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In this unusual year, it only makes sense that UMaine is playing football this spring

On Wednesday, the Colonial Athletic Association held its annual media day. UMaine hopes to play a full six-game schedule but its biggest opponent isn't another team.

ORONO, Maine — During Wednesday's Colonial Athletic Association's (CAA) football media availability, things were, well, different.

First and foremost, the league with member schools in states from Maine to South Carolina held this meeting via Zoom. The other noticeable, and obvious, difference: the football media day was held in late January.

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelations of fall seasons around the nation, officials at the University of Maine made it clear it was postponing, not canceling, fall sports. Those school officials were right football-wise.

The CAA adopted a unique six-game spring season with games beginning March 6 and ending April 17. Playoffs would follow and end in May. 

“We’re excited for the opportunity that our coaches and student-athletes will hopefully have here as move into the next coming months," CAA Commissioner Joe D'Antonio said to kick-off media day.

As all the head coaches from each respective program took questions, Nick Charlton from Maine was up first.

“Well it’s definitely going to be unique and our guys are excited," he said.

The Black Bears are coming off a 6-6 record from the team's last season way back in 2019. UMaine is returning seven starters on both sides of the ball and Charlton said the roster is full of sophomores and juniors who have played a lot of football.

One being sophomore quarterback Joe Fagnano. 

“Faganado stepped in last year and did an outstanding job, so he’s the projected guy right now," Charlton added.

The Pennslyvania native threw for 16 touchdowns in the final six games in 2019. The Black Bears went 4-2 in those contests.

The team has been on campus since Monday, the first day of class in Orono for the second semester. The University paused winter sports competition through at least February 4. Charlton said that suspension doesn't impact his team because football is now a spring sport, for the time being, and his players won't be back on the practice field until after the end of the pause.

Credit: NCM

UMaine is now participating in workouts, team meetings, and walkthroughs.

While the Blue Hens of the University of Delaware may be the first opponent on the schedule, it won't be UMaine's toughest. 

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could impact the season in more ways than one.

“Ultimately in the state of Maine and at the University of Maine some of the protocols and the things we’re going to have to deal with are a little specific," Charlton said.

The state's limit on outdoor gatherings is also a concern for the team. Division I football rosters made up of 85-100 players, plus team staff, officials, and game staff would make it impossible to play under the state's current guidelines.

The UMaine men's and women's basketball teams were cleared to play games in Orono as long as the capacity requirements were met. With the smaller roster and coaching staff within a basketball program, capacity limits were able to be accomplished.

As the CAA works to set up guidelines and protocols while schools being this new-look preseason, UMaine's President is working with the league as well.

University spokesperson Dan Demerit released the following statement to NEWS CENTER Maine:

"The Colonial Athletic Association is finalizing its COVID protocols for a spring football season. President Ferrini-Mundy is working closely with UMaine Athletics to gather information and assess opportunities for fall and spring competition. The safety of UMaine's student-athletes and the broader community and alignment with state health guidance continue to be the president's top priorities." 

Last fall, the team reported no COVID-19 cases during its 13 practice schedule.

“So far so good, but again, (we're) cautiously optimistic because we need to continue to do a great job on our team and in our program handling our business," Charlton said.

If all goes well, the Black Bears season begins March 6 and a date with rival UNH is scheduled for April 17. For the time being, the game is to be played in Orono.