Money in most places today is tight. How many times over the last several years have we heard this statement? As citizens, we expect every dollar to be spend prudently, as we should.
Amidst this backdrop the regular season football finale played out this past Thursday night at The University of Maine’s Alfond Stadium when the Orono Red Riots took on the John Bapst Crusaders. Not only did both teams get to compete on such a grand stage but the contest was in essence a de facto play-off game. The winner would secure the third seed and a trip to Bucksport for a semi-final postseason game while the loser’s season would more than likely be over.
Such a scene should seem unlikely, critics would say a bit wasteful, in times like these. Isn’t there a better use of the citizens’ funds than to go up to UMaine to play a football game? By the way, even though John Bapst is a private school, much of their funding comes from sending towns who don’t have their own high school. So, both schools rely heavily on tax dollars.
While Orono and John Bapst have become fierce rivals on the football field, the two schools have collaborated to make this game possible. Head football coaches Dan O’Connell of John Bapst and Bob Sinclair of Orono came up with the idea for this annual tradition in 2010. They both thought it would be a great highlight to the season. In addition, the games serves as a senior night for both schools, in which both squads senior cheerleaders and football players are recognized prior to kick-off.
As budgets are tight, the next big question was how to fund the game. While the University of Maine has been gracious in allowing the use of their facilities, they do come with a cost attached, per NCAA rules. Enter the work of John Bapst athletic administrator Rick Sinclair and his Orono counterpart Mike Archer. Each school raises funds through business sponsorships for the annual game. Throughout the contest, these cornerstone sponsors are displayed prominently on the stadium’s video scoreboard. The host school is responsible for other incidental costs for hosting, such as securing ticket takers, chain crew, an announcer, etc.
In this year’s match-up, John Bapst rallied from a 22-7 halftime deficit to pull out a thrilling 28-22 victory. Despite the result, both school’s athletes win due to the hard work put in by both communities’ coaches and administrators.
John Bapst and Orono are certainly not the only schools who have people that take the extra step to create opportunities for student-athletes. The easy route is to cut programs when faced with dwindling resources. In most cases, though, this is not happening. In fact, many schools are adding programs and improving facilities despite the lack of public funding. Most, if not all of the new football programs which have popped up in recent years are all privately funded.
A special thank you is in order today, to all those who tirelessly work together to create lasting memories for our student-athletes.