They compete as members of the North Atlantic Conference in 10 different sports and are separated by less than 40 miles.
But when it comes to football, NCAA Division III schools Maine Maritime Academy of Castine and Husson University of Bangor might as well be a million miles apart.
Maine Maritime, which has sponsored football since 1946, is a charter member of the New England Football Conference formed in 1965. It has no intention of extending its athletics relationship with Husson to the football field.
“I don’t foresee a game between us and Husson at any time in the near future,” Maine Maritime athletics director Steve Peed said matter-of-factly.
Husson, which brought back football in 2003 and plays in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference, has for several years expressed interest in playing Maine Maritime.
“From our perspective, it would be a great fit,” said Husson athletics director Frank Pergolizzi.
“We would be happy to play, but I don’t have any hope that that’s going to happen at any point in time in the near future,” he added.
That reality sets in as Maine Maritime comes off an open date on its nine-game schedule and Husson enters an almost unheard of stretch of consecutive Saturdays on which it will not play a game.
The Mariners normally play nine games, Peed said, because they have an annual, 10-day regimental preparatory training period that coincides with preseason practice and hampers the ability to practice with a full squad.
Husson, on the other hand, was not able to schedule a 10th game this season.
“Our preference by far and away is to play the maximum number, which is 10,” Pergolizzi said, “so when we get stuck with only nine games, it’s because we couldn’t get anybody else to play us.”
Maine Maritime is steadfast in its approach to nonconference football scheduling, which is based on a desire to foster relationships with like-minded institutions.
Maine Maritime has an enrollment of about 1,000 students and most of its academic programs center around marine science, engineering, management and transportation. It also offers Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
“There’s a unique bond among schools that have a mission like ours,” Peed said. “We understand the challenges one another face and I think some of that was the impetus for moving toward the NEWMAC [the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference] in football and why we schedule nonconference games the way that we do.”
Husson, with about 2,800 undergraduates, offers a wide variety of majors including business, nursing, communications, physical therapy and pharmacy.
The NEFC is made up of eight schools ranging from Maine to Connecticut and includes the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. MMA rival Massachusetts Maritime was a member through 2012.
In April, Maine Maritime announced that in 2017 it will become an associate member of a new NEWMAC football league. Coast Guard and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy also are on board.
“Until the dust settles on our transition into the NEWMAC and we have a league schedule, my primary interest in nonconference scheduling is safeguarding our longstanding rivalry with Massachusetts Maritime and protecting the budding rivalry that we’re developing with SUNY Maritime [Throggs Neck, New York],” Peed said.
Maine Maritime and SUNY Maritime met this season for the first time, with the Privateers winning 30-0.
Beginning in 2017, Maine Maritime will have nonleague games against Massachusetts Maritime and SUNY Maritime, and league contests against Merchant Marine, Coast Guard and Norwich, all of which have maritime and/or military education at their core.
“The teams that we’re affiliated with are very similar in mission, which is what we’re looking for,” Peed said.
Peed said the fact Maine Maritime and Husson are members of the NAC for most sports does not affect how Maine Maritime schedules for football.
“I don’t know that the conference affiliation really comes into play here, we’re not in the same conference for football,” he said.
The football programs at Maine Maritime and Husson have been on divergent paths in recent years.
Coach Chris McKenney’s Mariners (0-1 this season) have compiled a 4-23 overall mark since 2011. Maine Maritime has won eight conference championships, most recently in 2009, and has made three trips to the ECAC tournament.
McKenney is pleased with Maine Maritime’s approach in seeking out maritime-oriented nonleague opponents.
“We have our conference schedule and our maritime games, and that’s what we plan on doing,” he said.
“It’s obviously a good rivalry thing and the ability to play similar-type schools,” he added.
The Eagles (1-1) of coach Gabby Price are coming off a record-setting season during which they went 8-2, won the ECFC title and earned a home game for the first round of the NCAA Division III Championship. Husson is 15-15 since a winless 2011 campaign.
“Neither Husson’s recent successes, nor our recent struggles, factored into developing our schedule,” said Peed, who also does not see much recruiting overlap between the schools.
“We see more crossover on the recruiting trail with WPI and Norwich than we do with Husson,” he added.
Price has sought a football relationship with Maine Maritime as Husson’s coach and as the former athletics director at Husson.
“I have not wavered that a [Husson-Maine Maritime] game would be great for everyone,” Price said.
Peed said the fact Maine Maritime and Husson are geographically compatible is not an overriding benefit to play football.
“There is a relatively small chunk of money to be saved on an every-other-year basis,” he said, “but the cost savings are not significant to the point that it would trump my desire to make Maritime schools our first priority for nonconference scheduling.”
Thus, Maine Maritime will remain on course in scheduling maritime schools for nonconference games and Husson will continue to seek out more distant nonleague opponents in the future.