Cheverus eligibility fiasco could have been prevented

For the first time in the history of Maine High School Interscholastic High School Athletics a team had to forfeit a state championship contest when the Maine Principals’ Association took that title and the Western Maine crown away from Cheverus High School last week because the team had used an ineligible player.

This happened because the ineligible player, Indiana Faithfull, who had already used up his eight semesters of athletic eligibility, was allowed to particpate in the championship events in 2010.

Several areas of concern have arisen because of this fiasco, which should not have occurred.

Cheverus HS of Portland and the MPA were ordered by a judge’s a temporary restraining order to allow Faithfull to play in the Western A quarterfinal game in February 2010.

Faithfull was to start the game and play his usual amount of playing time. He did so and continued through the  WM tourney and state final.

The cause of this situation was the failure of the Cheverus administration for not thoroughly checking into the MPA’s eight-semester rule before Faithfull was accepted to transfer from Austraila.

As a former athletic director for five years in a public high school with more than 1,200 students and 11 years as an athletic director in a private high school similar to Cheverus, except it was a former Catholic high school turned private, I know how busy athletic adminstrators can be, especially at the start of each sports season.

However, we had foreign students transfer in and we always did the following checks for eligibility.

The first thing we did was to check the age of the student as that could be a red-flag warning about how many semesters of eligibility the transfer had left.

Second, we checked the eight-semester rule and third we checked the grades for the past quarter and semester.

We always had a double check with the guidance department and the athletic department each doing a separate check on these three vital eligibility areas for all transfers.

After each department checked we met to compare notes to make sure the student was eligible before we even accepted the student/athlete.

Given that background and after reading the many posts on MBR and several newspaper articles, the following concerns remain in the spotlight over the Cheverus case.

1. This should have been caught by the school’s administration before the transfer student was accepted and not by the coach when he was checking the player’s transcript for colleges..
2. This was the first time the MPA was ever hit with a TRO which was filed by a player’s parents. This TRO should never have been invoked. The player should not have been allowed to play.
3. Cheverus and the MPA should have challenged the TRO together, especially when it came so near the quarterfinal game.
4. The 10th semester, which was caught after the situation occurred, meant that the player was ineligible for the entire season, not just the ninth semester.
5. Cheverus should have been made to forfeit its entire 17 games that Faithfull played in, just as Greenville and Lee had to forfeit games this fall in soccer for using ineligible players.
6. The Mr. Basketball Award sponsored by the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches should have been revoked as  Faithfull was ineligible for the entire year. The award should have been given to one of the other three finalists.
7. The judge never should have issued the TRO in the first place. This allowed one ineligible player to effect more than 100 players, (the seven other Western Class A teams and the Eastern Maine Class A champions), just because the family of one player went to court.

Cheverus has to be commended for doing the right thing by self-reporting to the MPA immediately when it found out that Faithfull had already used up his eight semesters of eligibility.

Again, this was a case of the adults causing the problem, be it the school’s administration, the parents and or the judge. None of the players created this problem, but they all paid a price.

If someone from either party had been willing to take the results for not obeying the TRO, then my favorite old country song, by Aaron Tippens, “If You Don’t Stand For Something, Then You Will Fall For Anything,” is very true and that is exactly what happened — all the adults involved fell for anything.

If you truly believe in your rule and that it is necessary and fair, then you should be willing to stand behind the rule like when journalists stand behind their sources.

Maybe, just maybe, the judge might have reversed the decision of the TRO if someone was willing to stand up for the rule and take the results for not abiding by the judge’s TRO.

If this had occurred then this embarrassing fiasco would never have happened..

This situation should be a big reminder for all school administrations to make sure to check and double check all of the athletic eligibility categories the MPA requires at the beginning of each sports season.