The Maine Black Bears are College Basketball’s Kings of Defeat

Let me introduce you to the beautiful, dreadful, gloriously sucky, absolute unicorn that is Maine Black Bears men’s basketball.

I was wasting time and procrastinating when I should have been doing any number of productive things (as one does) when I stumbled upon this wonderful post in r/collegebasketball. I have come to believe it is the biggest burn involving anything associated with Maine since the USS Maine found a fiery new home in Havana Harbor and it can be summed up in two words: Maine sucks.

But several paragraphs devoted solely to a single rant about Maine Black Bear basketball made me curious, so I looked into it. Is Maine really that bad?

Yes. A thousand times yes. Take a look:

The Maine Black Bears Are Uniquely Bad

According to the official Twitter bio of the Maine Black Bears men’s basketball program, they’ve been “Maine’s Team” for 101 seasons. And in those 101 seasons, they have won absolutely nothing of consequence. Zero regular season conference championships. Zero conference tournament titles. Zero NCAA tournament appearances. That’s a bit embarrassing, but dozens of other teams have never made the Big Dance either, so there’s not too much shame in it.

But it gets worse. They’ve never been to the NIT. Or CBI. Or CIT. Even Chicago State has been to the CIT. Yes, that Chicago State. Maine hasn’t made any of those, or any other non-conference postseason tournament. Not just in Division I. Anywhere, at any level.

The Stats

But there have been some good times. In 2009-10, they went 19-11 with a win over Boston College. Under Head Coach John Giannini, the Black Bears went 125-111 from 1996 to 2004. The highlights of his tenure included a 24-7 record during the 1999-2000 season and a 20-10 mark in 2003-04. It’s not all bad.

Don’t let that fool you though. Maine is still a historical doormat. I could pick a lot of different stats to show how bad Maine has been. I could write even more commentary and bad one-liners about those stats. But I will choose my favorite four facts, and let you see for yourself. 

Since 1950, the Black Bears have had 11 different head coaches. Two of them have had winning records. Maine has had just two winning seasons in the past 20 years. They haven’t won an America East tournament game since 2005. I was born that year, and I can legally drive. Here’s the last one, I promise: Maine has had three 20-win seasons—ever. Keep in mind this is a program that has played 101 seasons (according to themselves).

This is not meant to be targeted towards any Maine player, coach, official, student, trainer, concession worker, president, usher, fan, or anyone else associated with the university. It is impossible to place the blame on any individual, team, or group of people. This is a century of suck, and quite frankly I’m in awe of it.

A Comparison

I’d argue this is actually one of the most impressive accomplishments in college basketball, if not American sports as a whole. Maine has gone over a century without winning anything. Anything. No conference titles, no NCAA tournament appearances, no NIT, no CBI, no CIT, just absolutely nothing. And they’re still here.

Think about it. Think of the suckiest, most dreadful, most atrocious pro sports team you can think of. I’ll bet they’ve either had some type of success or haven’t been around that long. The Cleveland Browns? They won a string of NFL titles in the 1950s and have made several playoff appearances since then. The Sacramento Kings? They haven’t made the NBA playoffs in 15 years, but they’ve made plenty of playoff appearances before that and technically won an NBA title in 1951 back in their Rochester Royals days. 

When you look at the pros, everyone who has been around for at least a few decades has won something. Admittedly that’s not an entirely fair comparison, given that, due to money and economics and various other things existing, professional sports teams need to win to make money and therefore need to win to exist. But still. I’m proving a point here. 

But what about the college ranks? Surely there’s a program with a similar history to the Black Bears, right?

Wrong. The closest college basketball comparison to Maine is Sacred Heart. They also haven’t made a single postseason tournament appearance since they joined NCAA Division I—in 1999. SHU also has a Division II national championship to go along with their 13 tournament appearances at that level. 

Parting Thoughts

The Maine Black Bears are a unicorn. The sheer fact that they have walked the line between success and failure for so long is astounding. When they’re good, Maine just simply isn’t good enough to hold a trophy. When they’re bad, they’re never bad enough to be cut by the university. As far as I can tell, the Black Bears have never actually had a winless season.

Maine has simply mastered being consistently meh and never getting over the hump. And so, for over a century, the Black Bears have played through their own personal purgatory of mediocrity. It’s incredible.

I don’t know if it’s luck, fate, or some spiteful basketball deity that’s conspiring against Maine. I’m just a guy who stayed up way too late on way too many nights to write way too many words about a bad team nobody cares about. 

But if you want my opinion, my guess is a mix of all three with maybe a spiteful curse thrown in by a jaded former player or something. It would explain a lot.

 

Main Photo Embed from Getty Images


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