This past week, the University of Maine’s men’s basketball team decided that it was in their best interest to conclude their 2020-2021 basketball season. A decision like this can never be a simple one, considering the physical and emotional investment of players and UMaine athletics as a whole. Teams across the NCAA have struggled to go out and compete on a consistent basis this year due to the enforcement of stringent COVID-19 protocols. The Black Bears themselves faced a delayed start in which they did not play their first official game until Dec. 19, with their first five games canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. The men’s team will end their season having played only nine contests, finishing with two wins.
Maine officially put an end to their campaign on Feb. 12th due to conflicts related to health and safety protocols. A group of players, training staff, and along with Athletic Director Ken Ralph, worked together to come to this decision. The team has not been cleared to participate in any type of competition since Jan. 17.
“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,” men’s basketball head coach Richard Barron said to the University of Maine Athletics. “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.”.
Barron seemed content with the decision and is trying to remain positive about the situation. It’s an unfortunate and unlucky position to be in because the team has many young players who were going to gain experience throughout this unprecedented season. However, the team and administrators all agreed that the health and safety of each team member and every person that they would potentially come into contact with are more important than the game.
On the other hand, Black Bear Nation learned some exciting news this week, which should bring memories to the sports community for years to come. On Feb. 17, the university released its $110 million dollar plan to make major improvements and additions to its athletic facilities, including a new basketball building. Improvements will begin this summer and the construction of new fields will begin in 2022. This new project should attract more students to UMaine, especially athletes and sports enthusiasts. The new home of the men’s team on campus will replace the Cross Insurance Center, satisfying a long-standing desire within the university community for an on-campus venue where students can support their basketball teams.