CASTINE — Conference basketball games will not be happening this winter at Hancock County’s lone university and four others throughout the state of Maine.
The North Atlantic Conference announced Monday the cancellation of the 2021 basketball season. The decision means Maine Maritime Academy, Husson University, Thomas College, the University of Maine at Farmington, the University of Maine at Presque Isle and seven universities in New York and Vermont must assemble their own schedules should they choose to go forward with the sport this winter.
Back in November, the NAC Presidents’ Council announced that conference basketball games would be delayed through Jan. 29 pending a final decision on the season to be made in January. That decision came Monday as presidents determined it was “not feasible to conduct a NAC regular or postseason basketball schedule with members spread across three states,” according to spokeswoman Kate Roy.
“A variety of creative schedule options were crafted in the hopes that NAC basketball could safely be conducted,” Roy said in a statement. “Ultimately, presidents determined the best course of action is to forgo a traditional conference schedule this year while allowing schools autonomy to play games at their own discretion.”
Maine Maritime Academy Athletic Director Steve Peed told The American in November that a group of four NAC schools, including MMA, would be pulling out of conference games regardless of the decision made by the Presidents’ Council. Those schools instead opted to schedule individual games outside of NAC-organized competition.
Such a blueprint is now the likely path forward for any of the 12 NAC schools still intent on playing basketball this winter. Doing so, Presidents’ Council Chairman and UMaine-Presque Isle President Ray Rice said, would allow schools to schedule according to their needs amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
“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,” Rice said. “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.”
To date, the University of Maine is the only university in the state to have played NCAA basketball games this winter. The Commonwealth Coast
Conference, which includes the University of New England, is scheduled to begin play next month.
The NAC also announced that the conference’s first-ever championship swim and dive meet will be a virtual event. Teams will compete in that meet, scheduled for March 13-14, regionally or in their own campus communities. The conference will then compile results from each school to determine winners and crown team champions.
Select NAC teams had previously expressed interest in holding fall sports on a limited basis throughout the spring months. Monday’s vote, Peed told The American, does not affect those plans.
Ex-Hancock County athletes on NAC winter sports teams include Ellsworth’s Keith Jordan (MMA men’s swim and dive), Sammy Mason (MMA women’s basketball) and Trinity Montigny (Husson women’s basketball), Mount Desert Island’s Derek Collin (Husson men’s basketball) and George Stevens Academy’s Caden Mattson (MMA men’s basketball) and Max Mattson (MMA men’s swim and dive).
For the moment, the NAC’s spring sports slate (baseball, softball, lacrosse, track and men’s tennis) remains intact. The Presidents’ Council will meet next month to make a further determination regarding spring sports.