Plymouth State University Football vs. Maine Maritime Academy

Plymouth State’s Terrell Lewis, of New Boston, makes a catch against Maine Maritime last September.

Despite its football conference’s announcement on Thursday, Plymouth State University remained optimistic that it will play games this fall.

The Division III Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary during the 2020-2021 academic year, put out a statement that it will suspend the fall 2020 athletic season over safety concerns with the coronavirus pandemic.

PSU is one of three MASCAC affiliate members in football. UMass Dartmouth and Western Connecticut State are the others.

“While we fully understand the rationale for today’s statement from the MASCAC regarding the status of fall sports, we are equally heartbroken for our football student-athletes to know they will not be able to enjoy a traditional conference season,” said PSU Athletic Director Kim Bownes. “We support the decision of our colleagues in the MASCAC, as we all have the same primary focus — the health of our student-athletes, coaches and staff.”

However, said Bownes, Plymouth State has reached out to football programs in similar circumstances “to explore any opportunities for competition between the schools this fall.

“Plymouth State remains committed to providing a safe and competitive environment for all our student-athletes, and we believe this can still be accomplished in some form for our football program,” said Bownes.

Outside the MASCAC, another possibility for competition would be Castleton (Vt.), which on Thursday learned that its football league, the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference, is cancelling its fall season but the conference is “supportive of institutional autonomy regarding potential participation in football this fall.”

PSU belongs to the Little East Conference for its other fall sports. According to Bownes, the Little East Conference President’s Council is scheduled to review the action plan for fall by the end of the month, but at this point still intends to offer a fall season.

The MASCAC features eight core Massachusetts colleges — Bridgewater State, Fitchburg State, Framingham State, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Salem State, Westfield State and Worcester State.

The conference is still evaluating winter sports and is considering alternative competition options, like moving fall athletic competitions to the spring.