Cindy Blodgett is a firm believer that playing tough competition helps a basketball team reach its full potential.

The University of Maine’s 2008-09 nonconference schedule provides a testy start as the Black Bears tip off the season in Durham, N.C., against former UMaine coach Joanne P. McCallie’s Duke Blue Devils.

“Certainly we are jumping right into it Nov. 16 at Duke,” Blodgett said Tuesday. “It should be a good experience for our program and it’s going to immediately let us know where we’re at.”

Blodgett quickly pointed out the game is part of a home-and-home series, as Duke will play in Orono during 2009-2010.

“It really is a credit to coach Palombo,” said Blodgett, who explained she pitched the idea to her former coach and mentor while she was interviewing for the Black Bears’ position.

“I don’t think the average fan understands that Duke doesn’t have to travel for nonconference games,” she explained. “I think what sort of gets lost in the shuffle sometimes is her love of UMaine, where she started. I think it’s another example of a homegrown Maine person wanting to give back to her home state and the University of Maine.”

Duke went 25-10 in McCallie’s first season a year ago including a 2-1 NCAA Tournament record. McCallie came to Duke from Michigan State.

The Bears, who finished last season 7-23 overall, 4-12 in America East play, will take on three teams from the Colonial Athletic Association, two each from the Atlantic 10 and Ivy League, and one apiece from the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Patriot League and Metro Atlantic Athletic conferences.

That leads up to an always-challenging America East Conference schedule.

“Your non-conference schedule is supposed to prepare you for the America East schedule,” Blodgett said. “That’s why we do want to challenge ourselves.”

Blodgett said it is necessary to find a balance between tough games and some against teams of similar or lesser ability, but there are several factors that dictate the nonleague slate.

First, UMaine plays a handful of “return” games this season against teams that have visited Orono in recent years. There also is an America East mandate that requires teams to play three teams whose two-year Rating Percentage Index (RPI) is between 1 and 100 and limits programs to five games against teams ranking 250 or higher (there are Division I teams in the country).

Those measures are intended to help AE teams build their own RPIs and elevate the conference ranking.

“As a coach, there are two things that allow you to win, recruiting and scheduling. “Right now, we’re really only in control of one,” said Blodgett, who would like to see the league policy relaxed.

After Duke, UMaine has a stretch of four nonleague home games, starting with a Nov. 23 contest against Massachusetts at the Augusta Civic Center. UMaine hosts the annual Dead River Co. Classic Nov. 28-29, taking on Brown and either West Virginia or New Jersey Tech, then entertains defending Northeast Conference champion and NCAA Tournament entry Robert Morris on Dec. 3.

UMaine makes a three-game road swing to Delaware (Dec. 7), Hofstra (Dec. 9) and Harvard (Dec. 14), returns for a Dec. 21 home game against Fairfield, then heads to Philadelphia Dec. 28-29 to play Saint Joseph’s and Drexel. The non-league slate winds up Jan. 2 at Holy Cross.

The Bears get rolling Oct. 26 with a Blue-White Scrimmage at Alfond Arena, then they’ll play exhibition contests against the University of New Brunswick (Nov. 2) and Husson College of Bangor (Nov. 7).

Foster won’t play at UMaine

Former Houlton High School star Rachel Foster, who agreed after speaking with Blodgett last spring to attempt to walk on with the Black Bears, has decided not to play this season.

The 6-foot-2 forward, who had expressed concern about her ability to take on the demands of a grueling academic program, decided she would not be able to devote the necessary time and effort to basketball.

Foster is enrolled in UMaine’s Honors College and is taking an accelerated binary degree program in which she will earn an undergraduate degree at UMaine in three years, then attend the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine’s four-year doctoral program.

Foster had spent the first week of the semester working out with UMaine.

UMaine seeks practice players

The UMaine women’s basketball team seeks male students to serve as members of its scout team.

The program utilizes these players to take part in practice drills, light scrimmages and walk-throughs for scouting opponents. Scout players must be taking at least 12 credit hours, must be enrolled for not more than five years form initial collegiate full-time enrollment and freshmen must be certified by the NCAA Clearinghouse as a qualifier.

“Our practice guys are a very important part of our program,” assistant coach Kelley Gibson said in a release.

“We’re looking forward to finding a committed group of guys to help us become the team we are meant to be.”

Interested men should contact Gibson at 581-3094 or via email at

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...