It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for Indiana Faithfull.
He came to Maine from his native Sydney, Australia, three years ago to become a better basketball player and hopefully earn a Division I scholarship.
It’s a path quite familiar to his family — his mother ran track for Arizona State, his dad swam for UCLA and older sister Rhianna is a redshirt sophomore guard at Division I Santa Clara University.
Indiana Faithfull, a senior at Portland’s Cheverus High School, eventually may find similar satisfaction at the collegiate level, but his high school basketball career has ended with a thud.
The 6-foot-3 guard recently was found to have used up his eligibility to play with the Stags under a Maine Principals’ Association rule that sets a limit of eight consecutive semesters for athletic eligibility.
But Faithfull, who transferred to Cheverus in the fall of 2007 to start his sophomore year, began his first year of high school in Australia in January 2006, a full semester earlier than he would have had he attended middle school in Maine because January is in the summer Down Under.
So according to MPA rules, Faithfull’s eight-semester eligibility count began in January 2006 and concluded with the start of Cheverus’ second semester of this school year on Jan. 25, 2010.
Cheverus coach Bob Brown discovered the problem upon studying Faithfull’s academic transcripts in response to inquiries from college coaches interested in recruiting his third-year starter, a second- team Bangor Daily News All-Maine choice last winter.
The school self-reported its findings to the MPA, which made its ruling last Friday.
It’s certainly a tough blow for the Cheverus basketball team, which remains undefeated and one of the favorites in Western Maine Class A.
Faithfull’s teammates are having to adjust to not having their on-court leader at a critical time of year.
It’s especially tough for Faithfull, as teenagers generally don’t have to concern themselves with their window of athletic eligibility so long as their grades are OK.
But his high-profile example should provide a wakeup call for any coach or athletic administrator with a student-athlete whose academic background deviates at all from the typical Maine K-12 scenario. It’s a reminder to take the time to make sure there are no such intercontinental quirks that could affect eligibility.
Some folks, seeing Faithfull as an innocent victim, would have the MPA simply provide him a waiver to continue playing this season.
But the rule’s not new, and if there’s anyone to blame in this particular instance it’s not the MPA, but probably someone at Cheverus for not being up on the eight-semester rule or not being aware enough of Faithfull’s academic timeline as it related to his participation on the basketball team.
The rule is about more than an individual player, particularly during an era where tuition-paying international students are becoming more common as Maine schools try to generate new revenue to offset the shrinking pool of government dollars available.
The reason for the MPA’s two basic eligibility rules —that a competing athlete must be under age 20 and is eligible for eight semesters once he or she begins high school studies — is merely an effort to maintain a level playing field for its participants.
Unfortunately for Indiana Faithfull, they’re reasonable rules.