Kayon Whitaker (9) of the University of Maine is pictured rushing the passer during a September 2019 game against Towson University at Alfond Stadium in Orono. The Black Bears are scheduled to open their 2021 Colonial Athletic Association season with a March 6 game at Delaware. Credit: Peter Buehner Photo

Are you ready for some early spring football in Maine?

Keep the wool sweaters, scarves and winter jackets on hand because the University of Maine football team is scheduled to host the University of Albany for its home opener on Saturday, March 13, 2021.

The Colonial Athletic Association on Tuesday announced an abbreviated, six-game schedule for the second semester. The fall season was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CAA’s schedule plans changed after Towson University announced that it would not play football in the spring. The league opted for a two-division plan in which the North teams (UMaine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Albany, Stony Brook, Villanova, Delaware) play each other once.

In the South, William & Mary, James Madison, Richmond and Elon will play the others twice.

The original format, before Towson opted out, involved having two six-team divisions.

The team with the best league record will earn the CAA’s automatic bid to the reduced, 16-team Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. Other conference teams would be eligible for one of five at-large berths.

“[We are] excited for the opportunity to play. We have a six-game schedule in the best FCS conference in the country and the turnaround time is something we can manage in looking ahead to the fall season,” UMaine head coach Nick Charlton said. “We are playing a different opponent every week which is something we’re happy about.”

If Towson hadn’t opted out, teams would have played one other opponent twice.

Now, the Black Bears have the chance to play for a championship.

“We’re excited. We have a long history with these teams and that will make it even more fun. It’s nice to know the competition,” senior linebacker Deshawn Stevens said.

UMaine’s season opener is set for March 6 at Delaware, followed by games March 13 against Albany, March 20 at Stony Brook, April 3 in Orono against Villanova, April 10 at Rhode Island and April 17 at Alfond Stadium against archrival New Hampshire.

Charlton speculated that the CAA purposely scheduled two of UMaine’s three home games in April in the hopes of enabling the teams to play in better weather.

Stevens said playing games in March and April could be advantageous because the Black Bears are used to practicing and playing in cold weather.

Each team will have a bye week during the seven-week CAA season. UMaine won’t have a league game on March 27.

The FCS playoffs begin April 24 and the title game will be held in Frisco, Texas in mid-May.

Each school may schedule up to two non-conference games and, per NCAA guidelines, are allowed to begin playing as early as Jan. 23.

Charlton is pursuing a non-conference game or two prior to the start of the conference schedule. UMaine usually schedules two games against higher-profile Football Bowl Subdivision teams each year, but those programs are playing this fall.

“Everything is up in the air. We’d like to play a non-conference game against an FCS team from New England on February 27, the weekend before the Delaware game,” Charlton said.

He didn’t rule out picking up another non-league contest but said UMaine intends to keep its bye week intact.

“It will be a good time to reflect on what we did good and bad during the first three games and see where we go from there for the second half,” Stevens said.

“Our unique divisional format was developed with the goal of enhancing safety and reducing the risks associated with travel during this difficult period of time, while still providing a fair and competitive model to determine a champion, CAA Commissioner Joe D’Antoni said.

It has not been determined whether fans will be allowed to attend CAA games. State guidelines are likely to come into play in those decisions.