Presque Isle, ME - After months of planning on the best way forward, the University of Maine at Presque Isle's Athletics Program is announcing today the plans for a safe return to all fall athletics and the intention to continue to plan for limited external competition. These decisions have been made following the Program's close work with the University of Maine System, North Atlantic Conference (NAC), and the NCAA, and in collaboration with health professionals and organizations.
"At this time, we feel that we have a strong plan in place with the ability to test regularly and continue exploring the possibility for outside competition for this fall," UMPI Executive Director of Athletics and Recreation Dan Kane said. "If at any point, there is a shift in trends in Maine or we feel it is not in the best interest of our student-athletes and staff to continue, we will make adjustments accordingly."
Fall sports include men's and women's soccer, men's and women's cross country, women's volleyball, and men's golf. Upon arrival, student athletes will be tested for COVID-19, and additional testing will take place in the weeks following. In guiding its decisions, UMPI will continue to look to the state while following the most up-to-date Maine CDC guidelines as well as those set by the University of Maine System. Additionally, UMPI will reference the NCAA return-to-play phase-in plan and suggested protocols.
"In making these decisions for fall, we took into account the well-being of our student-athletes, both physically and mentally, as well as trending data in Maine of COVID-19," Kane said. "Due to our current location and our ability for testing we feel confident that moving forward is the right decision at this point in time. In exploring outside competition, we will take into account the location and current trends of our opponent and will be in constant communication with them to ensure appropriate protocols are being practiced, including testing."
Officials are quick to point out that this will not be a 'normal season' for UMPI's student-athletes; however, the hope is to provide the best possible experience, with part of that experience including outside competition if at all possible. For student-athletes worried about practicing or playing a low number of games and how that will affect their eligibility, the NCAA recently passed a 50% waiver for eligibility that states student-athletes whose teams participate in less than 50% of the maximum allowed games will not be charged with a year of eligibility.
Fall non-traditional seasons in baseball and softball will continued as planned with the additional health and safety protocols in place. Winter sports are still being discussed at the conference and NCAA level for the fall semester; however, at this point, UMPI plans on starting men's and women's basketball practices on their traditional start dates of October 15.
"Coaches and administrators understand the wide range of impacts the current situation is having on our students and we want all student-athletes to make the best decision that works for them," Kane said. "There will be no pressure to compete this year. For student-athletes who do participate in athletics this upcoming year, though, we want to make sure they understand that there will be mandatory testing and protocols that they must follow to increase safety for them and the people around them. We are dedicated to providing the safest and best experience possible for all of our student-athletes."