It was supposed to be a low-key day for talking about his program’s prospects for the 2010 season.
Instead, University of Maine football head coach Jack Cosgrove spent the Colonial Athletic Association football media day (July 28) in Baltimore fielding negative questions about the fluctuating state of college football in the Northeast.
Would UMaine become the next CAA team to either disband its football program like Northeastern or Hofstra, or would it follow Rhode Island’s lead and consider moving down to a reduced-scholarship league?
So, the day before his players reported to Orono for training camp, Cosgrove went on the offensive when he took the podium Thursday during The Maine Chapter of the National Football Foundation’s fourth annual Kick-Off Luncheon.
“I got asked more about our future in football than our football team this year,” Cosgrove said. “It’s bothersome.”
From Cosgrove’s perspective, the questions insinuated UMaine was a lower-level CAA program whose future as a viable member of the league was somehow in doubt. Thus, he directed those in attendance to look at statistics sheets he had had placed on each table.
It documented that the Black Bears’ 65 overall victories, 45 conference wins, two CAA titles and three NCAA playoff appearances during the last 10 years rank them among the more competitive league teams.
“If you look at that list, a lot of things that we’ve done over the years has put us up in the top group, the upper echelon,” Cosgrove said.
“I want people to know that we’re in this for the long haul, that we’re committed to it, that Maine loves being in this league, loves the challenge of this league,” Cosgrove explained later. “It excites us, it raises our level of aspirations, and that’s exciting and inspiring stuff.”
The Black Bears will spend the next 3½ weeks working toward developing into the kind of team that can reinforce UMaine’s commitment and competitiveness in the CAA.
UMaine’s players reported to campus Friday to undergo physical exams, take care of NCAA compliance basics and get moved into the dormitory they will share until Aug. 28, when all university students begin arriving and they assume their permanent housing.
“It’s really a lot of administrative things,” Cosgrove said. “We meet and discuss what’s in front of us and what we want to do.”
UMaine’s first on-field practice is scheduled today from 2:50-4:30 p.m. at Alfond Stadium. It will be the first of 27 scheduled workouts leading up to a weeklong preparation for the Bears’ Sept. 2 opener at home against Albany of the Northeast Conference.
August is a hectic yet critical month in the development of a football team. The Bears began 2009 by losing star running back Jared Turcotte of Lewiston to an injury, setting the tone for a season that eventually led to 18 UMaine players undergoing surgery.
This year, Cosgrove and his staff, along with his leaders on the team, will attempt to help groom this group into a cohesive and effective team.
The month of August is when everything starts coming together.
“I’m excited,” said UMaine’s 18th-year head coach. “I’m hoping that the things I envision come true, but that involves staying healthy, performing, teamwork, discipline, sacrifice from our guys.”
One of the things that generates the most anticipation for Cosgrove is seeing how players have progressed since leaving school in May. More than 50 Black Bears spent much of the summer in Orono, working out together and building camaraderie.
While many of the veterans’ talents are known, some of the younger team members return hungry to prove themselves.
This season at UMaine, that includes a group of 18 players who redshirted as freshmen in 2009 and did not play.
“There’s a whole crew of guys there that are just [champing] at the bit to get going because they were the scout guys last year. They didn’t have that game-day role,” Cosgrove said.
That group includes the likes of defensive back Kendall James, linebacker Shawn Bodtman, running back Terrel Walker, offensive linemen Jeff Gakos and Joe Hook, wide receiver Derrick Johnson and defensive lineman Michael Cole, among others.
Cosgrove said the key is to remain patient and keep the players focused on the day-to-day progress that can be achieved in camp.
“There’s still a lot of discovery that goes on in August,” he said. “It’s nice to be excited today, but it’s more important to get through your camp and to see where you’re at, then to be excited Sept. 1.”
UMaine’s Bond honored
Jessica Bond of the University of Maine has been named an All-Academic honoree by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
The sophomore from Namur, Quebec, won the javelin throw (42.7 meters) at the 2010 America East Outdoor championships and was a UMaine Scholar-Athlete Bronze Medal Winner.
The UMaine women’s track and field team also earned All-Academic recognition by the USTFCCCA after compiling a cumulative grade point average of 3.24. The Bears placed second at the AE outdoor title meet.