Like all athletic directors in the North Atlantic Conference, University of Maine at Farmington’s Julie Davis is waiting for the NAC to make a final decision about winter sports competition.

UMF guard Terion Moss (14) drives to the hoop against SUNY-Caton’s Joseph Werner during the NAC championship game at Dearborn Gymnasium in Farmington in February. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“The North Atlantic Conference presidents have pushed a final decision on a conference schedule back into January,” Davis said in a recent email. “The nature of the sport, our conference membership and all the associated variables make it more of a challenge than some other sports.

“The ADs had already advised divisional play in the context of dynamic state CDC guidance. … Meanwhile, we also sponsor indoor track and field and a full array of competitive snow sports (Alpine, Nordic and free-ride/ski). Each has it’s own set of variables, opportunities and challenges to consider.”

Davis said UMF and other schools in Maine and in the NAC are keeping an eye on the increasing cases of coronavirus and how it might affect the winter season.

“This is ongoing, but we aim to have as much ironed out as possible by mid-December,” Davis said. “The ripple effect of planning extends not only to the student-athletes, our coaches, our staff and opponents, but also to officials and bus drivers, and in the case of snow sports … the venues that provide dedicated hill and trail space.  

“Still, the presidents have pushed off a NAC basketball schedule until January (at the latest). We all know everything is subject to change. We are doing our best to have alternate plans in place and to keep our students engaged and everyone safe.”

When the NAC makes a decision about winter sports, Davis said assessments will be done on each sport.” 

“This go-around, I think we can be more discrete with our assessment sport by sport,” Davis said. “All of them plan to practice and train. We saw in the fall that our efforts in this regard to competition were welcome, effective and worth it. But when it comes to competition, basketball is different than track and field, which are different than snow sports.  

Basketball is indoors. You typically would have some sort of round-robin schedule. There are alternatives if that is not feasible. Whereas winter track and field is also indoors. Current guidelines for indoor events would not make a traditional meet feasible, but we are exploring alternatives, (like) ‘mini meets,’ maybe a couple of teams or just selected events and separate men’s and women’s competitions.”

Davis said that while snow sports are outdoor events, there are other variables that come into play during a world-wide epidemic.

“All of the local mountains and courses/trails have been working hard to adapt their spaces to comply with guidance and mitigate risk — and competitions can navigate that,” she said. “The primary area of focus there is inside. Race or no race, managing of warmup space, eating and restrooms … are all variables the mountains have been planning out differently. We think we have feasible options, as of now.”  

Davis said there a many factors to consider when it comes to making it safe for competition in January, but all of those considerations will be based on the NAC’s ruling as well following coronavirus protocols.

“It really comes down to our assessment of the ability and feasibility with our available resources, human testing, space and funding — plus the related logistics and available opponents to provide a responsible, quality and fun opportunity that prioritizes health and safety over all else — yet delivers experience/opportunity of education …,” she said. “We remain hopeful but pragmatic. Any competition we would get in would be a more modest and a more local schedule.”

Davis said that it is too early to know what will happen in the spring.

“Spring sports are on the radar, but we are not making a blanket, semester-long decision at this time,” she said. “We’ve learned a lot and developed processes and protocols this fall that were unknowns in August that help us assess every sport and season independently at this juncture.”

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