ORONO, Maine — Back when I was attending the University of Maine in the early 1980s, basketball games were a social event.
Attending Black Bear games at Memorial Gym was a no-brainer for me, because as an avid sports fan who grew up in Bangor, I had always been around UMaine athletics.
Hundreds of other students felt the same way, but those days are long gone.
However, UMaine athletics is again reaching out to its student population in the hope they will support Black Bear teams.
Even with temperatures outdoors expected to be in the single numbers on Tuesday, UMaine hopes to create more of a summer atmosphere inside Alfond Arena. That’s because the university is sponsoring “Beach Night Money Madness” for the men’s basketball game between UMaine and Vermont.
UMaine plans to give away thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. The loot includes a $500 prize for the student wearing the best outfit utilizing a beach theme.
Another nine honorable mention beach-goers will win $100 apiece, while other random money drawings are planned throughout the game.
Suffice it to say college students can always use a little extra cash, so UMaine hopes some will dig into their drawers and closets and pull out their shorts, straw hats, sandals and other beach accoutrements.
Students who attend the game also will be given a free pair of Black Bear sunglasses.
It’s a win-win proposition for the students who do turn out, because they are admitted free to athletic events anyway.
Part of UMaine’s motivation in offering money and prizes to students undoubtedly is the fact the game will be broadcast nationwide on ESPN3. Though it’s not one of the network’s major television outlets, the Maine-Vermont game will be shown live on ESPN3’s Internet feed.
It is available across the country on many college campuses and also on some local cable systems.
That means widespread exposure, which isn’t necessarily a good thing if there are only a few hundred fans in the seats as cameras pan around Alfond Arena.
It’s disappointing that UMaine basketball — both men and women — has such a spotty following on campus.
Even with several thousand undergraduate students attending classes this semester, probably 50 — at the most — show up at any given home basketball contest.
This kind of special promotion might breathe a little extra enthusiasm into Tuesday’s game. The energy provided by students greatly enhances the experience for all fans.
The sad reality is, students don’t seem interested unless there is a special event to entice them. And UMaine athletics doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to have these kind of giveaways very often.
Hopefully, at least Tuesday night’s game will have a better student presence.