It’s just another college football game, but University of Maine officials also see it as an entertaining three-hour infomercial.

When Maine meets Delaware at 2 p.m. Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland, the school will be selling itself and its athletic program.

“(Part) of our strategic plan is to embrace the opportunity that we’re Maine’s team,” said Athletic Director Karlton Creech. “We’re the only Division I team in Maine.

“To play in the state’s population center seems to make a lot of sense.”

This will be the Black Bears’ first regular-season appearance in Portland since Oct. 1, 2005 – a 31-7 victory against Albany. While Maine is giving up a home game in Orono, the marketing advantages of coming south outweigh the inconvenience.

“We look at it as an opportunity to promote the University of Maine and to bring games to our alumni,” said Seth Woodcock, associate athletic director in charge of development. “Fifty to 60 percent of our alumni live within an hour of Portland.”

Woodcock said about 5,000 tickets have been sold with hopes of a sizable walk-up sale. Advanced tickets are priced at a discounted $10 (tickets for games in Orono are $12 to $25). Tickets on Saturday will be $15.

For Coach Joe Harasymiak, it’s a chance to show off his team, which is on a three-game winning streak and has distant hopes of reaching the postseason.

Although Maine is the state’s only Division I football team, getting fans to travel to Orono has been a challenge.

“Hopefully they enjoy it (Saturday) and we can get them up to (Orono) for a game,” Harasymiak said. “If it works out, it works out. If not, we tried.”

Harasymiak, in his second year as head coach, has been an ambassador for the program. He’s conducted youth clinics around the state.

In May, Maine held its annual spring scrimmage at Fitzpatrick Stadium. In August, Harasymiak, his coaches and a handful of players appeared at a Portland Sea Dogs game, throwing out the first pitch and promoting November’s game.

“It’s all about fan engagement,” Harasymiak said.

Maine’s other teams have played throughout the state – including the men’s hockey program, which annually plays in Portland.

The team will meet Boston University at Cross Insurance Arena on Nov. 18.

Football, along with hockey and women’s basketball in its heyday, attracts fans and alumni.

“It’s one of the programs that is consistently covered in the media. It’s a big asset,” Creech said.

Maine and other schools in the Football Championship Subdivision – the second tier of NCAA Division I football – routinely lose money because they lack lucrative television deals. The financial value of their football programs is as a marketing tool.

“When you think about FCS football, only a handful of the programs turn a profit,” Creech said. “For the vast majority who have chosen to invest in football, it’s really about offering opportunities (to bring in students) and the brand recognition that comes with it.”

Football also attracts corporate sponsors. Maine partnered with Gorham Savings Bank to help pay the bills for its Portland trip.

Maine officials have talked about returning football to Portland for a few years, but it was not until Fitzpatrick underwent improvements – including new bleachers in 2012 and new turf in 2015 – that the conversations became serious.

While the game means a 2½-hour bus ride and a hotel stay the night before, Harasymiak sees advantages.

“On home games the players can get distracted on campus and in the dorms,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting our guys in a hotel and having a structure.”

Maine, which is 4-3 overall and 3-3 in the Colonial Athletic Association, will need to be focused against Delaware (5-3, 3-2). The Blue Hens, who were upset at Towson last week, are still one of the league’s best teams.

“They’re big and physical,” Harasymiak said. “Fans should be able to see a real, physical football game.”

And, the coach hopes, fans’ appetite will be whetted for more Black Bears football.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @KevinThomasPPH

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