Alfond Stadium in Orono is the home of University of Maine football team. Credit: Courtesy of Peter Buehner

The University of Maine has cleared the way to hold its three home spring football games on the Orono campus.

University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy has approved athletics department game operations plans to hold games on March 13, April 3 and April 17 on Morse Field at Alfond Stadium.

To comply with the state’s COVID-19 gathering limits, no spectators will be permitted inside Alfond Stadium on game day. Only student-athletes, coaches, staff and personnel deemed essential may attend.

University of Maine System spokesperson Dan Demeritt cited state guidance for outdoor events that allows for up to four groups of 50 persons, separated by at least 14 feet, with physical barriers to prevent intermingling.

Each team will divide its squad into separate offensive and defensive units to accomplish those grouping and spacing goals, Demeritt said.

“Everybody is thrilled that we will be able to play home games,” UMaine head football coach Nick Charlton said. “We have a really good plan in place. [Athletics director Ken Ralph] did a great job putting most of that together, working with the administration.

“We’re very thankful to have that opportunity,” he added.

The team held a live scrimmage last weekend and Charton said they have a blueprint in place for adhering to the pod limits. That includes signs to direct people where they should be.

“We treat the track, the field and the grandstands as separate facilities,” Charlton said.

He pointed out that the offensive and defensive units are normally on different sides of the 50-yard line anyway, so the game arrangement won’t be dramatically different.

“It’s going to be very regimented,” he said.

Charlton said he, the staff and the players had remained optimistic about having the chance to play home games.

He conceded that COVID-19 concerns have been his primary focus in the everyday operation of the program while making sure the team is prepared for its March 6 opener at Delaware.

Charlton praised his players and staff for their adherence to coronavirus protocols. He said the team has not had anyone test positive for COVID-19, but must remain vigilant.

“It is a very contagious disease, so we keep stressing to the players that they have to continue to make good decisions because whatever they do affects the whole team,” Charlton said.

Under guidelines established by the University of Maine system and the Colonial Athletic Association, members of the football program are tested three times a week for the coronavirus.

They have two rapid-antigen tests and one PCR test.

The health and safety plans were developed by UMaine athletics in collaboration with university health and emergency operations staff in adherence with state and UMaine System guidance. Each home football game will be conducted and played under strict operational standards that have been reviewed and approved by the University of Maine Emergency Operations Center.

“All of Black Bear Nation appreciates the hard work and diligence our athletics and health and safety staff have done this year in support of our student athletes and our community,” Ferrini-Mundy said. “Our players, coaches and staff in all of our programs have been resilient leaders in our public health campaign. I am pleased we will have an opportunity to host games at Alfond Stadium starting in March. ”

UMaine is tentatively scheduled to host three games at Alfond Stadium in the spring season, beginning March 13 with a home contest against UAlbany. Other games are April 3 against Villanova and April 17 against New Hampshire.

All dates and times are subject to change.

UMaine athletics has been unable during the winter season to host ice hockey games at Alfond Arena in Orono. UMaine is the only team in New England that has not played at least one home game this season.

The university cited the state’s 50-person limit on indoor gatherings, which is too small to account for the number of athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, game officials and rink personnel that would be involved in a game.

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...