The North Atlantic Conference won’t crown any winter sports champions this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The league, which includes Maine schools Husson University of Bangor, Thomas College of Waterville, the University of Maine at Farmington, the University of Maine at Presque Isle and Castine’s Maine Maritime Academy, announced Tuesday that it had canceled the winter sports season.
However, it did leave the door open for its 12 members to schedule games among themselves. Husson University athletics director Frank Pergolizzi said all of the Maine schools are interested in scheduling some games against each other.
“We want our seniors to have the opportunity to put on that [Maine Maritime Academy] jersey at least one more time,” MMA athletic director Steve Peed said. “Even if it is only one more time, it will feel like a win with this pandemic.”
Peed’s goal is to give all of his teams, including the fall and spring squads, a chance to play four more games.
“We want to play as many games as we can as long as we can keep the kids safe. Nobody is going to lose any eligibility,” Pergolizzi said.
The NCAA is giving student-athletes an extra season of eligibility and won’t count games played during 2020-21 because of the pandemic.
Longtime Husson women’s basketball coach Kissy Walker said she would like to have 8-10 games, “for the sake of the seniors and to give our young players some experience.”
She said for her players living in the dorms, going to the gym for practice and being able to play some games will give them something to look forward to.
“The kids are itching to get back and get going. They’re excited,” UMPI athletics director and men’s basketball coach Dan Kane said.
He is hoping to play 4-6 games.
“We need to keep it as safe as possible and, hopefully, it will all work out,” Kane said.
Pergolizzi said the athletic directors intend to start working with a scheduling model and then adjust it in the hope of giving schools what they are looking for.
The athletes will be tested for COVID-19 and schools will follow the protocols established by the NCAA and the state of Maine. No more than 50 people will be allowed in a gym for games or practices.
NAC schools will start with conditioning and skills sessions, followed by practices, before playing games.