Colby College football coach Jack Cosgrove watches a drill during a practice in August 2019. No college football teams in Maine played last fall during the pandemic. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

While Maine high school football officials, coaches and players wait to find out if their sport will get the go-ahead to play this fall, Maine colleges are priming for a normal fall season.

From the state’s only NCAA Division I program at the University of Maine to the five Division III programs – the University of New England, Husson University, Bowdoin College, Colby College and Bates College – coaches and administrators are preparing to play this fall.

Schedules are being set, preseason practice plans are being formed and players are working out.

“The signs, I think, are all there,” said Jack Cosgrove, the head coach at Colby. “We’re planning on playing. It’s full-speed ahead. That’s been our mentality.”

Only UMaine played football during the 2020-21 school year, and that was in the spring. The fall season was canceled for every college football program in the state because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But Division III teams were able to practice in both the fall and the spring. And now they’re looking forward to getting back on the field and playing competitive games.

B.J. Hammer, the head coach at Bowdoin, said his players will report on Aug. 26 for preseason practices. He expects the Polar Bears schedule to be released shortly.

“We’re planning and we’re excited,” said Hammer. “This is a big part of our lives. Knowing that we have the opportunity to get it back means so much to everybody. It’s exciting. It renews every bit of why you love the game and why you play and coach.”

Cosgrove has yet to set a date for the Mules to return to campus, but Bates players will report on Aug. 25, according to head coach Malik Hall.

Sept. 4 is going to be a busy day for the state’s colleges. UMaine opens its season at home against Delaware, while UNE and Husson are also scheduled to begin their seasons at home. UNE will face the Coast Guard Academy, and Husson will play UMass Dartmouth.

UNE head coach Mike Lichten said he anticipates players reporting to campus on Aug. 10, with the Nor’easters’ first practice planned for Aug. 12. “I have no doubt the guys will train hard while home this summer,” he said. “We all have the same outlook, to make up for lost time. Their sense of urgency is at an all-time high.”

Husson Coach Nat Clark said his players will report on Aug. 11. He sees this as being a pretty normal offseason for everyone.

“As coaches, we’re recruiting, finishing up with calls, making preparation for the preseason and camp and putting those schedules together,” he said. “I would say it’s like any other year right now. We’re just getting prepared.”

The Black Bears have an added tinge of excitement – a new turf field at Alfond Stadium will be installed starting on June 7, five days after the players report back to campus for summer workouts. Preseason camp will begin in early August.

“It’s as close to normal as it can be,” said head coach Nick Charlton. “It feels like it’s been a long time. It’s been a crazy year, it’s been a hard year. We’re very excited. The guys are reflecting on what they’ve been through and they’re thrilled to be back at it. And they’ll be ready to play a competitive schedule in the fall.”

Bates’ Hall said all the work the Bobcats put in during the fall and spring was geared toward keeping everyone safe from COVID-19. Now, he said, it’s nice to think of just football.

“Normality, that’s a hard word these days,” said Hall. “We still have a lot of work to do, there’s still a lot ahead of us. But the good news is we’re having football conversations. Period. And because of that, everything points in the right direction.”


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