Maine high schools won’t be playing football in the spring

Tackle football will not be played at Maine high schools during the 2020-21 academic year. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Tackle football will not be played at Maine high schools this spring, an option that had been considered after the season was canceled last fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Maine Principals’ Association’s Football Committee decided it will not recommend that tackle football be played this spring. The committee had concerns about conflicts with traditional spring sports, because many football players also play sports such as baseball or lacrosse. The panel also noted that tackle football is still classified as a high-risk activity in the state’s Community Sports Guidelines.

The committee met on Thursday and made that decision after a three-hour conversation, according to panel Chairman Fred Lower, the athletic director at Hampden Academy. Lower said that they considered feedback from organizations across the state, gathered by surveys sent out by the Maine Football Coaches Association.

“It came down to the fact that we want to make sure the spring season is preserved,” Lower said Friday morning. “It’s a priority for the MPA, where the spring athletes lost everything last year, that we don’t infringe on them at all.”

Football was knocked out of its traditional fall slot because of the coronavirus pandemic. It is considered a high risk activity, one that involves “sustained close contact between participants” with the “high probability that respiratory particles will be transmitted between the participants.”

The MPA offered non-contact 7 vs. 7 football in the fall and planned to offer tackle football in a bridge season in the spring. Most football coaches said the later the start, the better it would be, and a plan developed to play into July, after the spring season had ended. In November, the MPA asked the Maine Football Coaches Association to come up with a proposal for a possible season.

But, Lower said, the fact that football is still classified as a high-risk activity precludes it being played.

“Under the (Community Sports) guidelines, football can’t happen,” he said. “Those guidelines would have to change.”

And, he added, “there is no guarantee it would be modified.”

Lower said there were other considerations, including the financial impact of a sports season that would bridge two school budget years. He also noted that playing football into July would affect the traditional summer sports seasons.

Lower said he hoped that opportunities to play football for this year’s senior class will be provided in the summer, such as the Lobster Bowl all-star game.

“This was not an easy decision,” said Lower. “Everybody on that committee, at some point in his career, has had ties to football and  truly loves football.”

This story will be updated.

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