University of Maine football head coach Nick Charlton shows his intensity during the Black Bears' Aug. 30, 2019, game against Sacred Heart. The NCAA has proposed allowing Division I teams to start practicing two weeks earlier than normal to help them prepare after the COVID-19 shutdown eliminated access to school facilities. Credit: Peter Buehner

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The University of Maine football team could start its preseason two weeks earlier than usual if a proposal by the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee is approved next week by the Division I Council.

If passed, the plan would allow athletes, July 24 through Aug. 6, to participate in up to 20 hours of countable athletically-related activities per week, but not more than four hours per day. Players would be required to get at least two days off per week.

The 20 hours would consist of up to eight hours of weight training and conditioning, up to six hours per week for walk-throughs with the use of a football, and up to six hours per week for various team meetings and film review.

That will be followed by the normal preseason which requires teams to have at least 29 days before their first game.

UMaine head football coach Nick Charlton said the plan makes a lot of sense.

“It will be very helpful. It gives coaches and student-athletes an opportunity to make up for lost time safely,” said Charlton. “It’s a smart idea.”

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in football programs losing their spring season when schools switched to remote learning and all sports activities were canceled.

UMaine, a Football Championship Subdivision school, is scheduled to open the season Sept. 3 in Muncie, Indiana, against Football Bowl Subdivision institution Ball State.

Charlton pointed out even if the plan is approved on June 17, there are other obstacles that must be removed.

Since UMaine was closed down by the state, team members can’t use the athletic facilities, including the weight room. Resuming activities will require the approval of Gov. Janet Mills, with the guidance of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the university system.

“We have to come up with the best plan for the university,” Charlton said. “Safety is the top priority.

Leading up to the proposed extended practice period, student-athletes would be allowed from July 13-23 to participate in up to eight hours of weight training, conditioning and film review per week with film review capped at two hours each week.

In the past, UMaine players would have been training on campus for four weeks of no-pads activities beginning May 31. The sessions would include weight training, running, meetings and informal captains’ practices twice a week without coaches present.

Players would then be off for 10 days and return on July 5 for another four weeks of similar activities leading up to the start of training camp. Newcomers would join the veterans for these sessions.

Coaches could interact with the players during the conditioning, running, lifting and team meetings.

In the meantime, players are working out on their own. Voluntary workouts have already begun on some campuses.

Charlton said the two-week extension would be beneficial in terms of player evaluation and conditioning, Charlton said.

“You hope all the guys come back in great shape but a lot of guys don’t have access to everything [they would have at UMaine]. Some will be more ready than others,” Charlton said. “We need to evaluate them and come up with a plan to get all of them ready. Some guys are going to need more time. We don’t want them getting hurt.”

Watch: What Maine is doing to expand contact tracing

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