The University of Maine men’s basketball team is facing the possibility of having to forfeit an upcoming America East game.
The NCAA permits Division I basketball teams to play only four games against non-Division I competition, including exhibition games.
NCAA Bylaw 18.104.22.168 reads: “An institution may schedule and play not more than four basketball games, including any contest (e.g., scrimmage, exhibition), in an academic year against institutions that are not members of Division I (Revised: 3/1/12).”
Coach Ted Woodward’s UMaine squad has already played three such games this season, including exhibition contests against Canadian universities McGill and Laval, and a game against NAIA Fisher College of Boston.
The Black Bears (3-11) have only America East Conference games remaining on their schedule. Among those 14 games are two against league newcomer UMass Lowell.
The issue arises from the fact UMass Lowell is making the transition from Division II to Division I and thus does not count as an NCAA Division I opponent during its first year. The River Hawks will be a Division I “counter” for America East opponents during 2014-2015.
UMaine interim athletics director Seth Woodcock said America East Conference officials are working with the NCAA to determine how the matter should be resolved.
“The conference is looking into the status of UMass Lowell as a Division I opponent on your schedule,” Woodcock said. “As they transition into a full Division I program, there was some miscommunication, a misinterpretation, on if they’re a Division I program or not.”
If some dispensation is not given America East and/or UMaine by the NCAA, it appears as though the men’s basketball team will be forced to forfeit one of its two games against UMass Lowell to avoid violating NCAA rules.
UMaine might have faced two forfeits had it not been for the fact the Black Bears’ Dec. 15 game against Division III UMaine-Presque Isle was postponed because of a snowstorm. UMaine can avoid further implications simply by not making up that contest.
The UMaine women’s team does not have any problem, since it played two exhibition games against the University of New Brunswick and Division III University of Southern Maine. Thus, the two UMass Lowell games will give them four non-DI contests this season.
UMaine is not the only school to be experiencing a scheduling issue related to a transitional Division I opponent.
According to Alex Abrami of the Burlington Free Press, the University of Vermont men’s basketball team has already played five games against non-Division I opponents, including one with UMass Lowell.
If the UMass Lowell game does not count as a Division I contest, that means Vermont has violated NCAA rules.
UMaine and America East are not alone in their apparent confusion about scheduling games against a transitional Division I league opponent.
Earlier this week, the Southland Conference this week announced that Oral Roberts University would forfeit two men’s basketball games to avoid exceeding the four-game limit on nonleague competition.
In that case, two Southland Conference newcomers, Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word, are not yet qualifying Division I programs — as is the case with UMass Lowell.
A Southland Conference release explained that they will count as Division I opponents during the 2014-2015 season.
As other schools reviewed their schedules, Southeastern Louisiana women’s basketball and Austin State men’s basketball each announced Thursday that they would forfeit a game to prevent violating the NCAA limit of four nonconference games.
The Southland Conference explained that the forfeits will be recorded in the league standings for the teams involved, but that the NCAA will consider the cancelled games as “no contests,” preventing any violations.