The University of Massachusetts today named Ryan Bamford as Athletic Director, replacing John McCutcheon who left for UC-Santa Barbara last month. Bamford will be officially introduced at a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Bamford was most recently the Senior Associate AD at Georgia Tech where he oversaw football, basketball, and baseball as well as facilities and game operations.
I think this is a really solid hire by the search committee. In Bamford the UMass athletic department will be led by someone seen as an “up and comer” in college athletics. It will also have someone who has hands on FBS level football experience. This is a hockey blog and if you’re reading this you’re a big UMass hockey fan, but fixing the football situation is the biggest challenge and opportunity facing UMass today. And I think hiring a senior assistant at a power conference gives UMass someone who can work to get football into a conference and making money for the entire department.
As we know the criticism of the previous AD was that he seemed to put all of his attention towards football and basketball while ignoring the rest of the sports. As a result of his mismanagement a great many of UMass programs, even some that were perennially conference powers, are struggling big time. Bamford will have to show that he’s capable of bringing success and attention to all of UMass’ programs. But looking at his resume, he’s not someone who has built his entire career on just football and basketball. At George Tech he’s also in charge of baseball. ACC baseball down south is something akin to Hockey East in New England. He’s also had a lot of experience overseeing women’s lacrosse, even serving as the chair of the Division I women’s lacrosse committee.
I think his background should also lead UMass hockey fans to be hopeful he can play a role in turning around the program. Before Georgia Tech he worked for 8 year for Yale where the hockey program has always played a prominent role in the athletic department. He also worked for a time in the New Hampshire athletic department. Bamford is a New England native and did his school in Ithaca and Springfield, so the sport of hockey isn’t something foreign to him.
So, what will Bamford do with the hockey program once he hits Amherst? Certainly there will be an on-boarding process where he gets up to speed on all the programs. His first priority again will be football, but a few weeks from now he could talk to coach Micheletto and his staff, players, and other key people around the hockey program and get an understanding of the state of things. What conclusion will he come to? Well the program is coming off three extremely disappointing seasons and the prospects for next year continue to dwindle with each key departure. Could Bamford make a coaching change just a few weeks into his time in Amherst? Possibly. Though time is not on his side with the Frozen Four just a few weeks away and for reasons we all know too well you would not want to start a coaching search much beyond that time period. So will Bamford make a change? I think it’s pretty unlikely. That would be pretty gutsy and potentially risky. I think it’s probably easier for him to focus on just getting up to speed and give Micheletto, and all the coaches really, a year to prove themselves before he starts making changes.
Still, this hire increases the pressure on Micheletto for this coming season. I still believe that McCutcheon would’ve given Micheletto his entire five year contract, not wanting to admit a potential hiring mistake. Bamford is not hindered by that type of thinking. And if he comes in and realizes the tremendous potential of the hockey program for the university, then hopefully he won’t delay making moves to get the program back on track. Whether that turnaround involves Micheletto or not.
Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel was one of the student-athletes on the selection committee and had this to say in response to Bamford’s hiring: