Ken Ralph has a great opportunity. Last week when Ralph was named the 7th Athletic Director at U-Maine since 2003, the usual accolades were thrown around. Good communicator. Good fund raiser. Understands the history and significance of the Black Bear programs.
Here's hoping he understands something else. The opportunity to expand south.
Now don't get all huffy with me yet. I'm well aware it's U-Maine Orono and what comes with that. I also have heard for each of the 27 years I have been working in Maine television, about all the 'challenges' that come with coaching, recruiting, leading, athletics at U-Maine. Soooooooo, why not shake it up and try something different?
When the Black Bears come south, and I mean to Portland, not Augusta, the crowds are pretty good depending on the team. Men's hockey and football do the best in Cumberland County as there is a large alumni base to support the Southern exposure.
I understand that maybe part of the allure is they only come once every few years (football) and a few times a year (hockey). So your opportunity to see the Black Bears in person has value since it's not a constant.
A couple/few games are nice and all, but a BOLD move could move the needle a little bit.
How about playing a homecoming football game at Fitzpatrick Stadium? Bring in all of the recruits that weekend. How about committing to 1-2 games every year at Fitzy? Let Maine and UNH play in Portland and you'll see 6000+ people.
There has been talk for years about Portland hosting an NCAA hockey regional. How about Maine Hockey playing 4-5 games in Cumberland County annually as well?
Same with men's and women's basketball. Instead of making it sporadic, make it a constant and use it as a selling point to bring in new advertisers, new recruits, new fans. It certainly can't hurt and may be necessary to keep Division One athletics in our state.