ORONO — Mike Coutts wanted to do something different than just go down to Florida for the opening games of the University of Maine’s softball season this year.

The Black Bears’ senior class was the first that Coutts and his wife Lynn, now a senior associate director of athletes at the university, had recruited. “We wanted to do something special,” he said.

So the Black Bears went west instead of south. Maine’s opening 20-game trip started in Arizona on March 3, then moved on to Colorado, Utah and Montana before ending Sunday.

“This was a lot of work compared to the ones we’ve had in the past,” said Mike Coutts, in his second year as head coach of the Black Bears. “Because in order to make it work, we had to get guarantees.”

For football and basketball teams, that usually involves a cash guarantee. For Coutts and the softball team, it involved hotel rooms.

“Of the 18 days we will be gone, we’ve got 13 nights in a hotel paid for,” he said before the trip, estimating a savings of $15,000. “So even though we’re going through four states, it’s costing us less money than if we were to go to Florida and stay there for two weeks.”

That’s because Florida schools won’t provide guarantees, he said. He added it took a lot of phone calls and emails to pull the schedule together. But that’s typical of most college athletic schedules.

“It’s ongoing,” said Red Gendron, the Maine men’s hockey coach, of putting together his team’s schedule. “Hours and hours. Always.”

“It’s like recruiting,” said Richard Barron, the Black Bears’ women’s basketball coach, before he took a medical leave of absence in early January. “You’re always doing it. You look at it every day.”

Maine’s schedule-makers have a challenge that many others don’t. As the northernmost NCAA Division I school on the East Coast, it’s not easy to find teams willing to travel to Orono or Bangor (where the men’s and women’s basketball teams play home games).

“It’s obviously a challenge for us here to schedule certain teams nonleague,” said Gendron, whose team recently finished an 11-24-4 season. “They’re happy if you’re willing to come to them but less enthralled for them to come back. If they don’t want to come back, then the conversation ends.”

Gendron said he tries to work on his schedule at least two seasons out. And it’s not easy. Sometimes teams pull out of contracts. Sometimes Hockey East changes the number of games it plays, such as the next two seasons when conference games will expand from 22 to 24.

“Building a schedule is a great challenge,” said Gendron.

Bob Walsh, the men’s basketball coach at UMaine, discovered that almost as soon as he was named head coach in 2014. He came from Rhode Island College and immediately reached out to a friend, Mike Martin at Brown. “Mike said he’d think about it,” Walsh said of playing at Maine. “But he said, ‘To tell you the truth, I’m closer to Rider in New Jersey than I am to you.’ ”

The schools agreed on a home-and-home series, and Brown played in Bangor during the 2015-16 season. But that’s how UMaine’s location can impact a school’s decision to go there. “When you look at a school like Brown, or Bryant, or Sacred Heart or teams in central Connecticut, or a Holy Cross, they have a number of options to pick from of teams within an hour-and-a-half of them,” said Walsh.

Most coaches consider many factors when looking for nonleague teams to add to their schedule – including whether they can win. As Walsh said, “You want to find some games where you can be successful … You don’t build a championship culture through losing games.”

For smaller Division I programs like Maine, there’s also a financial component. As Coutts looked for ways to cut his budget on the softball team’s opening trip, basketball and football coaches look to bring in money to supplement their budgets.

The men’s basketball team, which recently ended a 7-25 season, received $325,000 in guaranteed money from four opponents: Duke, Buffalo and Virginia Tech (each $85,000) and Providence ($70,000). Buffalo and Providence also provided hotel rooms.

The women’s basketball team, which played in the America East championship game, received $48,000 for five games/tournaments, including the Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge (which also included 15 hotel rooms for two nights).

Maine’s baseball team received $5,000 from Miami for a two-game series March 14-15, concluding its annual Florida trip.

Football is the big winner in guaranteed money. The Black Bears fill their non-Colonial Athletic Association schedule with at least two road games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams, the larger Division I schools that provide more scholarships and have larger budgets.

Last fall, Maine received $325,000 to play Connecticut and $375,000 to play Toledo. This year Maine will receive $350,000 to play at Central Florida on Sept. 30 and $250,000 to play Massachusetts on Nov. 11 at Fenway Park.

Barron said the biggest part of scheduling is simply “finding people who will play you. And that’s a struggle. There’s always excuses – you’re too far, you’re not good enough, you’re too good … We just want to play the best teams we can and get as many home games as we can and we have to do it within a restricted budget. So you just try to make all the pieces fit as best you can. It’s a very inexact science.”

Some of it is luck.

Coutts put together his spring trip because he knew he wanted to play in Arizona. In talking to the coach at Grand Canyon University, he discovered the coach at Arizona State was looking for a game. When he contacted Brigham Young to play there, the coach there said Utah Valley was looking for games. “The power of email,” said Coutts. “And it’s about connections and people knowing people.”

Walsh said the same thing. “The coaches in New England, we all know each other,” he said. “We’re always talking.”

Assistant coach Matt O’Brien actually handles most of the men’s basketball scheduling. He uses a couple of websites, including basketballtravelers.com, to search for games. It’s a message board where coaches can note what openings they have. But even then, dates have to line up, arenas have to be available and travel costs have to be kept at a minimum.

The women’s basketball team has done a good job drawing good teams to Maine. This year Barron convinced Villanova, Mississippi State and Purdue to travel to Bangor for Maine’s Tip-Off Tournament.

How? “A lot of it is just being friends with people,” said Barron.

Then there’s lobsters. After Mississippi State agreed to come, Barron sent Coach Vic Schaefer six live Maine lobsters.

“He called me and asked what to do with them,” said Barron. “I told him to cook them and eat them.”