The North Atlantic Conference, which includes five Maine colleges, on Monday canceled its proposed basketball schedules because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Officials representing the league, which includes teams from Maine, Vermont and New York, decided that it would not be possible to hold games safely.
“The Council ultimately determined the safest course of action is to allow each school to provide competitive opportunities for student athletes in a way that works best for each campus,” said Ray Rice, the president of the University of Maine at Presque Isle and the chairperson of the NAC Presidents’ Council, which made the decision.
The Maine members of the North Atlantic Conference are Husson University of Bangor, Maine Maritime Academy of Castine, the University of Maine at Farmington, Thomas College in Waterville and UMPI.
“We appreciate the hard work done by athletics administrators, athletic trainers, and conference office staff to develop schedule options and safety protocols with respect to contesting a conference basketball season,” said Rice.
The council determined that in spite of canceling the NAC schedule, schools will have the ability to play non-sponsored games at their discretion while adhering to all COVID-19 safety guidelines.
League members are expected to follow NCAA guidelines and prioritize NAC schools when developing independent competition schedules.
The NAC Presidents’ Council also revealed plans to conduct its inaugural swimming and diving championship meet using a virtual format. On March 13 and 14, the five NAC schools that field teams will compete either regionally or in their own campus pools. The results will be combined virtually to determine event winners and team champions.
NAC presidents in November supported plans to hold winter sports during the second semester, but postponed their final decision until January. The conference originally targeted Jan. 29 as the starting date for conference basketball contests, but later moved that date back to accommodate some schools that delayed the return of students to campuses for the second semester.
Previously approved spring sport schedules and championships are still planned for 2021, while the conference is prepared to make adjustments as needed. Spring sports include baseball, softball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, and men’s tennis. Presidents will reconvene in mid-to-late February to determine if changing course is needed for swimming & diving, fall, or spring sports.
The NAC also plans to conduct the traditional fall sports in a reduced format during the spring semester, if possible. That includes men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s golf and women’s tennis.
All athletes in the NCAA Division III ranks, which includes the NAC, are eligible for a blanket waiver that will allow them to retain a season of sport eligibility, regardless of whether they play during the 2020-21 academic year.