ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine football team is once again driving toward NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision paydirt.
This time, the Black Bears’ march will take them through Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., the home of the National Football League’s New England Patriots.
UMaine athletic director Steve Abbott on Tuesday confirmed UMaine is negotiating to play the University of Massachusetts at Foxborough as one of two FBS contests in 2013.
“It’s something we’ve tentatively agreed to and we’re working on the details,” said Abbott, who added the financial guarantee will be smaller than for UMaine’s previous FBS games.
According to a report in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, UMass is expected pay UMaine less than $200,000 for the game, which is slated for Sept. 7, 2013.
“It’ll be a pay game, some kind of six-figure payout,” Abbott said.
By comparison, UMaine will receive $350,000 for its 2012 season opener Sept. 8 at Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
NCAA football teams may schedule 12 games in 2013, which will mark the first time the Black Bears have played two FBS opponents in the same season.
Abbott said UMaine previously signed to play at Northwestern University of the Big Ten Conference. That contest, set for Sept. 21, 2013, will net UMaine in excess of $400,000, which means more than a half-million dollars in revenue for the athletic department next year.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears have played an annual FBS guarantee game since 2004, when they traveled to Starkville, Miss., and knocked off Mississippi State 9-7. However, UMaine is 1-9 overall against FBS opponents, including last season’s 35-29 loss at Pittsburgh.
The 12-game regular season, rather than the usual 11, made playing Massachusetts an even better fit.
“Ordinarily, we wouldn’t play two FBS games in the same year,” Abbott admitted, “but it’s such an attractive opportunity that we might do it anyway. This is a special one.”
He is hopeful the game might generate a buzz similar to that of the UMaine men’s hockey team’s appearance in the “Frozen Fenway” event last January at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.
“It’s great for us to get to play a traditional rival in a pro stadium of the [NFL] team everybody around here cheers for,” Abbott said. “The expenses are minimal and it’s a great benefit for our fans.”
Abbott said the biggest winners are UMaine’s student-athletes.
“I think the kids are going to have a ball. They’re going to love it.”
UMass last year announced it was leaving the Colonial Athletic Association and New England counterparts UMaine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island behind to join the FBS ranks. The Minutemen have made the commitment to playing at the NCAA’s highest level of football and are members of the Mid-American Conference, which necessitated moving to a larger venue.
They will play all their home games at Gillette Stadium in 2012 and 2013 and must hold at least four games each there in the 2014 through 2016 seasons.
Perillo, Howley named All-Americans
UMaine football standouts Justin Perillo and Chris Howley have been named Preseason All-Americans by the College Sporting News, which ranked the Black Bears 19th in its preseason poll.
Perillo, a junior tight end from Wilmington, Del., was named a second-team choice. The All-Colonial Athletic Association preseason selection caught 51 passes for 511 yards and four touchdowns en route to an All-CAA second-team nod in 2011.
Howley, a senior offensive lineman from Runnemede, N.J., was picked for the All-America third team. The All-CAA Preseason honoree anchored a line that produced the first 3,000-yard passer in school history and paved the way for a 1,000-yard rusher.
UMaine went 9-4 last season and advanced to the FCS national quarterfinals. UMaine finished 8th in the national polls.
The Bears, who report for training camp on Aug. 12, also were ranked 12th in the Any Given Saturday FCS preseason poll.