After a three-season hiatus, Maine Maritime Academy in Castine is looking to reinstate its football program.
The school’s director of athletics, Steve Peed, met with a group of Mariner football alums earlier this month in advance of Homecoming to come up with a blueprint for the program’s restoration. The move was inspired after MMA’s new president, Jerald S. Paul, who took over in April, wanted to see a plan drawn up to bring the football program back.
If the plan is successful, the school could field sub-varsity teams in 2023 and 2024 and its first varsity team in 2025. MMA suspended its football program indefinitely in August 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The alumni will have to come up with 75 percent of the start-up cost, which is $562,500, by Dec. 31,” said Peed, who is optimistic that the money will be raised.
“I’m pretty excited about where we are right now,” Peed said, adding that a football conference has already invited MMA to join it. Peed would not disclose the name of the conference since the alumni still need to raise the money.
If the funds are raised, Peed would begin looking for a coach immediately in the new year so the coach can begin recruiting. Having sub-varsity teams for two years would give the school time to build the roster, he said.
MMA, an NCAA Division III school, had a football program for 74 years dating back to 1946.
The Mariners posted an all-time record of 293-330-11.
They had an exceptional six-year run from 2005-10, during which they compiled a 42-18 record and notched two New England Football Conference championships.
MMA won 10 NEFC titles overall.
The program struggled mightily in recent years and lost its last 22 games while going 13-69 overall and 9-51 in NEFC play.
When the indefinite suspension was announced in August 2020, then-president Dr. William J. Brennan said that “the football program is our most expensive non-academic program” and that the suspension was an “administrative decision brought about by the extreme challenges we are facing as an organization.”
The football program’s budget at the time was $475,000, according to Peed.
He has heard from MMA football alums regularly since the school suspended the program. Not having football left a void for him personally since he has been involved in Division III football in some capacity since 1996.
Peed played football at McDaniel College in Maryland and became a sports information specialist there. He then moved on to Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania as an associate athletic director before coming to MMA.
“Last Saturday, I was driving in and it was gorgeous outside. I thought to myself that we should be having a football game today,” he said.
Peed has always hoped that the program would be restored.
He said the school has kept all of its football equipment even though a number of people have inquired about purchasing it, especially the helmets.
And he has kept two offices open for a new football coach and his staff.
Football would attract more student-athletes to the school, Peed said, and since Division III schools aren’t allowed to offer athletic scholarships the players’ room and board and tuition would help fund the program.
“We would be the only Division III football school in the state that offers an engineering degree,” Peed said.
There are five NCAA Division III football programs in the state, with NESCAC schools Bates College in Lewiston, Colby College in Waterville and Brunswick’s Bowdoin College, along with Commonwealth Coast Conference institutions Husson University in Bangor and the University of New England in Biddeford.