The University of Maine at Machias has suspended its six varsity athletics programs indefinitely, the school announced Tuesday.

The suspension was prompted by the unexpected costs and loss of revenues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and, according to a press release, “is part of a broader effort to reduce expenditures and restructure campus operations.”

The suspension will affect two full-time employees, four temporary part-time coaches and 73 student-athletes, including 20 new recruits. UMaine-Machias will honor scholarships through the 2023-24 academic year for student-athletes who wish to remain at the the school, which will also provide support for any athletes looking to transfer.

UMaine-Machias, with approximately 650 students, offered six sports in 2019-20: men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, and a first-year women’s cross country team. The Clippers compete in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association as a member of the Yankee Small College Conference. Their opponents include UMaine-Augusta, UMaine-Fort Kent and UMaine-Presque Isle, as well as Central Maine Community College and Southern Maine Community College.

Also on Tuesday, UMaine-Augusta formally announced it was postponing sports until the spring semester, consistent with the decision made by the YSCC. Unity College, another YSCC school, is suspending athletics for the entire school year.

The YSCC is looking at ways to hold its championships for all sports in 2021, said league president Matt Richards, the athletic director and men’s basketball coach at SMCC.

“We’re in the midst of creating schedules for the delivery of all our championship sports in the second semester,” Richards said. “We’re just looking at giving the various sports as much of a quality season as we can, obviously knowing the complexities of weather and graduation dates.”

Richards said that while SMCC’s eight sports are on stable ground and have the support of his administration for their ability to attract and retain students, the pandemic will force schools to reassess the role of athletics generally.

“I think the landscape of colleges and universities are changing and the pandemic has shown that traditional models that haven’t been updated and looked at for efficiencies, can make them susceptible to making tough decisions,” Richards said.

Maine-Machias’ announcement was made in a joint statement by Joan Ferrini-Mundy, the president of the University of Maine and UMaine-Machias, Dan Qualls, the head of campus at UMaine-Machias, and UMaine-Machias athletic director Michael Belanger.

“The decision to suspend varsity athletics was made after many hours of deliberation among the three of us, and many others,” read the statement. “The suspension is a necessary step toward reducing expenditures under the constraints of our current budget. It was not taken lightly and was made only after we had carefully considered other options for restructuring without suspending operations.”

The statement also noted that the school is pursuing other levels of athletic competition.

“The suspension of varsity athletics does not signal the end of competitive sports at UMM. Beginning this fall, we will look at expanding our intramural offerings and possibly developing a club sport model, in accordance with all the latest state and federal health and safety protocols … Ultimately, we’re optimistic that this will be a more sustainable and competitive model for athletics at our campus.”

Belanger, who will continue in his role as fitness director, will form a committee this fall in partnership with the University of Maine Campus Recreation program to explore options for expanding non-varsity sports offerings, including e-sports.


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