Bowdoin College receiver Bo Millett catches a pass in front of Colby defender Don Vivian during a 2018 game at Colby College in Waterville. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo

B.J. Hammer had two recruiting calls on Zoom Wednesday night, then two the next night. Even without a fall season, the Bowdoin football coach is still preparing for his next season — whenever that may be.

He’s been in contact with many players, from seniors to incoming freshmen and everyone in between.

Bowdoin College announced Monday it was canceling the fall sports season and putting all athletic on hold until at least January because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The biggest thing was, even before the team meeting, I called all the seniors and everyone is going to react differently,” Hammer said. “The sophomores and juniors still have time and the freshmen have a lot of time, but I tried to call every senior and connect with them as much as I could. That’s the biggest shock is reading through that announcement and then some hoping to have a football season in the spring, and some have some big-time decisions.”

Hammer said he’s discussed with his players about gap years and gap semesters. If players take a year off, it won’t cost them a year of eligibility. Players also retain eligibility should they stay at Bowdoin but don’t have a season. 

“Up to each kid,” Hammer said of the decisions. “I know personally I would try to take a semester or year off based on what I knew. I think most guys, that’s a family decision and we support our guys either way. We have one senior heading for the marines and one for med school, both on track, and we have some underclassmen that are going to take a gap year and we support all of them.”

Hammer said that because freshmen are allowed on campus, Bowdoin is allowed to hold 15 practices with them without pads, which he says will be huge for his young guys. 

B.J. Hammer

“Most schools in D-III in the country, every spring we would have roughly 15 practice opportunities in a jersey and shorts and we can get a lot of reps in,” Hammer said. “Seven on seven, skill development, and you can spend a lot of time with your team. The conference is letting us do that this fall and that will help our freshmen develop, and it’s like a redshirt fall. There’s not a lot of pressure to play in two weeks, so they will get a good 15 practices in, it will be beneficial for them.”

As for recruits, the energy has stayed positive. 

Hammer also said many players are excited about Bowdoin’s future, but it’s the near future that is most concerning. 

“It’s been really good,” Hammer said. “I think a lot of these young men are going to be seniors in high school and they are nervous that they won’t have a senior season and that would be terrible. The senior season is so important for them. The kids we have recruited have been great and we are really impressed with them. We are getting a lot of texts and calls from them and that’s great. For a lot of kids, this fall will be the last time they play possibly… I hope it goes well.”

Bowdoin is working on putting in for waivers to play in the spring, but many schools are in a holding pattern until other schools in the NESCAC and the country make decisions regarding the fall sports season. 

Hammer is open to playing in the spring, even if means sharing a field with the lacrosse teams. 

He added that coaches in the New England Small Collegiate Athletic Conference are nervous about the fall.

“To the NESCAC coaches I’m like a pariah so they don’t want to talk to me,” Hammer said jokingly. “It’s like if your buddy gets hurt and goes to the hospital, they don’t wanna go to see them because they might be next. We have a coaches meeting next week so hopefully I am invited. I know a lot of coaches around the country and they’re nervous, but it’s great to have people that support you and Bowdoin is doing a good job with it. There’s a lot of concern and there’s a lot of unknown because no school knows what’s going to happen… I don’t wish this upon anybody but I sure wish we aren’t the only ones.”

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