April 04, 2020
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UMaine coaches keeping athletes focused on academics after canceled spring season

Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Morse Field at Alfond Stadium will be largely unoccupied this spring after the Colonial Athletic Association canceled spring football seasons for the University of Maine and other league schools because of the coronavirus. BDN File

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University of Maine baseball coach Nick Derba and softball coach Mike Coutts were disappointed that their seasons got cut short by the coronavirus, but they completely understand the rationale behind the cancellation and are supportive of the decision.

“Making sure everybody is safe and healthy is certainly more important than playing 50 games this spring,” Coutts said.

“It is a matter of making sure everybody is OK and supporting them the next couple of months,” Derba said. “We want them to stay safe and land on their feet, ready for their next stage of life.”

Derba said it is important to stay positive.

“There is going to be some darkness in life. But there are so many [positive] opportunities that arrive in these moments,” he said.

For the student-athletes, the break gives them an opportunity to concentrate on their school work and work out on their own.

“We had one final meeting on Monday and we told them to continue working out and staying committed to softball and to get their academics in line,” Coutts said of his athletes.”

[Here’s what has been canceled or postponed in Maine due to coronavirus]

UMaine football coach Nick Charlton had his spring practice season canceled by the Colonial Athletic Association and said it is the right decision.

“We all know the bigger picture here. It is about the health of the student-athletes and the staff. It is a real health crisis,” Charlton said.

Charlton sympathizes with the UMaine women’s basketball and men’s hockey teams, which were trying to win league championships. The America East women’s championship game at Stony Brook and the Hockey East quarterfinal series against visiting UConn were canceled.

The coaches are committed to making sure their athletes stay on top of their academics. UMaine students have moved to remote learning via online classes.

Coutts said some of the student-athletes will be challenged because they are accustomed to having a school, practice, travel routine.

“[Assistant coach] Jordan [Fitzpatrick] and I are going to stay in touch with them and their academic people like their tutors. We don’t want any of them to fall through the cracks,” Coutts said.

“We’ve all got to do a real good job making sure they finish up strong, academically. We’re going to monitor it very closely,” Charlton said.

Seniors involved in spring sports will be able to return next year and complete their eligibility and retain their scholarships under new NCAA rules, the details of which have not been finalized.

Derba said two of his seniors, two-time All-America East outfielder-first baseman Hernen Sardinas and pitcher Trevor DeLaite of Bangor, have told him they intend to return next year if they don’t get drafted this summer.

Coutts does not have a senior on his roster so the softball team isn’t impacted by the senior scholarship situation.

According to the UMaine athletic website, track and field coach Mark Lech has 11 seniors among the 51 athletes on his men’s roster and 10 women among the 53 on their roster. Not all of those athletes are on scholarship.

Coutts said the most frustrating thing for him is, after failing to qualify for the America East tournament last year, the Black Bears had made dramatic changes in how they approached conditioning and practices and other dynamics.

“So we won’t be able to see if they worked or not. We’ll have to wait another year,” said Coutts, whose team was 2-7 this season.

Charlton said he was glad the CAA canceled spring practice for all member schools rather than let the schools dictate it.

“Now there is a level playing field for all of us,” said Charlton.

Charlton said if the recruiting ban instituted by the NCAA remains in place and they can’t leave campus to recruit during the April 15-May 31 period, UMaine will have to recruit with phone calls and through emails and various other methods.

Derba said his brother, Matt, likened the current situation to, “living a sci-fi movie script. We had watched the movie ‘Outbreak’ and now we’re living it,” he said.

Outbreak was a 1995 movie starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman and Donald Sutherland in which the world is threatened by an airborne virus carried by an African monkey that was smuggled into the United States.

Derba said one of the positives of the hiatus is he will get to spend more time with 2-year-old son Benjamin and wife Megan.

“I’m not feeling sorry for myself. This gives me a chance to do something very productive and something I will cherish,” he said.

Watch: Symptoms of the coronavirus disease

 


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