AUGUSTA, Maine — The state and Western Maine Class A boys basketball titles won by Cheverus High School in the 2009-10 season have been vacated, following an 11-0 vote Monday by the Maine Principals’ Association’s Interscholastic Management Committee, MPA Executive Director Dick Durost announced in a news release Monday.
The titles were vacated, Durost said, because of the use of an ineligible player, Indiana Faithfull, a transfer student from Australia.
The decision was the correct one, according to the coach at the center of the controversy.
Bob Brown, the Cheverus boys basketball coach at the time who has now retired, said his hands were tied by an MPA ruling to not play Faithfull and a temporary restraining order granted to Faithfull’s parents to reinstate him.
“The court order said he had to be returned to his original status with the team,” said Brown, a longtime high school and college coach in New England.
“He was a three-year starter,” said Brown, explaining why he didn’t sit Faithfull. “I could have gone to jail for that.”
Brown said he was the one who discovered the mistake, he reported it to the school athletic director and they, in turn, self-reported it to the MPA.
“The most important thing for people to realize … is there was no deception going on,” he said.
“It was unfortunate it all took place,” he added. “We tried to abide by every rule and dictate handed down to us.”
Cheverus defeated Edward Little of Auburn 55-50 in the state final with Faithfull scoring a team-high 23 points.
The MPA decided not to offer the title to the Red Eddies.
“We don’t have a precedent for that,” said Durost in a phone interview later.
Durost pointed out that this was the first time in MPA history that titles had been vacated in a team sport.
“Certainly, he was an impact player, but [the Cheverus Stags] were a good team with or without him,” said Durost.
“It’s pretty sad the way it turned out, but it was the right decision,” said former Bangor High coach Roger Reed. “Cheverus might have won anyway, but now we’ll never know. … I don’t blame the kids, I blame the courts.”
Edward Little, which hasn’t won a boys basketball championship in 67 years, could request that the gold ball be presented to the Red Eddies, Durost said.
“We would consider it,” said Durost, who also said because there was the possibility that a different team could have won the Western Maine championship, that team might have won the state crown instead.
“As it stands now, it’s simply vacated,” he said.
Veteran EL coach Mike Adams had mixed feelings about his team receiving the trophy.
“We’ve moved on,” he said. “We’ve all got families and that was a couple of years ago. Things have gone past that night and that game.”
But he also can’t erase the memory of his players’ dejection after the loss. For that reason, he would like to see them rewarded, but they already talked about it in the locker room that night, knowing the situation had entered the court system because the Faithfull family had been granted a temporary restraining order to allow him to play in the postseason.
“I don’t know what I would say if I was offered [the trophy],” said Adams, who has coached EL for 12 years. “We [the team] discussed it after the game and decided we would not accept it.
“When we win one, and we will one day, it will be on the court and not in the court.”
Faithfull is now a sophomore at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., and is a member of this year’s men’s basketball team. After graduating from Cheverus, he went to prep school for a year at St. Thomas More in Oakdale, Conn., and helped lead that team to the national prep school championship.
An attempt to reach Faithfull through Twitter has been unsuccessful.
The decision to vacate was prompted by the court lifting a temporary restraining order granted to the Faithfull family in February 2010.
Faithfull had transferred to Cheverus in 2007 after starting high school in Sydney, Australia. Because of the Southern Hemisphere school year taking place during Maine summers, Cheverus discovered a question of eligibility toward the end of the semester in January 2010.
Faithfull had to sit out Cheverus’ final five games of the regular season after the MPA ruled he had used the eight semesters of eligibility the MPA permits for participants in high school athletics, according to the press release.
Faithfull’s family was granted the temporary restraining order just hours before Cheverus played its first-round game in the WM tournament. Faithfull played in all three games and was named the tourney Most Valuable Player. He was later named the state’s Mr. Basketball, which goes to the top senior boys basketball player as voted by the members of the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches.
“Cheverus felt it had no alternative but to play him,” said Durost, “even though it put the school and the rest of the team in jeopardy” of having the title revoked.
The TRO remained in effect until it was dismissed by the court this spring.
“We’ve spent a couple of years, along with the school and the family, preparing for a court case,” said Durost. “It never, ultimately, got to court.”
During the preparation for the court case it was discovered that Faithfull had played two full seasons of basketball, not the one as originally thought, according to Durost, before he played for the Stags in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.
“Nobody was aware of this,” said Durost. “He was ineligible the entire year.”
“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 of the postseason,” Durost said in the release.
“Cheverus will return the championship trophies, and no further action is contemplated,” Durost concluded in the release.
The outcomes of the team’s games during the season before the state-title contest will not be adjusted, said Durost.
“There was discussion about other consequences,” said Durost, “but this was determined to be sufficient.”
The TRO was the first ever granted against the MPA, said Durost.
“Others have asked [for them], but they were not granted,” he said. “We feel that’s because the rules are reasonable … and established with the approval of the schools.”
Other titles that can be adjusted without eliminating the whole team are sports such as cross country, track and field, and golf, where players compete as individuals and their points earned or scores are added for a team total.
“It’s much easier to work out with individual players,” said Durost. “We just remove the player’s score and refigure the team scores.”
Durost said questions of eligibility crop up 3-6 times during a school year. Incidents have already cropped up this fall involving boys soccer teams at Greenville High School and Lee Academy.
“This [Cheverus decision] is certainly a reminder to all schools that they have to research that all athletes are eligible at the beginning of each year or semester,” said Durost.
Asked if there are any other eligibility questions before the MPA now, a relieved Durost said, “Thank goodness, no.”
Peter Murray, president of the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches, which awards the Mr. and Miss Basketball awards, said Faithfull will retain his award.
“It’s based over the course of a player’s career, even if he misses part of his senior season,” said Murray. “It’s not connected with the MPA in any way.”
Murray did add, “It’s sure to be a topic of discussion at the next business meeting.”