Colby College football coach Jack Cosgrove watched a drill during an Aug. 27, 2019 practice in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Colby College football coach Jack Cosgrove is pessimistic that the New England Small College Athletic Association will have a fall season on the gridiron.

With COVID-19 cases rising sharply in the South and the West, and with students expected on campus from all corners of the United States, the third-year Colby coach said it could be unrealistic for football to be played.

“I eat the positive pie all the time, but it doesn’t look good,” said Cosgrove, who came to Colby after 23 years as the head coach at the University of Maine. “Throughout the NESCAC, there’s a lot of apprehension to returning to classrooms and fields this fall.”

Some of Colby’s NESCAC rivals — Bowdoin, Amherst College and Williams College — have already canceled their fall sports seasons. Others may soon follow, particularly after the Ivy League announced Wednesday it had canceled its fall sports season, becoming the first conference in the country to do so.

So, will any of the state’s college football programs play this fall?

UMaine and the University of New England in Biddeford are in holding patterns, and NESCAC spokesperson Lisa Champagne wrote in an e-mail that her conference has yet to make a decision regarding football in the fall.

However, athletic directors at Husson University in Bangor and Maine Martime Academy in Castine said the NESCAC — which also includes Bates College in Lewiston — has applied for a waiver with the NCAA that would allow its members to play football in the spring.

MMA and Husson are awaiting the NCAA’s ruling before making their own decisions regarding the fall. Husson and MMA do not compete in the NESCAC. However, should the NCAA grant the NESCAC a waiver, it could clear the way for other conferences to apply for one as well.  Champagne, in an e-mail, said the NESCAC has’t made a decision.

“NESCAC institutions are currently in the process of making decisions regarding students returning to campus for the academic year,” Champagne wrote. “No decisions have been made regarding athletic competition in the NESCAC.”

The NCAA did not respond to e-mailed inquiries regarding the NESCAC waiver as of Thursday afternoon.

 

Colby football coach Jack Cosgrove poses on the field inside Harold Alfond Stadium on Aug. 15, 2018. Portland Press Herald file photo

Husson athletic director Frank Pergolizzi said he would strongly consider pushing football to the spring. Husson, along with the University of New England in Biddeford, is a member of the Division III Commonwealth Coast Conference for football.

“We would look at this very closely,” he said. “We would definitely consider football in the spring. We are working on our fall plans right now. We have to do something soon. We are gathering all the information and will make a decision on what to do.”

Pergolizzi — whose athletic teams often play NESCAC schools in non-conference competition — anticipates the NCAA to rule on the NESCAC waiver soon.

“We are waiting to see what happens,” she said. “I think we will get an update from the NCAA very, very soon.”

Colby athletic director Mike Wisecup declined to comment.

MMA athletic director Steve Peed, whose football program plays in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, said he is still evaluating options, but that playing in the spring is an intriguing option. Peed said MMA will only play in-state competition should there be a fall season.

“We’ll see how that goes,” he said. “Spring football, I think that is something we’d consider if we just can’t play in the fall. That is something we would definitely take a look at. We are well-suited to play football in the spring here. We have the room.”

Cosgrove and Pergolizzi acknowledged that football in the spring would have its challenges.

“It may look like an easy fix, but it’s not,” Cosgrove said.

Added Pergolizzi: “Moving to the spring is not without its own complications. If a waiver is granted and you can play in the spring, you have to take a look at your space. For us, our baseball and football teams use the same field. We have turf and lights, so we have the flexibility, but our goal posts are in front of the first base dugout. We couldn’t play baseball with them there. Even though they are portable, it still requires work and time to get them moved. There’s a lot of things we’d have to take a look at.”

Along with facilities, the weather in northern New England could impact outdoor practices and games, Cosgrove said. A nine-game football schedule played in March and April would be at the mercy of a winter that tends to linger, often bringing the largest storms of the season in March.

Colby College football coach Jack Cosgrove encourages his players during a a Sept. 15, 2018 game in Waterville. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file photo

“You know, we have three Februaries up here,” said Cosgrove, whose team went 2-7 last season, with its victories over Bates and Bowdoin.

In the NESCAC, there’s also the issue of athletes who play multiple sports. Cosgrove said some of his players would have to choose between football and lacrosse or baseball if football was moved to the spring.

“The simple answer is, let them do both,” Cosgrove said, “but with classes and practices, you can’t do that.”

Added Peed, MMA’s athletic director: “If we could play a game or two this fall, it would be a huge accomplishment. But we are limited because we can only play in-state competition. We are planning right now on still having a fall sports season, but we don’t know what that could look like. We are still in the planning process.”

Sports editor Bill Stewart contributed to this story.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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