CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Mid-American Conference (MAC) announced Wednesday the addition of Massachusetts as a football-only member, increasing the conference's football membership to 14 universities. UMass will begin conference play in the 2012 football season and will be eligible for the conference football championship game and a bowl game after the 2013 football season.

“The University of Massachusetts will add to the academic stature of the Mid-American Conference and bring a strong tradition and depth to our conference,” said Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, Commissioner of the Mid-American Conference. “The UMass football program will add quality to our conference’s football programs and balance our divisions. In addition, this addition allows our conference to expand our footprint into New England and into the Boston and Hartford/Springfield markets.”

During the last 13 years, UMass football captured five conference championships and participated in five NCAA FCS playoffs, winning the 1998 national championship. UMass had seven players on NFL rosters in 2010, including NFL second-round draft pick Vladimir Ducasse with the New York Jets.

“We feel the time is right for this landmark decision of UMass football elevating to the FBS level,” said Athletic Director John McCutcheon. “Playing in the FBS is where UMass should be positioned as the flagship campus of the state system. The opportunities to play on a national level and what that means for exposure and visibility will be a tremendous asset not only for athletics, but for the entire university.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to join the Mid-American Conference and develop relationships and rivalries with its members. To have the opportunity to play those games at a state-of-the-art facility like Gillette Stadium really is one of the key factors that makes this transition possible.”

UMass Head Coach Kevin Morris will enters his third season at the helm of the UMass program in 2011. Morris has collected an overall record of 11-11 in the last two seasons with UMass in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), including a 6-5 mark in 2010. The 2011 season will mark the eighth season for Morris at UMass. Morris was named head coach on Jan. 19, 2009, and previously served five seasons as offensive coordinator (2004-08).

In 2010, four MAC programs received bowl invitations, which marked the first time in conference history when four or more programs received bowl invitations in three consecutive years. The most bowl invitations in a single season in conference history is five invites, which occurred on three occasions (2004, 2008 and 2009). In addition, the MAC produced five teams last season with eight wins or more for the first time since 2003.

In the last three seasons, 10 of the 13 MAC football programs have appeared in a bowl game. The MAC will have sent five (2008), five (2009) and four (2010) schools to bowl games during the three-year span. Also in 2010, MAC programs featured wins over Big Ten, Big East, Conference USA, Sun Belt and Independent (Army) opponents.