Jude Killy is introduced as the new director of athletics at the University of Maine in Orono, Maine, on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022. Credit: Simon French / UMaine Athletics

New University of Maine athletic director Jude Killy inherited an athletic program that has had just two teams earn NCAA Tournament berths in recent years: women’s basketball and field hockey. 

The football and men’s basketball programs have each had three head coaches the last five years.

The University of Maine System is always financially strapped and enrollment is declining.

Killy knew all of this when he stepped into the role in January to replace Ken Ralph, and he was ready to tackle it. But the former Miami University deputy director of athletics and chief of staff firmly believes that there are plenty of positives at UMaine that will lay the foundation for future success as he opened up for the first time about his vision for the future of athletics in Orono.

At the forefront of the positives are the facilities upgrades, courtesy of $90 million given to the athletic department by the Harold Alfond Foundation that was part of a larger $240 million gift to the university.

The upgrades to the facilities will help recruiting, Killy said.

The new softball facility is complete and held its first games last weekend. Workers are currently making major renovations to the field hockey facility.

The women’s soccer team is scheduled to get a new field but that is at least another year down the road, according to Killy. The team currently plays on the baseball field, Mahaney Diamond.

umaine athletic director’s challenges

He is adamant about the need to have a multi-purpose/basketball facility on campus, and he wants all the facilities to eventually host high school games and tournaments. 

That starts with the newest facility, which is the lighted, artificial-turf softball field.

“We are doing ourselves a disservice as a university and as an athletic department if we aren’t providing an opportunity for other people to come in and utilize that facility,” Killy said. “We want to lock down the state of Maine. We want every young lady who wants to play softball or attend a Division I flagship institution to want to come to the University of Maine. Getting them to the campus is a major positive for us, whether they are an athlete or not.”

A new facility that will be available as early as this fall will be a new Mahaney Dome to replace the last one, which was built in 2006 and collapsed for the fourth time in January.

The multi-sport indoor facility will include a new artificial turf surface and a connector that will allow people to walk to it from the Memorial Gym-New Balance Field House without going outside.

Killy said it will be the same size but will be more durable and have more modern technology. It will cost between $2 to $3 million.

“The technology has advanced tremendously since the old one was built,” said Killy, mentioning that some new domes are heated to melt the snow that accumulates and can cause them to collapse. 

The Alfond Arena upgrades will include a new scoreboard/video board, ribbon boards and a new sound system, among other enhancements. 

The men’s hockey team is the flagship program for the school based on its past success that includes two NCAA championships, 11 Frozen Fours appearances and 18 NCAA Tournament berths.

But the program hasn’t even reached the Hockey East semifinals since the 2011-12 season. Second-year head coach Ben Barr led his team to an eight-win improvement over his first season this past year.

Having the hockey program return to prominence is high on Killy’s priority list.

“We want to bring people into Orono for games and drive business and traffic to Orono and Old Town and Bangor as well. Getting people to come to games and getting more exposure is only going to provide greater opportunities for the university,” he said. “A competitive hockey program allows us to amplify all the great things about our institution.” 

umaine athletic facility expansion plan

He is convinced Barr is the right person to restore UMaine to hockey prominence.

“Winning here is really important to him. Not just for him, but for all of us. He takes that very personally and you saw that with the team’s run at the end of the year,” Killy said.

Women’s basketball coach Amy Vachon has been the program’s most successful coach with four consecutive America East regular season championships prior to this past season’s third place finish, and two NCAA Tournament berths.

“Amy is the role model for how you set the culture of your program and how you run your program,” Killy said. “She is doing a great job and I am looking to her about how we can be successful as a department.”

UMaine’s coaches are at the bottom or near the bottom of their respective leagues in salary and Killy said he is going to have to come up with “creative ways” to keep them and invest in their development, along with increasing their salaries based on their success.

He recognizes that a coach could be lured away by a school offering a lot more money, so he has to be ready for that reality.

“I would much rather have that than having the other scenario,” he said, referring to having to fire a coach due to poor performance.

Killy said he has spent a lot of time listening and learning from UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy, her president’s cabinet, several of the deans and members of the community as well.

“Everything has been really good,” he said.