college football.”

That is the UMass perspective, but UConn and BC will also benefit and it could be a big lift for a region that simply doesn’t embrace college football.

UMass and UConn will play in 2018 (Oct. 27 at UConn’s Rentschler Field), 2019 (Oct. 26 at Gillette Stadium), 2020 (Sept. 3 at UConn’s Rentschler Field) and 2021 (Oct. 2 at Gillette).

This new series cancels previously scheduled games in 2016 and 2017. Bamford said that was done to allow UConn to fill those dates with a home-and-home series against Boston College.

UConn initially did not release the new dates. It seemed there was some sort of misunderstanding regarding the timing of the announcement, but a release came from the Huskies on Friday morning.

“These games against BC and UMass are important to feature the high quality of football played in New England and also allow our supporters to make quick and enjoyable trips to see the Huskies play on the road,” athletic director Warde Manuel said in UConn’s press release. “Most importantly, the games continue our pattern of playing high-quality non-conference games to complement our American Athletic Conference schedule.”

UConn and UMass are old Yankee Conference rivals from their Division I-AA days. The series started in 1897 and the Minutemen lead the series 36-34-2. They last met in 2012, a 37-0 victory for UConn.

The UConn-Boston College series, which began in 1908, was halted over bad feelings regarding conference realignment. Boston College was among the first defectors from the Big East and comments between the schools led to a college athletics version of the Cold War.

“Our two schools have a long and rich tradition of competition in all sports and I know that the fans of both teams will enjoy seeing that rivalry again in football, Manuel said.

The dispute eventually focused on former UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun and former BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo. BC had been an original member of the Big East in 1979 but left for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Calhoun, a native of Boston, vowed in 2003 that UConn would “not play Boston College as long as I’m here.”

When the Big East eventually split up, UConn was not asked to join the ACC. Many in Connecticut blamed Boston College for that and the Huskies stayed with the former Big East schools that formed the American Athletic Conference.

Nov. 29, 2014 - Memphis, TN, USA - Folorunso Fatukasi (93) and Noel Thomas (5) of UConn walk off the field after Memphis defeated the Huskies 41-10 to claim the AAC Championship Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014 at the Liberty Bowl Stadium in Memphis, Tenn

John Woike/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

Boston College and UConn did meet again in basketball on Nov. 21, 2013.

The football series will resume Nov. 19, 2016 at Boston College. The Eagles visit Rentschler Field on Nov. 18, 2017.

“In essence, we made changes to our 2016 and 2017 schedules to allow UConn and Boston College an opportunity to start a home-and-home series,” Bamford said in the release. “We fully understand and support that a BC-UConn match-up will help New England college football gain traction nationally.

“UMass has always believed that the collective goal of the three New England FBS schools should be to collaborate often and build a strong partnership to further enhance the culture of college football in this region. With this news, I think we are making progress on this goal.”

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