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 other Northeastern universities 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 that it is not feasible to conduct a NAC regular or postseason basketball schedule with members spread across three states,” conference spokeswoman Kate Roy said in a statement.
“A variety of creative schedule options were crafted in the hopes that NAC basketball could safely be conducted,” Roy said. “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 Islander 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 an NAC schedule.
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 ongoing 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 basketball games this winter. The Commonwealth Coast Conference, which includes the University of New England (Biddeford) 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 the 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 Islander, does not affect those plans.
The cancellation of the basketball season affects one former Mount Desert Island High School athlete, 2019 graduate Derek Collin (Husson men’s basketball). Tony DeMuro, longtime coach of the MDI swim team, now coaches the sport at MMA.
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.