UMass football was nameless in 1972 and homeless for the past two years, but has not been winless since 1927.

However, the Minutemen — who got that name late in the '72 season — were dangerously close to not winning a single game in both 2012 and 2013, so changes were in order.

They have included a return to their former home, McGuirk Stadium, and a return by a former coach, Mark Whipple.

Whipple was here Tuesday night at Maxwell Silverman's to greet alumni and anyone else interested in the prospective resurrection of the UMass football brand. He made a promise to those in attendance.

"The tailgating will be a lot better. I guarantee it," Whipple said.

There is something to be said, indeed, for autumn's culinary pleasures, but since it joined the Mid-American Conference two years ago, UMass football has left a bad taste in just about everyone's mouth. Talk about being smoked — the Minutemen lost, 45-0, to Wisconsin last year and 63-19 to Northern Illinois on their way to a 1-11 record.

So, coach Charlie Molnar was fired and Whipple brought back to see if he could duplicate the results of his first tenure as coach. He was hired in 1998 to replace Mike Hodges, whose '97 Minutemen were 2-9. Whipple's first team went 12-3 and won a Division 1-AA national championship. He stayed through 2003 and his teams compiled a 49-26 record.

From there Whipple moved on to the NFL as an assistant and worked for the Steelers, Eagles and Browns.

Mike Wynne, who lives in North Grafton, was one of Whipple's players on the national championship team and visited with his former coach Tuesday.

"I was ecstatic," was Wynne's reaction to Whipple's return. "I've been waiting for him to get a head coaching job in college football again. I think it's what he does best. He's a great leader of young men. It may not be as instantaneous as it was last time — it'll take a couple of recruiting classes — so people will have to give it a little time."

With the schedule UMass is playing now, instantaneous may be too much to ask. The Minutemen's first four games in 1998 were against Delaware, Richmond, Buffalo and Hofstra. This year they are against Boston College, Colorado, Vanderbilt and Penn State. The only common thread is that Colorado is nicknamed the Buffaloes.

This fall will mark a return to Amherst for UMass football. The Minutemen will play three games at Gillette Stadium, technically their home field for the past two years, and three games at refurbished McGuirk.

"I think having our home schedule be 3-and-3 is great," Whipple said. "At the level we're playing, we need some games in Foxboro. That's what BC did in the '70s. When they played Notre Dame, they played in Foxboro. When they played Texas, it was in Foxboro."

The first game Whipple coaches upon his return will be in Foxboro on Aug. 30 vs. Boston College.

"It will be the biggest home game in the history of our program," he said, although some fans who remember the Tangerine Bowl team of 1964 or the Boardwalk Bowl winners of 1972 might debate that point.

This season will be the 50th anniversary of that Tangerine Bowl team, which included Leo Biron and Milt Morin and was the first UMass team with a postseason appearance.

As Whipple looks over his 2014 roster, he says it looks better than he thought it might be at first glance. It will be a young team, probably with just one senior starting, and it should be a typical Whipple team. The first time around, that meant there was a lot going on.