ORONO – The University of Maine will get a guarantee of $300,000 to play Syracuse on Saturday night, the kind of paycheck that has made a once-a-year Bowl Championship Series opponent a staple in the Football Championship Subdivision.

Maine is facing Syracuse for the second straight year; the Orange stepped in to add Maine to their schedule when the Black Bears’ season opener last year against Florida State fell through.

The guarantee from both years totals $550,000.

“My personal feeling was at first I didn’t like the idea (years ago.) But it’s really worked out well,” said interim athletic director Steve Abbott. “It gives our student-athletes a lot of great exposure and it’s a critical part of the funding now.”

The Black Bears have received $1.9 million from BCS opponents coming into this season, including $200,000 from Florida State and the Atlantic Coast Conference after the Seminoles dropped Maine in favor of Miami last year.

Abbott, who started his new position about a week ago, said the opportunity also affords a prime chance to connect with supporters of the program.

He will travel to Syracuse with a contingent of university personnel, fans and the team on a charter flight out of Bangor International on Friday morning.

“It’s an opportunity to connect with people not in the area, to re-engage them with the program,” said Abbott. “Donors, potential donors. It’s really evolved into a positive experience for the fans.”

On the field, it’s a stage players relish.

In 2004, Maine beat Mississippi State, 9-7. In 2005, the Black Bears stayed with Nebraska, losing 25-7 after trailing by just seven points at halftime.

Only once did Maine lose a guarantee game by a lopsided score: at Iowa back 2008, 46-3.

“It’s valuable to play a BCS team,” said defensive back Steven Barker. “It lets everyone else know we’re legit as a conference.”

Last week, for example, James Madison upset No. 13 Virginia Tech 21-16 in a game still being talked about in Virginia.

A year ago, Maine held a 17-13 halftime lead over the Orange, using a few trick plays and a strong passing attack that caught Syracuse off guard. Syracuse ended up winning, 41-24.

“It’s a good feeling. I’ve played there, had success there,” said quarterback Warren Smith. “We’ll try to play four quarters this year, though.”

Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said he expects Syracuse will be prepared to face Maine, but that traveling to the Carrier Dome a second time will help.

“Knowing the routine plays a part,” said Cosgrove. “We really have to play great. We need to make sure we’re solid in all aspects and perform at a very, very high level.” 

NOTES: The Maine-Syracuse game will be televised in Maine on Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. on Time Warner Cable. Depending on the location, the game will be aired on channels 9, 12, 21 or 22.

Running back Jared Turcotte and linebacker Ryan McCrossan return as captains for Maine this week, along with linebacker Donte Dennis. 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

[email protected]