Orono, Maine — The University of Maine men’s basketball team has opted out of the remainder of the 2020–21 season due to challenges related to COVID-19.
The team reached a final decision on Feb. 12. President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and Director of Athletics Ken Ralph were informed and are in support of the decision. A team meeting with athletic administrators followed to outline the support available to team members as they navigate the rest of the year.
The men’s basketball program has not been cleared for practice or competition since Jan. 17.
The Black Bears participated in nine games this season. During the campaign, Maine scored victories against New Hampshire and at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
“For the last several months, our athletic administrators, especially Director of Athletics Ken Ralph, and our training staff, especially Ryan Taylor and Bryan Schopieray, have all worked tirelessly to give us the opportunity to compete,” head coach Richard Barron said. “In addition, many others on our campus from team physicians to our Emergency Operations Center members have also worked very hard to allow for us to play. I want to thank everyone for their efforts. Despite the outcome, those efforts were worth it and gave us a chance to pursue our passion. We are all grateful.”
The players deliberated over several days on the right course of action, Barron added, and he fully supports their decision.
“Our players’ safety and well-being will always come first,” said Barron. “We simply could not safely put a team on the floor over the next few weeks or safely return players to playing after over six weeks off. Despite the challenges we’ve faced this year, we remain grateful for the opportunities we have here at UMaine and eagerly look forward to representing Black Bear Nation again soon.”
Ralph applauded the team for its thoughtfulness in making such a difficult decision.
“Their physical and mental well-being is what is most important,” Ralph said. “With the constant interruptions to their season, it would be tough to prepare again for the rigors of Division I competition. Without knowing when we may be cleared to field a team again, we must also be fair to the other league members as they look to schedule the remainder of their seasons. I am proud of the way our team handled the challenges of this year and I know they will come back stronger next season.”
“I am so proud of all of our Black Bears and absolutely support the decision made by the members of the men’s basketball program to conclude their season,” said President Ferrini-Mundy. “Athletics at UMaine will always be about more than just wins and losses. Our Black Bears have inspired us all with how hard they have practiced and prepared for competition at the highest level while maturely contending with pandemic-related protocols and uncertainty.”