Case of ex-Cheverus basketball star to go before human rights panel

Posted April 26, 2011, at 4:38 p.m.
Last modified April 26, 2011, at 7:34 p.m.

The next chapter in the athletic eligibility case pitting former Cheverus High School of Portland basketball star Indiana Faithfull and the Maine Principals’ Association will be at a hearing scheduled for May 16 before the Maine Human Rights Commission in Augusta.

That hearing will include an investigator’s report released by the MHRC late last week that found reasonable grounds to believe the MPA is discriminating against Faithfull on the basis of national origin, but that there are no reasonable grounds to believe the MPA is retaliating against Faithful for pursuing a Maine Human Rights Act complaint in court.

The case began in late January 2010, when Faithfull — then a Cheverus senior but now attending prep school in Connecticut — was deemed ineligible after completing eight semesters of athletic competition at the Portland school in accordance with an MPA rule that limit athletes to eight consecutive semesters of eligibility.

Faithfull had transferred to Cheverus from Australia as a sophomore in the fall of 2007 after spending three semesters as a high school student in Australia, which starts its school year in January as opposed to the September start in Maine..

According to MPA rules, Faithfull’s eight-semester eligibility count began when he started high school in Australia in January 2006 and concluded with the start of Cheverus’ second semester of the 2009-10 school year beginning Jan. 25, 2010.

Faithfull subsequently sat out several games at the end of the Cheverus basketball team’s regular season, but he and his family sought relief in Cumberland County Superior Court and Justice Joyce Wheeler granted a temporary restraining order that allowed Faithfull to return to the team in time for the Western Maine Class A tournament.

Cheverus went on to win the 2010 state championship, and Faithfull was named the state’s Mr. Basketball.

The MPA has sought to have Faithfull’s ineligibility upheld and for Cheverus to forfeit the state championship, but after the temporary restraining order was issued indicated it believed Faithfull also was ineligible based on its “Four Seasons of Competition” rule, which limits a student to four seasons of participation in the same sport at the high school level.

According to the MHRC report, the MPA said it no longer intended to seek to apply the eight-semester rule in the case, so the report focused on the four-season rule.

One issue at play is whether Faithfull should have been granted a waiver because the variances in academic and athletic schedules between Australian and U.S. high schools was seen as out of his control.

The 11-page MHRC report, signed by executive director Patricia E. Ryan and chief investigator Barbara Lelli, indicated that the MPA has granted eligibility waivers for students of non-U.S. origin in the past, and that reasons for denying waivers in such cases involved circumstances the student could potentially control.

“The MPA has recognized that waivers are appropriate for students affected by war, violence, medical problems, language barriers, and extenuating family circumstances/responsibility even when that means the student will violate one of the maximum eligibility rules,” the report said. “The MPA should recognize that a student’s national origin is also a circumstance beyond his control and not apply the Four Season Rule in such cases.”

MPA executive director Dick Durost said Tuesday that his organization is not permitted to comment on the case until after the hearing is held and the MHRC issues its ruling.

Faithfull, Hyland choose colleges

Faithfull and another finalist for Maine’s 2010 Mr. Basketball award, Keegan Hyland of South Portland, have shored up their collegiate basketball plans with Division I destinations, with Faithfull headed to Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., and Hyland bound for Fairfield (Conn.) University.

Faithfull, a 6-foot-3 point guard, played this winter at St. Thomas More prep school in Oakdale, Conn., helping the Chancellors reach the New England Prep School Athletic Conference Class AAA semifinals and then win the National Prep School Tournament championship. Faithfull was named honorable mention All-NEPSAC.

Wofford is the two-time defending Southern Conference champion, having qualified for the NCAA tournament each of those years. This March the Terriers lost to Brigham Young 74-66 in a second-round matchup, with national player of the year Jimmer Fredette scoring 32 points to lead BYU.

Hyland, a 6-3 shooting guard, will join a Fairfield program that competes in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) and advanced to the second round of this year’s NIT before losing to Kent State 72-68.

Hyland played sparingly as a senior at South Portland High School during the 2009-10 season due to a hip injury.

After initially flirting with attending the University of Vermont and then prep school, Hyland was a late signee last spring to accept a scholarship from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. He was injured during preseason and did not play last fall, then decided to leave that West Coast program in December.

He quickly signed with Vermont, but stayed there for just two weeks before leaving that program.

Under NCAA rules, Hyland is ineligible to play for Fairfield until the 2012-13 season, but he reportedly plans to petition the NCAA in an effort to become eligible at some point next season.

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