The University of Maine’s 2021-22 non-conference men’s basketball schedule will send the team across the country to face some top-tier talent, and then bring it home to go up against local foes.
The 11 games that precede the Black Bears’ 18-game America East conference schedule include four “guarantee games” on the road against upper-level NCAA Division I opponents for which UMaine will be paid a combined $315,000.
Those dates begin with the Nov. 9 season opener at Virginia Tech of the Atlantic Coast Conference, for which UMaine will receive $85,000.
The Black Bears will get another $85,000 when they play at Colorado of the Pac-12 on Nov. 15, $75,000 for a Nov. 27 game in Peoria, Illinois, against Bradley University of the Missouri Valley Conference and $70,000 for their Dec. 28 non-conference finale against Rutgers of the Big Ten, according to UMaine assistant director of athletic communications Tyler Neville.
They’re referred to as “guarantee games” because the major-conference school is guaranteed a home game to generate revenue through ticket sales and concessions, while mid-major conference opponents like UMaine earn cash. The major-conference school is also likely to get an additional win to pad its season rankings.
The money-making games are nothing new for UMaine, which regularly plays such contests to help support the school’s athletic department in both men’s basketball and football.
This fall the UMaine football team will earn a $350,000 guarantee when it plays at Northern Illinois on Sept. 25 and another $300,000 for a Nov. 13 game at the University of Massachusetts.
The UMaine men’s basketball team was supposed to play the likes of Virginia, Fordham and Boston College in guarantee games last year but managed to play only BC among that trio before shutting down its season in mid-February due to COVID-19 cases.
UMaine’s 2019-20 pre-America East schedule included five guarantee games that earned the school $402,000. Those games were at Washington ($90,000), Connecticut ($85,000), Virginia ($82,000), University of Portland (Oregon) ($80,000) and UMass ($65,000).
In addition, the University of Hawaii covered the Black Bears’ airfare and hotel expenses when they traveled to Honolulu for a Dec. 29, 2019, game.
UMaine will play six pre-conference road games in total this season, including non-guarantee matchups at Columbia on Dec. 4 and at Quinnipiac on Dec. 11.
Coach Richard Barron’s club also will play five non-conference home games before the new year, with two against in-state Division III foes University of Maine at Farmington and the University of New England in Biddeford and a third against the University of Maine at Fort Kent, which competes in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association.
UMaine is scheduled to play its home opener against UMF at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Nov. 12, then face its two other in-state foes at Memorial Gymnasium on the Orono campus. The Black Bears will host UMFK at “the Pit” on Nov. 19 and UNE on Dec. 18.
Playing in-state small-college teams to fill out the non-conference home schedule also is nothing new for UMaine. That’s partly a reflection of the difficulty in getting Division I opponents to travel to UMaine, a challenge likely exacerbated this season by travel concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
UMaine has hosted at least two in-state opponents in each of the last six full seasons, most recently Husson University of Bangor and Maine Maritime Academy of Castine during the 2019-20 campaign and the University of Maine at Presque Isle and the University of Maine at Machias in 2018-19.
The Black Bears will play just two non-conference home games against Division I opponents this year, both at the Cross Center. The Black Bears are scheduled to host Central Connecticut State on Nov. 23 and Merrimack on Dec. 21.
UMaine, which finished its abbreviated 2020-21 season with a 2-7 record, will open its 2022 America East schedule at the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Jan. 2, followed by its conference home opener against defending AE tournament champion Hartford on Jan. 5.