CMCC’s Alyssa Everett, left, and Chandler True, right, steal the ball from Bryant & Stratton’s Kori Hardee during a November 2019 game. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The right decision was made.

That was the feeling of Central Maine Community College’s athletic department regarding Thursday’s news that athletics would be shut down in the fall and wouldn’t start back up again until January 2021, as only students who need hands-on training will be allowed back on campus in the fall.

“I think it’s different. I think the kids are disappointed, the coaches are disappointed, but we all understand the realities of life,” CMCC athletic director and men’s basketball coach Dave Gonyea said. “This is a mild setback and one we will recover from, and we will come out of it stronger.”

Gonyea said he had been in communication with the other Yankee Small College Conference ADs and he said it wasn’t a surprise to the conference that CMCC and rival Southern Maine Community College along with the four other schools in the Maine Community College System postponed sports in the fall.

Gonyea said don’t be surprised if the entire YSCC follows suit soon.

“I suspect that the conference will be taking a position very soon of moving everything they have into the second semester,” Gonyea said. “We will be following national trends and local trends to see what our next steps are and watch the NCAA to see what’s going on there.”

Women’s basketball coach Andrew Morong understands safety comes first in a pandemic.

“It’s definitely discouraging but it’s completely understandable,” Morong said. “We have to put the health and safety and well-being of our student-athletes and the greater community here at CMCC in the forefront. When you look at it like that, the importance of sports shrinks a little bit. I think it was an appropriate decision made by the college.”

Coaches know the school administration does value sports on campus.

“The support you have from the administration is they understand how important sports are and serious it is taking,” baseball coach Ryan Palmer said. “It’s a big family atmosphere there. It’s always good to have that support. I know administration-wise, they look out for the best interest of the athlete. I am good with whatever decisions they make.”

Morong points to the turf field that will be used for baseball, softball and soccer, which was recently put in, as upgrades as how the school views sports on campus.

Both Morong and Palmer each had Zoom meetings with their players recently to talk about the school’s decision.

“We do a weekly team Zoom meetings and we scheduled one (Thursday) night at about 8 p.m.,” Morong said. “Obviously we have players from all over the world, so we had (kids in many) time zones. They all got communication earlier in the day, but I just wanted to be there for them and their families just in case they had questions or anything like that. I think obviously (CMCC Vice President Dr. Betsy Libby) spelled everything out to the students. I think it was a well thought-out plan and there weren’t that many questions. Some did have questions and that’s why we wanted to provide that opportunity.”

Morong talked to the girls about how the bad news will help build resiliency and this news won’t affect their goals in life five or 10 years from now. He wanted to make sure the girls didn’t lose sight of that.

Palmer knew it was important that the kids heard the news from school officials first and not some other source. Palmer reached out to his players last week of the school’s plans for the fall, as the baseball team plays half of its schedule in the fall.

“We as coaches wanted to reach out to our players because we wanted them to hear it from us first, not a letter in the mail or read it on social media,” Palmer said. “I had a Zoom meeting with all my players and you could see the disappointment in their faces. Pretty much it was me talking and I asked them if they had any questions, nobody did. It was kind of heartbreaking to see how everybody was reacting to it. But, hopefully they can hang on and have a season come springtime.”

Palmer, who was hired by CMCC this past winter, had to deal with the same disappointment when sports were canceled in the spring.

“Our goal last spring was to make sure we put a team on the field and didn’t fold the program,” Palmer said. “The 12 or 13 kids that I had were all dialed in and had strong practices, they were practicing hard and they were gearing up for the games to start. Then the pandemic hit, I was talking to them on what was happening, but they knew what was going on. We canceled practice on a Thursday and on Friday they were all sent home and never returned (for the remainder of the semester).”

Palmer said the coaching staff did a good job of recruiting players for the 2020-21 season but is worried some players might not show up now that half the season has been postponed.

Morong also feels for the incoming freshmen who lost their spring season of their senior year of high school.

“I feel the most for the graduates, the students who just graduated from high school because they are getting this on both fronts at the end of their senior year of high school and the beginning of their first year of college,” Morong said. “Talk about a massive impact in a young person’s life, and really I am most concerned about them, our first-year incoming students.”

Morong also feels for kids from Androscoggin County who come to CMCC for the athletic teams, as well as for international kids who also chose CMCC because of the sports offerings.

Gonyea is keeping an eye out on recent NCAA Division III legislation regarding eligibility that was just approved that might affect the United States Collegiate Athletic Association, which governs the YSCC.

“What they are talk about is all Division III sports in the 2020-21 season, if they play 50 percent or less of their games, they won’t count to (burning a year) of eligibility,” Gonyea said.

Gonyea has sent that NCAA proposal to the USCAA to look at. Morong said if the USCAA doesn’t have a specific rule in place, NCAA guidelines are usually then followed.

Morong hasn’t thought about what a schedule may look like in January, as the basketball season usually starts in October, but he’s not in favor of playing half a season with kids losing a year of eligibility.

“I think the NCAA gets a lot of criticism sometimes and I think (the eligibility rules) will trickle down to us,” Morong said. “I think this is a very important rule because it’s not just playing games, it’s about the intercollegiate experience and the student experience. Take winning or losing out of the equation, obviously as successful as we’ve been, we don’t spend a lot of time talking about that, it’s all about (the players’) experience. Is playing a 10 or 15 game basketball schedule, is that actual intercollegiate experience? I would say no it’s not, but it is better than nothing. If you can engage students to a 10 or 15 game schedule, a conference tournament and maybe a national tournament, if you can do that and you don’t lose a year of eligibility I think we have done a great service to these student-athletes by finding a way to make it work and still help them plan out their future.”


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