ORONO – Some would say it can be hard to prepare for what you cannot predict, but that is the task given to every athletic department across the country as they attempt to bring hundreds of athletes back to school in the coming weeks.
Both UMaine athletic director Ken Ralph and head football coach Nick Charlton assured that all considerations and decisions being made about the fall and winter season have the community, staff, and players’ safety first. Ralph said Tuesday that a “return to sports” proposal has been submitted to the UMaine system, but does not anticipate a decision on the proposal for a few weeks.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome according to Ralph is implementing a COVID-19 testing protocol for incoming athletes. He said athletes were initially included in conversations around a testing pool for a potential COVID-19 testing contract for the UMaine campus in Orono. “I think we would prefer to test our students, especially on their initial return to campus, and then any students that become symptomatic beyond that…the availability of testing is going to determine a little bit on when we can start having large groups back,” said Ralph.
Charlton said Tuesday his staff is not prepping for any scenario in which they do not play. this season. He said he has been in conversation with UMaine’s first opponent of the season, Ball state, and the school fully intends to play the game scheduled for September 3 in Indiana. Pending approval, Charlton says he plans on bringing the team back in three waves over three weeks starting July 6.
His concerns about COVID-19 lie with players coming back to Orono carrying the virus, not contracting the virus once they return to Maine. “We’ve been very aggressive in terms of social distancing and the timeline with a lot of things, I’m sure that’s a big part of it, it’s also the population, I’d like to think, after the initial testing, your percentages go down pretty good, but we’re going to have to pretty smart with that,” said Charlton.