It is going to be an exciting and lucrative week for the University of Maine men’s basketball team.
Coach Ted Woodward’s Black Bears play the third of four “guarantee” games, including three this week, Thursday night when they take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
UMaine (3-2) hopes to turn the week into a win-win-win situation.
UMaine is going to benefit financially from the games against Rhode Island, Notre Dame and San Diego.
Notre Dame is paying UMaine $100,000 to make the trip to Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, where the Fighting Irish of the Big East Conference have won 24 consecutive games.
Add to that $75,000 plus expenses from last Sunday’s Rhode Island game and a similar payout for Saturday’s contest at San Diego and UMaine men’s basketball is bringing $220,000-$250,000 into the athletic department.
“It’s something that benefits the programs at the university,” Woodward said Wednesday night. “It’s something that’s done often at a lot of levels in basketball.”
Last month, UMaine also played fourth-ranked Connecticut in Hartford, which was worth $87,500.
The dynamic also is at work in football, as UMaine annually takes on one Bowl Championship Subdivision opponent and routinely brings in more than $300,000.
The money from guarantee games in both sports is accounted for in the general budget of the UMaine athletic department and does not go directly to the team that brought it in.
“Those are two big streams of revenue for every athletic department,” Woodward said. “It’s part of what we do.”
Finances aside, such games also are important for the men’s basketball team in terms of the opportunities they present.
It puts the Bears in big-time venues, often against top-caliber teams. That kind of experience is beneficial to the players.
“It’s part of Division I to get to go to some great places, do some great things,” Woodward said. “We have respect for that level [of programs], there’s no question.”
When UMaine is able to win, which happened last season at Penn State and Massachusetts and other places in the past, it provides a level of accomplishment that is hard to match against many nonconference opponents.
“It’s exciting for us to go out to Notre Dame and some of these places, and to win some of these games has been huge,” Woodward said.
“We’ve been fortunate to get some nice wins out of them and get some great momentum for our program.”
Woodward said playing teams from the Big East, Atlantic 10 and other high-level conferences has been beneficial in building his team’s confidence.
“There’s no fear whatsoever for any of these games,” Woodward said. “These are some confident guys. We’ve won a lot of games against some outstanding teams over the last three years.”
UMaine was able to schedule the San Diego game two days after the Notre Dame meeting, which works well as the Bears can head straight from Indiana to California on Friday.
It provides senior guard Gerald McLemore with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play in his hometown, in front of family and friends.
“We’ve done those things as much as we possibly can,” Woodward said.
“San Diego is a West Coast Conference team and it’s a great opportunity for us and it will be a tremendous opportunity for Gerald to go back out there.”
Mainer Knight plays for Irish
The Fighting Irish roster includes 6-foot-9-inch junior Tom Knight of Dixfield.
The former star at Dirigo High School was UMaine’s Mr. Basketball in 2009 and was a Bangor Daily News All-Maine first-team pick.
Knight has appeared in seven games this season, averaging 3.6 points and 1.0 rebound in 9.1 minutes per contest. He is expected to get a start against UMaine.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey was formerly the head coach at Delaware, back when it was in the America East Conference along with Maine.