Two years after an indefinite suspension of the program, Maine Maritime Academy announced on Monday that football will be reinstated at the school, starting with a sub-varsity schedule in 2024 before joining the Commonwealth Coast Conference in 2025. 207 Photo/Courtesy of Maine Maritime Athletics

Football is returning at Maine Maritime Academy.

After suspending the program in August 2020 for financial challenges resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, the school announced Monday it plans to offer the sport again.

MMA will field sub-varsity competition through 2024 before joining the Division III Commonwealth Coast Conference in 2025. The school also announced that a search is underway for its next head coach.

“It’s an exciting day for Maine Maritime,” said athletic director Steve Peed. “I think this is going to be great for our campus community. It’s going to be great for the Castine community, it’s going to be great for our alumni. It’s going to be great for the students that want to play football in the state of Maine at the college level.”

Efforts to restore the football program began in September, when MMA set a $562,000 fundraising goal, according to a statement from the school. That goal was covered within three months, including a $250,000 grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation. MMA received $566,788 from 155 donors, according to the school.

MMA cancelled all fall sports in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The school — then led by president Dr. William J. Brennan — ultimately made the decision to indefinitely suspend the football program, a decision that surprised players and coaches at the time.


“As a former Division III football player, the day I had to break to 40-plus young men that the program was being shelved ranks up there as one of the worst days of my life, professionally,” MMA athletic director Steve Peed said. “I got into this line of work to provide students with opportunities. Having to be in that position to tell them that the opportunity they worked for was no longer going to be there was sad and disappointing. I know how all those young men felt, I’m still in contact with a number of them who are here now. To be able to turn around and be at the other end of this and be part of bringing it back, it feels great.”

Maine Maritime has a new president in Jerry Paul, who started in April. Paul is a 1989 MMA graduate. Peed said Paul has been a strong supporter of the program returning.

“I think it was right at the end of his first week on the job, he sent me a text on a Friday afternoon asking, ‘What would it take to get football going again? What would the timeline look like? What would we need to do? How soon can you deliver?'” Peed said. “He’s been a huge supporter of athletics. I’ve enjoyed working with him, it’s been a lot of fun to see the grand vision that he lays out. He likes to think big, and our athletic department has always liked to think big, so I feel like it’s sort of been a good alignment working with him and kind of see what Maine Maritime athletics can mean from an enrollment standpoint, what it can mean from a community building standpoint.”

Maine high school football coaches welcomed the return of MMA to the gridiron, saying it allows another option for players.

“It’s very good news for high school football players in the state to have an opportunity to keep their careers going, and, more importantly, (attending) a school with a great education that has produced a ton of kids who have done incredibly well as adults ,” Cony football coach BL Lippert said. “We’ve had a handful of kids in my short time (as head coach) who in the last few years have gone on to Maine Maritime and graduated from there. They’re working on submarines and are all around the world, doing different jobs and are really successful. It’s a great carrot for the kids to keep playing football and get an education and, as a result, be in a good place to have success.”

Maine Maritime’s program dates to 1946. The Mariners have won nine New England Football Conference titles, the most recent in 2009 when it went to the NCAA Division III tournament. However, the program fell on hard times from 2011-2019, going 13-69 during that stretch, including three winless seasons (2012, 2018 and 2019).


“We’re ahead of the game in a lot of ways (with the restart),” Peed said. “We already have a field. We already have some experience with it. We already have helmets, shoulder pads, (blocking) sleds, all those things. It’s really about taking it out of storage more than what we need to buy.”

The Commonwealth Coast Conference, which founded in 1984, features schools from around New England, including Husson University in Bangor and the University of New England in Biddeford.

Husson head coach Nat Clark said he’s looking forward to having Maine Maritime rejoin the Division III ranks.

“Being from Maine myself, being from Maine, love Maine high school football, to give kids from Maine another opportunity here in this state to stay home, be here and to play football, I think that’s outstanding,” said Clark, a Rumford native. “I’m very happy for Maine Maritime; I’m happy for Maine kids, I’m happy for their school. Football is an important part of a college campus, in my mind, and I think it’s going to add so many things to their campus. I think they know that. I think they made a great decision and we’re very happy for them and look forward to playing them as well in 2025.”

“With us going into the CCC, alongside a Husson and UNE, I think the opportunities are there for some exciting rivalries, and letting those kids who sometimes played together or played against one another in high school see each other on the field in that collegiate context,” Peed added. “We’re really excited to get this going.”

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