AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – The UMass Amherst Minutemen Football team kicked off another home game against the New Mexico Lobos Saturday evening.

And it was a typical fall Saturday in Amherst with thousands of college kids braving the cold, rainy weather to cheer on their team, but this game had a bigger meaning.

The UMass Athletics department dubbed this day, “Matthew Bullock Day,” a celebration of Black excellence and diversity.

The school’s athletic program has had a long history of sports coinciding with inclusion. In 1904, Matthew Bullock became the first known African-American head coach at a predominantly white institution in the United States.

The Springfield Pride Parade Organization partnered with the UMass football team to celebrate with Springfield middle school football players attending the game. Springfield Pride Parade founder Taurean Bathea was also honored as a Minutemen captain during the game.

“It’s amazing and it means so much because it just means we’re moving in the right direction,” Bathea told 22News. “…. To support one another and to build ally-ship and to just gain that support from amongst one another so the athletics department is really doing the right thing in showing their players how to be supportive.”

Taurean’s close friend Chris Seabrooks played football at a Historically Black College, and the former wide receiver and Springfield native told 22News that celebrating diversity through the sport of football creates an incredible opportunity.

“There’s all kind of men in that locker room and to be able to have them share together in an experience like this, and to accept each other as men and as people and most importantly human beings,” said Seabrooks. “It means the world to be Black in that experience to kind of be able to share your blackness and your identity with the world.”

UMass did lose Saturday’s game, 34-31 in an overtime thriller, but for those middle school students and everyone in attendance, the lessons from the game will supersede that final result.

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