The Maine Principals’ Association announced Monday morning that by an unanimous 11-0 vote, its Interscholastic Management Committee has vacated the Western Class A regional and Class A state championships won by the Cheverus boys’ basketball team in 2010 due to the Stags’ use of ineligible player Indiana Faithfull, an Australian exchange student, who had used up his four seasons and eight consecutive semesters of eligibility.
“The playing of the student violated the Four Seasons of Competition Rule for the entire 2009-10 season, as well as the Eight Consecutive Semester Rule,” said the MPA’s press release. “Cheverus first discovered that the player’s eligibility might be in jeopardy just prior to the end of the first semester in January of 2010. Cheverus removed him from the roster, but a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) was granted, forcing the school to return the student to his former status on the team.
“Ultimately, it was discovered that the student was ineligible for the entire season under the Four Seasons of Competition Rule. This past spring, the TRO ruling was dismissed by the court. Cheverus will return the championship trophies and no further action is contemplated.”
Faithfull was not expected to play in the quarterfinal round versus Scarborough, but just prior to game time, it was learned that Maine Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler issued a temporary restraining order and that Faithfull would play. He played a key role in leading the Stags past the Red Storm, then over Windham in the semifinals, Westbrook in the Western A Final and Edward Little in the state championship game.
That winter, Faithfull was named the MVP of the regional tournament, won the Mr. Maine Basketball award and was selected Cheverus’ Winter Male Athlete of the Year by The Forecaster.
Bob Brown, who coached the Stags in 2010, stressed that the school, from start to finish in this unfortunate saga which dragged on almost three years, did the right thing.
“It all started when I was asked by a college coach about Indy’s grades,” said Brown, who retired after last season. “I came across a transcript which didn’t seem right. I reported to the athletic director (Gary Hoyt). He and the principal (John Mullen) self-reported to the MPA. The MPA said he couldn’t play and we said all right. We followed their guidelines. Indy’s parents took it to court and the court order said he had to be reinstated to his previous position as a starter. Once again, we followed the order. We had no choice, so we played him.
“Now, the MPA has told us that we have to vacate. Once again, we’ll follow the guidelines. In every instance, we have followed the rules and done what the governing body told us to do. We never deceived anyone.
“I’m disappointed. I think if people look at history, they might find other examples where exceptions were made. If you know the whole situation and how it came about, we did nothing but follow the spirit of the law.”
Dick Durost, the Executive Director of the MPA, is glad the decision has been rendered.
“I think it’s in everybody’s best interest that it’s over,” Durost said. “Two-and-a-half years is a long time. The involvement of the courts caused this to drag out. I think our rules are specific that if there’s a violation, there will be a forfeiture of awards and championships. No one takes delight in this decision. There’s sympathy for the Cheverus community, students, coaches and administrators. There’s also sympathy for the other schools who might have gotten a win along the way.”
Durost added that he felt Cheverus was in compliance.
“In fairness, in January, 2010 when Cheverus first discovered there would be a violation, they did the right thing. The family pursuing the TRO put the school in jeopardy down the road. When the TRO was dismissed, we were forced to respond. There’s no one I have higher respect for than John Mullen. My belief is that he did what we needed to. It’s a lesson for all of us about eligibility of athletes.”
Edward Little coach Mike Adams told the Sun Journal Monday that the majority of the players on that team did not want the title and if the offer ever came to him, he would decline it.
“It still hurts to lose a game like that, and the fact that we haven’t won one (since 1946) means when you win one, you want to win that on the court, not in the court,” Adams said, in an interview with Randy Whitehouse. “There are a lot of emotions that go along with it. We’ve moved on. We’ve gotten past it. Nobody has called me up and offered me a Gold Ball and I’m glad they haven’t in some ways.
“We watched two teams celebrate (Edward Little also lost to Thornton Academy in the 2009 title game) and two communities celebrate and that still hurts and it will probably always hurt because we were so close. But for somebody to say, ‘Here’s a Gold Ball now,’ I can’t bring that moment back and bring the crowd back and say, ‘Here’s your crowd, here’s your moment that you’ve worked so hard for so you can hold that ball over your head, hug your parents and jump around and have a good time.’
“It’s really unfortunate that that situation ever even got this far.”
Adams also said the MPA did the right thing
“I respect the MPA for doing what they did. I think it was a battle that was worth fighting and I’m glad they fought it.
“That’s why the MPA has its rules, (so) it’s even for everybody and that nobody has a distinct advantage over anybody else. And that was an advantage. It certainly showed in that game.”
Edward Little AD Dan Deshaies declined comment other than to say school officials have not formally discussed what they would do if the Red Eddies were offered the title.
“We have not even considered anything like that yet because, first of all, I haven’t even heard anything from the MPA yet,” Deshaies said.
The MPA ruling Monday did not clarify what would become of the titles vacated by Cheverus.
“The expectation at this point is that (Cheverus will) return the Western Maine plaque and the Gold Ball and the title will be vacated,” Durost said. “This sets a precedent in team sports.”
Brown believes history will reflect who won the 2010 championship.
“All my players know (we won it),” Brown said. “I know. I think everybody knows.”
Hoyt declined comment.
Cheverus released a press release Monday afternoon reaffirming that its actions were in compliance and that the “Cheverus High School administration will review the MPA’s decision before commenting on the substance of the MPA ruling.”
Sun Journal sports editor Justin Pelletier and staff writer Randy Whitehouse contributed to this story.