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St. Joe's tries to salvage fall sports season

As conferences across New England continue to cancel fall play, Saint Joseph’s College is working to provide a ‘meaningful athletic experience’ for its athletes.
Credit: Saint Joseph's College

STANDISH, Maine — The Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) is just one of the New England-based conferences that have made the difficult decision to postpone its fall sports season. The GNAC is comprised of 13 NCAA Division III schools, including Saint Joseph's College in Standish. 

Despite the decision, St. Joe's is making an effort to help its student athletes have a “safe and meaningful athletic experience” this fall.

The Saint Joseph's College Athletic Department is working on guidelines that reflect the college’s core values and align with campus protocols and guidance from local, state, and national agencies.

“We’re excited and optimistic about what we can offer student-athletes this fall and in the coming school year,” Director of Athletics and longtime coach Will Sanborn said. “We understand the seriousness of COVID-19 and are committed to safety, but thankfully the situation in Maine is very conducive to a safe return to play. We’re looking forward to seeing our athletes back on campus, and we are committed to their continued development, athletically, academically, socially, and spiritually. We are confident we will continue ‘Building on our Championship Culture.’”

RELATED: North Atlantic Conference cancels conference play for fall sports

Here's a breakdown of Saint Joseph's College's efforts:

Safety – will remain a priority, not only with regard to COVID-19, but also considering the mental and physical health of our student athletes.  The Athletic Department’s plans will be based on the guidance of the CDC, State of Maine, the NCAA, and the College’s Pandemic Response Team.

Commitment – Saint Joseph’s College will continue its commitment to our student athletes – both in their academic and athletic pursuits.

Flexibility & Creativity – Athletic Department staff will maintain a flexible and creative approach. “We know that the way we deliver the athletics experience will be modified, but also know our coaches and student athletes are up to the challenge, including continually assessing and adapting our plans in light of changing conditions.”

Learning Environment – Saint Joseph’s will continue to provide a learning environment that allows its athletes to develop through the leadership and guidance of our outstanding athletic department staff. This will include:

  • Strength and Conditioning
  • Small Group Instruction
  • Team Training & Practice Sessions
  • Internal Play
  • Contests against outside opponents if possible – particularly with institutions in Maine and New Hampshire

Opportunities- When student athletes return to campus this fall they will see several new opportunities that will foster growth and development:

  • Strength and Conditioning – St. Joe’s has hired a Head Strength and Conditioning Coach who will enhance the development of athletes.
  • Athletic Training – Another full-time trainer has been added to staff
  • Skill Development – Coaches will focus on improving our athletes’ individual skill levels
  • Leadership Programming – expanded opportunities with the Student Athlete Leadership Academy
  • All students will benefit from expanded outdoor recreation and intramurals programs and access to the College’s Fitness Center, which is open using heightened COVID-19 safety protocols

NCAA Compliance and Waivers – will play an important role in understanding the opportunities that will be provided. Currently, this includes:

  • Division III student-athletes will not be charged with participation for the 2020-21 season if their team completes 50% or less of the sport's maximum contests/dates of competition due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Student athletes will receive a two-semester/three-quarter extension of eligibility if the following conditions are met:
  • The student-athlete was unable to participate in their sport during the 2020-21 academic year due to the impact of COVID-19, or the student-athlete's teams completed 50% or less of the sport's maximum contests/dates of competition during the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19.
  • The student-athlete was otherwise eligible for competition during the 2020-21 academic year.
  • Several other waivers are being considered by the NCAA that could impact how we move forward.

Graduate Studies - To allow student athletes to use all of their NCAA eligibility, St. Joe’s will offer post-graduate student athletes significantly discounted tuition in selected graduate programs and, pending availability, campus housing.

“While the pandemic has cast uncertainty on so many things, one thing that has been consistent at our College is the commitment and leadership of our student-athletes,” Matt Goodwin, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students said. “Navigating change successfully, and with excellence, is something our Monks are known for, on the athletic fields, pool, courts, diamonds, courses, and slopes - and it will be great to have them back in action.”

Remaining Flexible & Creative - Exploring Possibilities

  • Competition with other colleges and universities, particularly in Maine and New Hampshire
  • Expansion of fall traditional seasons; proposed flexibility regarding playing and practice seasons
  • Moving some fall sports to the winter and spring seasons
  • Winter and Spring sport seasons with a greater degree of normalcy

The Athletics Department said, “Saint Joseph’s College Athletics is ready to move forward in a safe and meaningful way. We are excited about the possibilities for learning and growth during this challenging time. We are confident that this challenge will bring out the best in all of us.”

RELATED: UMaine announces postponement, not cancellation, of fall sports

RELATED: NCAA releases COVID-19 guidance, but prospects of playing look grim

RELATED: More New England fall sports seasons canceled