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With 3 games left to play in the season, UMass football fires its head coach

UMass football coach Walt Bell was fired last weekend, shortly after the Minutemen lost to University of Rhode Island.
Thom Kendall
UMass Athletics
UMass football coach Walt Bell was fired last weekend, shortly after the Minutemen lost to University of Rhode Island.

UMass football has started a search for a new head coach after firing Walt Bell over the weekend.

The decision was announced shortly after UMass lost to Rhode Island during a homecoming weekend game in Amherst, Massachusetts.

UMass Athletic Director Ryan Bamford said he gives Bell a lot of credit for bringing the Minutemen along since he was first hired in December 2018. But he said by this time, under Bell’s leadership, the team should have made marked progress.

“As much as I appreciate and feel like Walt did a number of things that we asked him to do,” Bamford said, “we've got to develop, and we've got to be competitive, and we've got to win games.”

The last time UMass football had a winning season was 2010. That was two years before the school moved up to Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest rung in NCAA football.

Bell was under a contract that was to end in December 2023. His annual salary was almost $620,000. Now a two-year payoff goes into effect.

Any money Bell makes coaching in that time would be deducted from the total UMass owes him, Bamford said. He added that the funds to pay Bell will not come from state money, but from what he called "unrestricted fundraising accounts."

Alex Miller — who was on the field for UMass football when he was an undergraduate, and most recently was the team's offensive line coach — was named as interim head coach. He'll oversee the final three games of the season.

The UMass Minutemen are on the field next against the Maine Black Bears in Amherst Saturday.

Jill Kaufman has been a reporter and host at NEPM since 2005. Before that she spent 10 years at WBUR in Boston, producing "The Connection" with Christopher Lydon and on "Morning Edition" reporting and hosting. She's also hosted NHPR's daily talk show "The Exhange" and was an editor at PRX's "The World."
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