ORONO — Dr. Paul Ferguson knows about student-athletes.
He was a tennis player in college.
The new University of Maine president also knows the value of athletics to a college.
“Athletics are a critically important aspect of a university. Many times, it’s the first exposure some students have to the university,” said Ferguson during Friday’s University of Maine football media day at Morse Field in Alfond Stadium.
“So we’re committed to balance, we’re committed to having quality student-athletes and trying to ensure their success as students and athletes. We’re looking for a balanced athletic program, a well-run athletic program. That really contributes to a well-rounded university that most students want to have,” added Ferguson.
He said he wants the athletic programs to be successful.
“Our athletic director, Steve Abbott, is committed to figuring out creative ways to enhance our success and to have winning teams,” said Ferguson. “One of Steve’s favorite lines is ‘Whenever we keep score, we want to have winning teams.’”
Maine has a strong tradition in athletics, said Ferguson, and he wants to be “committed to that winning tradition and enhance it.”
The Maine president, who graduated from Whittier College in California, said in these economic times that they will have to be “entrepreneurial and creative” in our approach to supporting athletics.
He said their supporters and sponsors are critically important to their success.
“We are still strongly committed to supporting our academic strengths. We don’t want to be unbalanced in that. But I think for the modern day university, we’ve got to figure out a way to be entrepreneurial in supporting athletics and academics and to provide the total university experience. That’s the 21st-century university,” he said.
He is looking forward to the start of the athletic season at Maine.
“I’m a big sports fan. I played college tennis. I’m a student-athlete by nature,” said Ferguson. “Athletics are one of those critically unique and wonderful aspects of the college experience. We have a great coaching staff and our athletic director is doing a great job. I’m really behind him.”