Al Bean has had to deal with disruptions to well-laid plans in his quarter century as the University of Southern Maine’s athletic director.

But nothing compares to the rapid changes as colleges and universities across the country grapple with how best to keep students, staff and faculty safe from the coronavirus outbreak. By 5 p.m. Tuesday, over 50 schools had announced some form of campus closure, all coming in the past few days.

“This is new ground for all of us,” Bean said.

On Monday, it appeared USM’s baseball team could still travel to South Carolina, the softball team could go to Florida, and two wrestlers and four track and field athletes would be representing the school at NCAA Division III championships this weekend.

By late Tuesday afternoon, Bean, as well as his peers at the University of Maine, were still trying to determine the impact of an announcement earlier in the day by the University of Maine System that all university-sponsored, non-essential air travel will be prohibited.

“The presidents are talking to the chancellor and that decision is going to come from the chancellor, what we can and cannot do,” Bean said.

The decisions on which athletic events are essential will be made on a case-by-case basis by the school presidents in consultation with Chancellor Dannel Malloy, said Dan Demeritt, executive director of public relations for the university system. Criteria will include the importance of an event and the severity of coronavirus outbreak at the travel location. Demeritt could not say which events had been approved for travel as of Tuesday night.

Of greatest urgency for USM was determining whether the wrestlers and track athletes will be able to travel on Wednesday, as planned, Bean said.

In Orono, the University of Maine was trying to sort out details around both travel arrangement and hosting this weekend’s Hockey East best-of-three quarterfinal series against the University of Connecticut.

“We’re looking at different ways we can still get to games. It’s still up in the air,” said Tyson McHatten, the senior associate director of athletics for external operations/communications.

The University of Maine baseball team is scheduled to play two America East Conference games at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County this weekend and then play four games in Florida from March 17-21. The UMaine softball team is scheduled to head to North Carolina for six non-conference games from March 14-17.

If some or all of the baseball and softball games are canceled, it might be possible to schedule day-trip games to other schools in the Northeast that are facing similar travel restrictions.

But Maine’s women’s basketball and men’s hockey teams are competing for conference honors.

The women’s basketball team will qualify for the NCAA tournament for a third straight season if it wins the America East Conference championship game at Stony Brook University on Friday. The team is taking a bus to Stony Brook.

Stony Brook, located on New York’s Long Island, has announced what it called an “attendance management initiative” to ensure fans can be seated well away from other fans if they desire. Ticket sales for the 5 p.m. game will end at noon and no tickets will be sold at the door.

McHatten said Maine is not planning on limiting tickets for the Hockey East playoffs but is taking extra precautions with “an emphasis on sanitizing everything” at Alfond Arena in Orono.

Colleges across the country are shutting down on-campus activities, telling students not to return to campus, and rapidly shifting to online learning. At least five of those schools are in New England: Harvard and Amherst in Massachusetts, Sacred Heart and the University of New Haven in Connecticut, and Middlebury in Vermont.

Further, more states are declaring emergency situations. Massachusetts joined that list on Tuesday with 92 people having tested positive for the new coronavirus.

“When there was the fear of the bird flu coming (in 2005) we went through a lot of planning and fortunately we never had to implement anything,” Bean said. “We’ve had nothing quite like this. This is new territory for sure.”


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