As the University of Maine football team prepares to play in front of over 20,000 hostile fans next week at Appalachian State, it is time to dispel one myth of home-field advantage.

Sometimes, a large home crowd helps the visiting team, too.

Back in the glory days of the Maine women’s basketball team, from 1994 to 2000, with Cindy Blodgett, Amy Vachon and Jamie Cassidy, the Black Bears were a dominant team that drew huge crowds to the Alfond Center.

But some of Maine’s toughest games were at the Alfond. Opposing players, who were used to smallish attendance in their own gyms, spoke of the excitement and motivation from playing in such an electric setting.

And that brings us to the Maine football team, which also plays in a facility named after one of the school’s great benefactors, Harold Alfond.

But on Saturday afternoons when the Black Bears charge into Alfond Stadium, the atmosphere is hardly electric.

Part of the reason is the open setting of the stadium — no end zone seating — along with the track that separates fans further from the field. It’s hard to generate noise or that crowd-on-top-of-you feeling.

And then there is the issue of college football in Maine. It just is not that big of a deal.

“It’s different up here,” Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said in an interview last month. “I don’t know if I can say this right we don’t have (a football environment) up here. It’s hunting season. It’s hockey season. Those are things that keep you humble.”

Cosgrove said those things when his team was 7-1 and unbeaten in the Colonial Athletic Association, heading into a pivotal game with Towson at Alfond Stadium. A crowd of 5,258 showed up.

When rival Massachusetts came the next week, the crowd was 4,460. After the 32-21 win over UMass, a few Maine players were asked if they were excited about possibly hosting a playoff game. The reaction was a collective shrug.

Maine did not host a first-round game. The Black Bears got a bye into the second round.

One reason for the bye was Maine’s position in the Gridiron Power Index, which ranks the Black Bears 12th in the country when factoring in results and strength of schedule.

Conference foe Old Dominion (9-2) had a better record but a weaker power index (15th), but the Monarchs hosted a first-round game. They also average 19,818 in attendance.

Cosgrove said ODU’s attendance likely played a factor in deciding who would be a host in the first round.

Cosgrove never said he did not want a home game. But he was thrilled to get a bye, and he was not heartbroken to hear his team is going to be playing in front of over 20,000 fans at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C.

“They have great crowds,” Cosgrove said.

“This bye and that game are more appealing (than a first-round home game) this is exciting for us.”

The last time Maine played an NCAA playoff game at Appalachian State, in 2002, the crowd was only 4,311. But that was Thanksgiving weekend, with no students around and other fans away. The Mountaineers averaged crowds of 28,031 this season.

It is exciting to play in front of a packed stadium full of avid fans — even if they are cheering against you.

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at:

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Twitter: KevinThomasPPH