The upcoming NCAA D-III sports season will look a bit different than usual due to the ongoing pandemic, which brought an end to multiple winter championships in March, along with numerous spring sports seasons.
Yesterday the Division III Administrative Committee approved the recommendation from the Division III Membership and Championships Committee to allow its various members to compete in fewer contests than usual this upcoming school year – 33 percent less than normal, to be exact – so they can be eligible to contend for a national title.
The reduction of contests will allow each institution to remain in compliance to compete for a championship but also provide flexibility for athletic departments when it comes to scheduling to “seeking relief in the form of waivers.”
“We hope that a reduction in contest minimums will provide flexibility to our member schools as they work to reopen during what is a very uncertain and complex time,” said Tori Murden McClure, the chair of the committee and Spalding president, in Friday’s release. “We understand this won’t fix everything for everyone, but we believe it is the right move at this time and we will remain flexible moving forward.”
The flexibility will certainly help schools when it comes to reopening – it is possible some schools could start earlier or later like a slew of Division I institutions announced this month, including Notre Dame and Syracuse University.
Football teams, including those here in New England, would only need to compete in five contests this fall to be eligible to compete in the NCAA D-III postseason while basketball teams will need to play 12 contests.
As of now, it appears fall championships will occur, but those plans could be altered due to the coronavirus (Covid-19).
“I feel grateful to be honored,” said Johnston, who was nominated for the award by Mike Kelley, who is the director of athletics at Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
“It is a great honor and I am grateful for it. And I am glad I can represent Massachusetts Maritime Academy.”
Johnston became the first Buccaneer to receive this award since Jonathan White, who played soccer at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, in 2011.
For student-athletes to receive this honor, they must be nominated by their school’s director of athletics, be a senior, and achieve at least a 3.2 cumulative grade point average. Recipients are selected by the MASCAC Athletic Directors.
Johnston enjoyed a successful senior season with the Buccaneers, registering career-bests in total tackles (57.0), solo stops (37), sacks (12.5), and tackles for a loss (19.5). Additionally, he recorded a career-high three forced fumbles along with two break-ups. The 12.5 sacks were the most recorded by a defender in the conference – it was also the fifth-highest total in Division III.
Noontime Sports recently spoke with Johnston about his career with the Buccaneers, as well as where he is headed after graduation next month.
When you look back to your playing days with the Massachusetts Maritime Academy football program, what will you remember most?
The guys. I made some of my best friends through this program.
The Massachusetts Maritime Academy football program consists of some great all-around guys and they deserve to get awards like this too because they are just as competitive and just as good as I am to receive this (type) of honor, if not, better.
My position coach for my first three seasons with the Buccaneers – Odell Jones, who currently oversees the defensive line at Assumption College – was probably one of the best coaches I ever had in my career. He pushed me to my limits and I give him full credit with how successful I am in football today. But I will definitely remember the people the most (because) those are the memories that will last the most for me.
You and your teammates enjoyed a successful 2019 campaign. Do you feel the team (and program) took a step forward this past season?
Yeah, absolutely. I think it was a total success. My graduating class may have featured the most seniors this program has had in a while, but we stuck together through the ups and downs, and I give all credit to the players, including the grades below us.
I am hopeful the team can continue to build on what they did last year and continue to get better.
Your team competes in a few rivalry games each season. Which one is your favorite and why?
The (rivalry) we have with both Maine Maritime Academy and Maritime (N.Y.) are important to us and they go through the same stuff we go through (during game weeks). But our rivalry with Framingham State is important – it is always a big game and so is Bridgewater State. Unfortunately, we did not beat Bridgewater State this past year, but I always feel we put forth a good effort against them, as well as Framingham State.
Where will you be headed after graduation next month?
I just accepted a full-time position earlier this month with Travelers in Braintree, Massachusetts. I will be working in the ocean marine underwriters department.
Finally, do you plan to return to campus hopefully later this year or in the future to cheer on the Buccaneers?
Absolutely. I would love to come back and cheer on my teammates.
There is nothing better than a rivalry, especially on the gridiron. And we have quite a few here in New England, but which one is the best?
Well, we think this list features the best rivalries – 10 to be exact – but if you feel we missed a game (or two), let us know by leaving a comment below. All ideas are welcome!
1. Harvard University vs. Yale University: Hands down, this is the best New England college football rivalry. And while some may think Amherst-Williams belongs in this spot, Harvard-Yale is just as important as The Biggest Little Game in America. The Bulldogs needed two extra sessions this past year to edge the Crimson, 50-43, to claim the 136th edition of The Game. Harvard captured the 2018 meeting, which was played at Fenway Park.
2. Amherst College vs. Williams College: As mentioned above, Harvard-Yale, Amherst-Williams are the two of the best rivalries in New England, but there is nothing better than being in the stands in Amherst or Williamstown in early November to watch this game. The Ephs won their last meeting against the Mammoths by a score of 31-9 and finished their 2019 campaign with their best record under head coach Mark Raymond.
4. Maine vs. New Hampshire: The Black Bears may have won the first-ever meeting between these two programs, but the Wildcats have been rather successful since that initial games, especially these past few years. New Hampshire beat Maine twice in the last three seasons, including last fall in their season finale. The winner of each matchup claims the Brice-Cowell Musket, which is named after the former head coaches of the two programs.
6. Coast Guard Academy vs. Norwich University: “The Little Army-Navy Game” is always a must-see, must-watch affair in September, October, or November. The two teams, who entered their previous meeting with identical 2-0 records, first met in 1929. The winner claims “The Mug,” which was donated by The Day with the first award being presented at the conclusion of the third meeting in 1931. Coast Guard currently leads the all-time series, but the Cadets won the most recent contest last September, thanks to an impressive second-half comeback.
7. Dartmouth College vs. New Hampshire: This may not be the most well-known rivalry to current football fans (and players), but the Big Green and Wildcats have met quite a few times over the past few decades. In fact, the first-ever meeting between Dartmouth and New Hampshire occurred in 1901 with the Green and White claiming a 51-0 victory. The two teams last met in 2016 but will meet again in 2021.
8. MIT-WPI: Sure, WPI’s longstanding rivalry may be RPI, but from an in-state (or in-region) opponent, it has to be MIT, right? The Engineers of Cambridge won the first six meetings – both MIT and WPI initially met in 1888 – but since 2001, the Engineers of Worcester have won six of seven contests. The two teams began playing against each other every year since 2015. Last fall, MIT snapped WPI’s six-game winning streak by securing a hard-fought win in double-overtime. The victory was MIT’s first against WPI since 1900.
9. Endicott College vs. Western New England: This always seems to be a must-see, must-follow contest, no matter the records. But for the past few years, this has been the de-facto conference championship game. The Golden Bears have won two of the last three meetings while Endicott captured the 2018 meeting. The win over WNE in 2018 provided Endicott with its sixth victory at home against its rival while snapping the Golden Bears’ 25-game conference winning streak.
10. Southern Connecticut vs. University of New Haven: The Elm City Trophy has resided in New Haven these past few seasons, but the Owls did make things interesting last October. The Chargers have won 24 of the 31 meetings in this series and will attempt to continue its recent momentum against the Owls when they visit West Haven, Connecticut later this year.
What if WPI (left) and Springfield College (right) played against some local FCS and D-II football teams?
By Matt Noonan
Trying to decipher if and when a college football season will occur this fall remains a mystery to many these days, including yours truly. But what if the upcoming season featured more regional games, specifically contests that saw the various New England FCS teams competing against D-II and D-III squads?
How about D-II and D-III teams squaring-off either under the lights or during a gorgeous October afternoon?
Could it happen? Maybe – I am not entirely sure, but it is an interesting thought, right?
While we may not know if and when a college football season will occur (or officially begin), here are a few ideas for some potential matchups that would be worth watching (or following).
American International College, Springfield College, and Western New England: How about AIC, Springfield, and WNE competing against each other to determine the best football team in Springfield, Massachusetts? Springfield and WNE have met in week one these past few years with the Pynchon SAW trophy on the line – the hardware is named after the city’s founder William Pynchon – so why not add AIC to the mix?
Holy Cross vs. New Haven: The Chargers (New Haven) are currently slated to compete against Dartmouth College in September, so why not play against the Crusaders, who advanced to their first postseason since 2009 last fall? This could be a really interesting game against two teams that finished in the top half of their respective conference last season.
Assumption College vs. WPI: I floated this potential matchup earlier this week in my ‘Noontime Commentary‘ piece about the upcoming fall sports season. I think this could be an interesting game, but I am not sure who would win. These two teams are literally down the road from each other, so we could call this game the ‘Battle of Salisbury Street.’ Thoughts?
Bentley University vs. New Hampshire: After finishing its 2019 campaign with a 6-4 record, I think these Falcons (Bentley) are ready to take on the Wildcats of New Hampshire. Whether this game is played in Waltham, Massachusetts, or Durham, New Hampshire, there would be an interest in this contest with both programs attracting a slew of student-athletes from the six New England states to their respective campus every year.
Harvard University, MIT, and Tufts University: Welcome to the ‘Battle of Cambridge and Somerville!’ Yes, I know there is already the ‘Battle for the Picket Fence’ between Cambridge Rindge & Latin and Somerville High School, so why not have Harvard, MIT, and Tufts compete for bragging rights for both cities? It could be some interesting games for sure, but in the end, Harvard would prevail. Go Crimson!