Players at the University of Maine have yet to earn the right to play in an NCAA basketball tournament.
Starting next weekend, they’ll at least have the opportunity to play on an NCAA tournament court.
UMaine is awaiting the arrival of a new basketball floor for use as its home court at Alfond Arena in Orono.
Will Biberstein, UMaine’s associate athletic director of internal operations, confirmed Monday a new floor is expected to arrive by Saturday.
“Looking at the current court, [athletic director] Blake [James] and I felt it was a necessity that we needed to upgrade the court,” Biberstein said.
“Hopefully, it’s going to pay dividends for the basketball teams.”
Biberstein explained UMaine purchased the floor from Connor Sport Court International, which had built and was re-selling courts manufactured for last year’s NCAA basketball tournament sites.
Biberstein said the floor cost $75,000-80,000, but UMaine is trading in its old court to recoup some of the cost. UMaine also paid to have its new floor repainted with a UMaine Black Bear logo and color scheme.
“We did everything we could to keep costs down but still get the best possible product that we could,” Biberstein said.
UMaine maximized the use of the old floor, which had been refurbished once since it was originally purchased when the Black Bears began playing basketball at Alfond Arena back in January of 1992.
In recent years, the court has been put down and taken back up 22 or 23 times per winter to accommodate the basketball teams and both men’s and women’s hockey. All four use the facility for their home games, while hockey also practices at Alfond Arena.
“It’s held up very well,” Biberstein said. “We’ve really tried to maintain it and keep it safe and usable as long as possible, but we felt like we needed a new court.”
It takes a crew of two full-time Alfond Arena employees and 20-25 student workers to handle the floor changes.
“It does put a lot of wear and tear on it,” said Biberstein, who explained the new floor is configured to be put down and taken up more easily than its predecessor.
UMaine coaches Ted Woodward and Cindy Blodgett had input on the design of the new court, which all involved hope will be distinctive and memorable for Black Bear fans.
“We wanted something for our fans and our athletes and our coaches that stood out and really symbolized Maine basketball and the University of Maine and really represented Maine basketball in the right way.”
Biberstein said the floor crew is expected to receive instruction on proper installation and put the floor down Saturday night, in time for Sunday’s 2 p.m. men’s basketball game against Princeton.
The women play host to seventh-ranked Duke and former coach Joanne Palombo-McCallie on Monday night.
“Hopefully, all the Maine basketball fans will come out and see the new court,” said Biberstein, who added UMaine is researching a replacement sub-floor, which provides a critical buffer between the ice and the hardwood when the basketball court is installed.
Mulligan catches on with Jets
Former UMaine football standout Matt Mulligan is on the board as a professional.
The West Enfield native made his first National Football League reception Sunday afternoon, catching one pass for two yards in the New York Jets’ 26-3 victory at Tampa Bay.
Wearing jersey No. 82, Mulligan appeared in his second game this season as a tight end for the Jets. He had been activated from the practice squad on Dec. 2. He also played in the Jets’ Dec. 5 game at Buffalo.
Mulligan is joined on the Jets roster by former UMaine teammate Mike DeVito, who is a second-string defensive end.
The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Mulligan made it to the NFL after playing soccer, basketball and tennis at Penobscot Valley High School in Howland, which does not have a football team.
Mulligan began his football career at Husson College in Bangor, where he also played basketball, then transferred to UMaine, where he played two seasons at tight end for coach Jack Cosgrove.
Mulligan signed to the Jets’ practice squad on Sept. 24 after being waived by them the previous day. He had been claimed off waivers from Tennessee and had signed with the Titans’ practice squad Nov. 19, 2008.
Mulligan signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent on May 2, 2008, and spent the first nine weeks of the 2008 season on their practice squad before being released.