The University of Maine and the Colonial Athletic Association will not earn one cent from the NCAA for reaching the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals.
But the Black Bears’ unprecedented run to the final four is expected to help UMaine’s fundraising efforts.
CAA Commissioner Joe D’Antonio said neither the league nor UMaine receives any money specifically related to the Black Bears’ success.
However, FCS playoff teams have their travel, lodging and meal expenses paid for by the NCAA. Teams are allowed 130 people in their official travel party.
Seth Woodcock, UMaine’s senior associate athletic director for development, said the football team’s first national semifinal appearance in school history will benefit not only the football program but the athletic program and university in general.
“There’s no doubt about it. Winning helps. People like winners,” Woodcock said. “It’s like the Doug Flutie effect.”
He was referring to the dynamic former Boston College quarterback who put the Eagles’ program on the map.
“When you have an unprecedented run like this, people want to donate. It helps motivate major donors and attract annual donors. They want to know how they can help the football program,” Woodcock said. “It not only helps us with our [established] donors, you get new donors who hadn’t paid close attention to [the football program] before. They want to know more about the program.”
UMaine’s 23-18 victory over Weber State last Friday aired nationally on ESPN2 as will Saturday’s 2 p.m. semifinal date with Eastern Washington at Cheney, Washington.
“This is the kind of exposure for the program you don’t get every day,” said Woodcock, who has heard from alumni across the country who are organizing watch parties to see the games. “It has created a lot of energy.”
The influx of donations would be particularly beneficial when it comes to the Harold Alfond Foundation and its annual $500,000 matching grant.
UMaine must raise raise $250,000 for the football program and $250,000 for the general athletic fund each year in order to receive the matching funds from the Alfond Foundation.
“In addition to reaching the financial goal, part of the agreement includes attracting a certain number of donors and [contributing] football alums,” Woodcock said.
Woodcock said he and his staff have sent out donation appeals electronically and via direct mail to try to capitalize on the team’s success.
D’Antonio said the CAA is one of the FCS conferences that receives money from the College Football Playoff. The College Football Playoff, which administers the Football Bowl Subdivision’s four-team tournament to determine a national champion, is run by the FBS conferences.
D’Antonio said he cannot discuss the amount the CAA receives from the CFP but said it is quite generous. According to the CFP website, select FCS conferences were expected to share $2.53 million last year.
“The [NCAA] men’s college basketball tournament is the only one that makes payouts to schools and conferences based on how far their teams go,” he said.
That money comes from the television contract revenue.
Woodcock said UMaine has been aided by the fact that this is a likeable team and one that has defied the odds. The Black Bears overcame the tragedy of having a freshman defensive back, Darius Minor, collapse and die from a heart condition during July workouts.
UMaine also was picked to finish eighth in the 11-team league.
Instead, it won the conference championship outright, going 7-1, then beat Jacksonville State and Weber State in the playoffs.
“They’re good kids and the team chemistry has been there all year,” said Woodcock, who has traveled with the team. “They have good personalities. The people in the state of Maine have gotten to know the players and the coach [Joe Harasymiak], and they want to learn more about them.”
This will be the sixth straight season a team from the CAA has reached the national semifinals, and D’Antonio said it is great for the conference and that he is thrilled for Harasymiak, the team and UMaine athletic administrators.
“There are a lot of good people there. I know it was very difficult [with the death of Minor], but to overcome adversity and to be in the position they are now speaks volumes about the job [Harasymiak] has done. He deserves an awful lot of credit, and hopefully it will continue this weekend,” D’Antonio said.