Two Amhersts? UMass, Buffalo eyeing potential rivalry in MAC

Then South Carolina associate head coach/special teams coordinator Pete Lembo coaches in the Gator Bowl against Notre Dame in 2022. Lembo, the new head coach at Buffalo, will be part of what could be a new rivalry between the school and UMass in the MAC beginning in 2025-26.

Then South Carolina associate head coach/special teams coordinator Pete Lembo coaches in the Gator Bowl against Notre Dame in 2022. Lembo, the new head coach at Buffalo, will be part of what could be a new rivalry between the school and UMass in the MAC beginning in 2025-26. AP FILE

CONNOR PIGNATELLO

Staff Writer

Published: 03-19-2024 3:29 PM

Amherst versus… Amherst?

They say yes.

With UMass’s entrance into the Mid-American Conference for the 2025-26 academic year, the Minutemen are going to need some new rivals. And the athletic directors at UMass and Buffalo are already working on it.

Buffalo’s North campus, which contains its academic core and athletic facilities, isn’t actually in the city of Buffalo itself. It’s in a neighboring suburb, Amherst. And though the two Amhersts are a shade under 400 miles and six hours apart, Buffalo represents UMass’ closest geographic rival in the MAC.

“I think there’s some awesome, magical things that could happen with that,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said after the MAC entrance press conference earlier this month. “Obviously we’re both Amherst and flagship state universities and all those things. We’ve talked already about potentially getting our governors involved. We both have two female governors who both like athletics.”

In an interview with The Buffalo News on March 1, Buffalo athletic director Mark Alnutt proposed an “Amherst trophy” the two schools could compete over.

“I think it would be a great rival of ours, too,” Alnutt told The Buffalo News. “When you look at the MAC, you look at schools that have those natural rivalries, like Akron-Kent State, the Michigans, all three together, Bowling Green-Toledo and Miami (Ohio)-Ohio.”

In 2022, Buffalo was the closest MAC school to UMass in terms of enrollment, university budget and athletic expenses. Before UMass’ addition to the MAC, Buffalo had been the conference’s easternmost member and its newest, though the Bulls have competed in the conference since 1998.

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Bamford has already had preliminary discussions with Alnutt about the future of their rivalry, and said they’d like to create a trophy, whether formally or informally, within the next year. 

Alnutt’s son Mason, a football recruit in the class of 2025, will be taking college visits over the next several months. Bamford said when Alnutt travels to the area, they’re planning on connecting and hashing out what a rivalry between the two Amhersts might look like.

“I think that would be kind of fun, for us to go in and already have an established (trophy),” Bamford said. “Whether it’s a cup, or some design.”