Maine Maritime Academy’s Chelsea Ward goes for a spike as Husson’s Athena Beaulieu defends during a 2010 college volleyball match in Castine. The North Atlantic Conference, which includes MMA, Husson and three other Maine universities, has announced COVID-19 protocols for 2021-22. FILE PHOTO

NAC announces COVID-19 protocols for 2021-22

CASTINE — With fall sports back on tap, an athletic conference home to several Maine universities is taking steps to keep its contests COVID-free.

The North Atlantic Conference announced Wednesday its COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-22 season. The conference laid out a vaccination policy for all athletes participating in athletics under the NAC banner ahead of the first scheduled competitions next week.

Athletes not fully vaccinated will be required to undergo regular tests and must wear masks at all times during NAC contests. Individuals fully vaccinated, whom the NAC has deemed “Tier 1” personnel, will not be subject to those restrictions.

“The NAC intends to sponsor regular and postseason competition in all sports during the 2021-22 academic year provided local, state and national health guidelines permit,” conference spokeswoman Kate Roy said in a statement. “In order to provide safe, competitive opportunities for student athletes, conference members agreed to standard operating procedures that integrate NCAA and NAC best practices with institutional autonomy.”

The NAC is home to five Maine schools: Maine Maritime Academy, Husson University, Thomas College, the University of Maine at Farmington and the University of Maine at Presque Isle. The conference also includes Northern Vermont-Johnson, Northern Vermont-Lyndon, Cazenovia College, SUNY-Canton, SUNY-Cobleskill, SUNY-Delhi and SUNY-Poly.

The NAC did not offer sports in spring or fall 2020 and limited its winter offerings to swimming and diving in winter 2020-21. Several NAC schools competed against one another in basketball in February and March, though the games were not considered official league contests. The conference’s spring sports season was held as usual.

The same vaccination and testing protocols required for athletes are also in place for officials, who are responsible for following said protocol at their own expenses if unvaccinated. An exception has been made in soccer, in which unvaccinated officials may not officiate NAC contests.

All NAC schools had vaccination mandates in place prior to Wednesday’s announcement, though the deadlines for students and faculty to receive their vaccinations varies from school to school. The NAC season is set to begin with the first fall competitions Wednesday, Sept. 1.

The NAC offers soccer, volleyball, cross-country, golf and women’s tennis in the fall, basketball and swimming and diving in the winter and baseball, softball, lacrosse, track and women’s tennis in the spring. Schools that compete in sports not offered by the NAC do so in other conferences (Husson football, Commonwealth Coast Conference; Husson, Thomas and UMaine-Farmington field hockey, New England Collegiate Conference).

Spectator policies will left to member schools, which must also outline expectations for communication, contest management and officiating. When competing teams are not in agreement on contest policies, events will “adhere to the most restrictive COVID-19 protocols among all participating institutions.”

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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