He might have stood up and railed at those who were yelling this at his son: “Cheater . . . Cheater . . . Cheater.” He might have reconsidered taking on a Maine Principals’ Association rule he believed was no longer fair.

That’s not who Marc Schaffer is.

“There have been a lot of sleepless nights in our house,” said Schaffer hours before the Cheverus boys’ basketball team beat Edward Little for the Class A state title, 55-50.

He is the father of Indiana Faithfull, the Cheverus captain from Australia who was told by the MPA he had used up his eight semesters of eligibility.

He is the man who sought counsel that led to a judge’s ruling that Cheverus must let Faithfull play. He is the father who sits unnoticed in arenas, knowing those outside the Cheverus community believe the tourney has been tainted by an ineligible player.

“When I can talk to people, they begin to understand why (he turned to the judicial system). ‘Isn’t that how a democracy works? Isn’t that what makes our country great?’ ”

But he can’t talk to everyone and he wouldn’t turn to the media. Maybe after the tournament, he said, replying to a request 10 days ago. Whatever was said or written could feed the flames licking at his son.

“I smile when I hear the crowd chant ‘USA, USA,’ ” said Schaffer. “Indy is a U.S. citizen.”

So is Schaffer. He was born in Massachusetts but grew up in Birmingham, Ala., when his father worked in the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Marc Schaffer swam for UCLA.

His wife, Janeen Faithfull, is Australian, was a sprinter for Arizona State and would have represented her country in the 1980 Olympics had Australia not joined the American-led boycott. Saturday night, while Schaffer settled into his seat at the Cumberland County Civic Center, Janeen was in a gym at Santa Clara University, watching their daughter, Rhianna, play guard for the Broncos.

Rhianna is one reason Indiana came to Maine. She had toured Virginia and Kentucky with an Australian basketball team. “She fell in love with playing basketball in the U.S.,” said Schaffer. She transferred from Australia to a high school in the Washington D.C. area.

Understand that interscholastic sports in Australia are virtually nonexistent. Schaffer compares them to intramurals. To play competitively, you join a community-based club. If you’re very talented, you can be recruited to play at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.

Rhianna chose to come to America, opening the door for Indiana. A friend touted Lee Academy in Maine. Indiana settled on Cheverus, in part because its basketball coach, Bob Brown, held clinics in Australia.

Australia’s school year begins in our winter. To get onto the American cycle, Faithfull couldn’t sit out a semester in Australia, which has its own truancy laws. He attended school, starting his eligibility clock for sports. He wasn’t competing.

The semester while waiting to join Cheverus is apparently what’s at issue. The MPA’s eight-semester rule was fine when the world was large, says Schaffer. In today’s smaller world, that rule has a “disparate impact” on student athletes wishing to transfer from the southern hemisphere, says Schaffer’s counsel. A judge agreed.

“Certainly we wanted people to understand,” said Schaffer. “There was no getting up and screaming. The only way to get through this was to take care of business (on the court, in the courts). I think it was his second game back when Indiana made 12 of 13 from the foul line. That’s when you heard the worst.

“Yes, it’s been worth every second. All of it. Indy sacrificed a lot to see this through. The lessons have been important. My son’s growth as a human being is phenomenal.”

The family saw something they thought was unjust and opened themselves up to the backlash. Indiana’s grandfather did something similar 50 years ago when he worked for civil rights. The world has changed but not always the people in it.

 

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

[email protected]