ORONO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - On Saturday the University of Maine hosted their annual homecoming game against Rhode Island. Filled with football, food, and tailgating, it was also a moment to recognize how far the Black Bear program has come and where it can go moving forward.
Jonathon LaBonte was one of the many Black Bears fans in attendance. He has been coming to Orono for games for 15 years, and says the fan base is stronger now more than ever.
“Watching the evolution of game day. You know getting here at 11 o’clock in the morning and seeing the line down College Ave down to the traffic light on route 2 is huge," said LaBonte.
Jack Cosgrove was the head coach of the Black Bears for 23 years. To him, the atmosphere on campus Saturday is something he wants to replicate on a weekly basis.
“Homecoming brings a lot of people back. And we are hoping to make every Saturday in the fall feel like this," said Cosgrove. "You know the welcoming atmosphere and people get to see a great football game. But also people seeing out campus and being a part of our community.”
This season Maine will have a home game in Portland where they will host the University of Delaware on Saturday, November 4th. They will also play a game in Fenway Park against UMass on Saturday November 11th.
Current Black Bears Head Coach Joe Harasymiack is excited about getting his team state exposure.
“We just want to take it to the whole state," said Harasymiack. "Down in Portland then ultimately a culmination down in Boston at Fenway with out Alumni group down there. It is just a special time to be apart of black bear nation and I am just happy I can be a part of it.”
As the Black Bears make strides to expand their program, loyal fans like Jonathon LaBonte thinks they are right on track.
"The brand of Umaine and it's ability to market itself state-wide has grown," said LaBonte. "And everyone sees it as Maine’s team."