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University Of Maine At Machias Suspends Athletic Program Indefinitely

The University of Maine at Machias is suspending its athletic program indefinitely as it faces budget challenges partially caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

University of Maine President Joan Ferrini Mundy said Wednesday that the decision to suspend athletics at the school had been ongoing for several months, but the pandemic has further challenged school budget statewide.

“It's a little too soon to tell exactly how all of that will fall out,” says Ferrini Mundy. “But it's a challenge for all of our campuses. And we're trying to put our students' needs first, and worry first and foremost about whether we're able to provide them the best possible education in the best possible setting for them. So it's a much more general conversation about the finances of this. This'll be ongoing.”

In a joint letter, administrators confirm that the decision was made as part of a needed effort to reduce costs at the university, due to increasing expenses and reduced revenue for the upcoming school year.

“This decision was made after an in-depth review of the athletics program, during which we explored a number of options for reducing costs without suspending operations,” UMM Head of Campus Dan Qualls said in a statement. “It became clear that, under the constraints of our current budget, and especially in light of the additional costs and safety concerns associated with the pandemic, we would not be able to provide the necessary facilities, equipment and resources for a safe and competitive environment for our student-athletes."

The school says the action will affect more than 70 student-athletes, as well as two full-time employees and four coaches. Administrators acknowledged that the decision would be disappointing for many students, but noted that the school is looking at other athletics models. Head of Campus Dan Qualls said that the university is planning to continue athletics on campus, and is exploring a club model for some of its sports.

“We're hoping to keep it going, not at the varsity level, but we're hoping to keep athletics alive and well on our campus.”

Last month, UMaine System officials approved a budget with an approximately $6 million shortfall. The system has estimated that the pandemic could cost its campuses more than $20 million.

Since the pandemic began, dozens of other colleges across the country, including several Division I programs, have also made cuts to their athletics programs.

Updated 11:15 a.m. July 22, 2020