The Yankee Small College Conference canceled its winter competition in men’s and women’s basketball on Thursday because of the coronavirus pandemic, effectively ending the seasons for those teams at Southern Maine Community College.

Matt Richards, the athletic director and men’s basketball coach at SMCC, called the decision “hugely disappointing” but realized the difficulties of making the season work. The YSCC is a 10-member conference that competes in Division II of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association. Other members include Central Maine Community College and the University of Maine at Augusta.

“As a conference, we’ve been working for the last four, five months on how we can conduct some kind of basketball season safely and efficiently,” said Richards. “But when you’re trying to incorporate five different states and 10 different institutional guidelines, it’s difficult. And, obviously, the numbers recently haven’t helped.”

Richards was referring to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, not just locally – Maine reported 183 new cases Thursday, the third consecutive day it has set a record high –  but regionally. “You have to encompass all those different state guidelines,” said Richards. “In Maine, we’ve done as good as anyone in keeping our communities safe. But when you start talking New York and Connecticut and get on the outskirts of New England, you see those numbers and it’s troubling. How can you play a conference schedule?”

The YSCC announcement noted that member schools “may plan for student-athlete training, conditioning opportunities, and non-conference competition, consistent with federal and state public health recommendations and institutional guidelines.”

Richards said SMCC will try to do something for its winter athletes, much as it did for its fall athletes. That may include training programs or, possibly, games.

“We haven’t ruled out anything,” said Richards. “Right now, we’re continuing to engage our student-athletes in providing resources to them in terms of training, and we will come up with plans to do that through the winter. The mental health and engagement aspects of competition is extremely important to them, and we will try to do it in a safe and efficient way.”

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