The Peter J. Gomes Chapel at Bates College is seen in this 2016 file photo. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The BDN is making the most crucial coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact in Maine free for all readers. Click here for all coronavirus stories. You can join others committed to safeguarding this vital public service by purchasing a subscription or donating directly to the newsroom.

Bates College in Lewiston is holding out hope that it might be able to sponsor some varsity athletics competition during the upcoming semester.

The college on Tuesday announced that it plans to reopen to students with classes set to begin on Sept. 2.

The decision comes only eight days after Bowdoin College in Brunswick revealed that it would welcome back only freshmen and transfer students this fall. Bowdoin also canceled its fall sports seasons across the board.

Bates President Clayton Spencer voiced doubt about whether Bates might be able to offer sports competition. She cited the fact the New England Small College Athletic Conference, in which Bobcats teams compete, and public health restrictions still in place as the main factors in the uncertainty.

“Under the circumstances, our goal is to do all we can to support the team ideal and the positive, welcoming, and competitive culture of varsity sports at Bates,” Spencer said.

Bates will make decisions about athletics only as part of plans about their safe resumption under guidance from the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the NCAA, the American College Health Association, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and other sport-specific governing bodies.

Bates has laid out guidelines for varsity teams, which may hold in-person gatherings. Athletes are allowed to meet with members of the coaching staff and also may perform strength and conditioning workouts and other training.

If campus health and safety guidelines are followed, Bates teams also can hold practice sessions in groups.

Spencer’s letter said the NESCAC has altered its practice guidelines to give varsity teams the chance to do activities together.

Bates also will permit student-athletes to use the school’s athletic facilities, which will be managed to control the size of gatherings in compliance with state, local and school regulations.

Coaches and certified athletic trainers also must be present to supervise any athletics activities engaged in by Bates athletes.

The NESCAC timetable also has moved up the first practice date for winter sports teams from Nov. 1 to Oct. 15. And because of changing academic calendars, the winter sports season will begin on Nov. 13, a week earlier than usually scheduled.

Those alterations are designed to help NESCAC schools, which also include Colby College in Waterville, make the transition to remote learning after Nov. 26.

Spencer said individual return-to-play protocols around each varsity sport have to be followed to facilitate a gradual move from team gatherings to practices to competitions.

Also under consideration is a NESCAC plan that would allow a fall sports team that is unable to compete to instead play in the spring. That move would require an NCAA waiver.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...