Maine Professional Sports, League, College and High School Sports
The Maine Black Bears are the athletic teams which represent the University of Maine. They compete in NCAA Division I athletics, with the majority of the teams playing in the America East Conference. The only exceptions are the ice hockey program, Maine's most successful program, which competes in Hockey East, and the football program, which competes in the Colonial Athletic Association.
The University of Maine men's ice hockey program was introduced in 1977. The team has been successful and have won the Hockey East title five times, appeared in eleven Frozen Fours, and won 2 National Championships. The Black Bears compete in the Hockey East conference, a very competitive conference including teams such as Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and New Hampshire. The program has produced many professional ice hockey players, such as Paul Kariya, Eric Weinrich, Keith Carney, Garth Snow, Mike Dunham, Dustin Penner, and Jimmy Howard. The team is best known for its 1992–93 season, in which the team only lost one game, finishing with a record of 42–1–2. The team is noted for its head coach Shawn Walsh, who coached the team for seventeen seasons. Walsh is credited with turning the team into such a successful program, as well as turning the Alfond Arena into one of the most intimidating arenas in college hockey. Walsh died of renal cell carcinoma on September 26, 2001.
Maine's football team competes in the Colonial Athletic Association. Previous to the 2007 season, the team competed in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The football program has produced a few professional football players, such as Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who transferred to USC after his freshmen year, center Mike Flynn, linebacker Stephen Cooper, offensive lineman Justin Strzelczyk, running back Montell Owens, quarterback Mike Buck, defensive back Daren Stone, tight end Matthew Mulligan and defensive back Brandon McGowan. Current Iowa coach, and 2002 AP National Coach of the Year Kirk Ferentz began his head coaching career at Maine. The team also received brief publicity when the Oakland Raiders selected wide receiver Kevin McMahan as the last player in the 2006 NFL Draft, affectionately known as Mr. Irrelevant.
The team has played several division IA opponents and is slowly progressing to develop into a division IA program. The team has played teams in recent years such as Iowa, Rutgers, Connecticut, Syracuse, and to play the University of Pittsburgh in 2011. In 2004, The Maine Black Bears defeated Mississippi State University 9-7. This marked the first time that Maine defeated a Division 1-A opponent. 43,486 fans - the largest crowd to see a Maine football game- were on hand at Davis Wade Stadium. The team currently plays their collegiate games at Harold Alfond Stadium.
The university's basketball team, as well as all other sports teams, participate in the America East Conference. The current Clemson University head coach Jack Leggett also attended the university, as well as NBA head coach Rick Carlisle (although Carlisle transferred to Virginia and finished his college career there). A prominent current player is Houlton-native Mark Socoby. The women's and men's basketball teams play their collegiate games at Alfond Arena.
The women's basketball team is particularly noted for producing one-time WNBA player Cindy Blodgett, who also served as an assistant coach at Boston College and Brown.
The Black Bears' rivalry with the New Hampshire Wildcats is the longest continuous basketball rivalry between any two non-Ivy League schools: the men's teams have played each other 105 seasons in a row, from 1904-1905 to the present season.)
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