By Jim Churchill
Let’s take a little tour of UMaine athletics for some good and some bad. Good news first!
The Good – Athletic Director Karlton Creech has agreed to a new 4 year contract. In his almost 3 years at the helm of UMaine athletics, Creech has laid the groundwork for a new plan going forward and developed the relationships that are so important to the future of Maine athletics. It is important to have stability at the top at this important juncture and the new deal for Creech provides that.
The Bad – All of the challenges that have existed for Maine athletics over the years remain. Most notably, budgets are tight and fundraising is job 1. After a few years on the job, Karlton Creech is fully aware of the challenges that exist for UMaine athletics. The fact that he is on board for more gives me optimism. Clearly, Creech is confident in his plan and ready to face the hurdles head on.
The Good – As we approach the midway point of the America East regular season, it appears the young lady Black Bears are rounding into shape as a unit and playing hard for interim head coach Amy Vachon. The Bears have won 4 of 6 and are back to the .500 mark overall after a challenging non-conference schedule. In a wide-open league, Maine has as good a shot as anyone to take home a title especially with the early rounds of the America East tourney in Portland.
The Bad – With head coach Richard Barron on the sidelines with a medical leave, the Bears are without their leader. The best to Coach Barron as he focuses on his health.
The good news – The Black Bears are not lacking in effort or fight despite an uphill climb each night they step on the court. It is not easy to stay focused on “the process” and stay together as a team when things are going bad, but this team from the head coach to the managers appears to be sticking to it and sticking together. I have seen Black Bear teams with far more talent and far more capability quit on a season and their teammates.
The bad news – Maine needs more horses. They are Black Bears, but you need H-O-R-S-E-S to win! With injuries and transfers, the Bears are lacking in quantity and quality in the talent department and it will be a challenge to stay out of the basement in the America East Conference.
The good news – The Black Bears still have 10 games and at least one post-season series to turn this season in a more positive direction. Maine has shown flashes during the 2016-17 season. There is a capability under the 8-13-3 record we think. The Bears have already equaled their win total from last year. The last 2 recruiting classes have improved the skill level of this program.
The bad news – Right now there is not a lot of evidence that the Bears will end the current season on a positive note. They are just 2-9-1 in Hockey East action and 0-7-3 on the road. Maine is 4-9-1 in their last 14 including a loss to the US National Development team. The best win of the four in that stretch – a flashy 4-0 Frozen Fenway victory over UConn. Flashes need to become more consistent sparks. And eventually, a fire needs to be lit!
The good news – The Bears are coming off a very respectable 6-5 season in 2016 under first year head coach Joe Harasymiak and the Black Bears get to play the UMass Minutemen at Fenway Park this fall! I am open to kicking off the season with the battle for the Brice-Cowell Musket. What better way to start the football engines than a matchup with the arch-rival UNH Wildcats?
The bad news – Coach Harasymiak and his troops will not whine, but the layout of the 2017 schedule overall is disappointing. Maine plays 2 home games in the first 7 weeks of the season and both games are against teams from Rhode Island (Bryant and the woeful Rhody Rams). Nothing against The Ocean State, but it is not considered a bastion of great college football. Maine plays 5 home games overall and 3 come in the last month of the regular season when the days are colder and the fans are harder to lure to Alfond Stadium. If not for the November date at Fenway, this schedule would be a real stinker. Unless, the Bears wind their way through it with an 8-3 mark and a trip to the FCS playoffs! Then, it was a work of art.
Baseball and Softball:
The good news – Both teams have high expectations heading into the 2017 season. And the Black Bears will be playing baseball and softball in less than a month! Softball opens on February 10th at a tournament in Nashville. Baseball gets it going on February 17th at Winthrop.
The bad news – The softball and baseball seasons aren’t starting tomorrow…officially welcoming in “spring”!
Jim Churchill is the host of The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.