May 17, 2011

Indiana Faithfull case still in limbo

A state panel fails to decide whether the MPA discriminated against the former Cheverus basketball star.

By Glenn Jordan gjordan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Seeking guidance from the Maine Human Rights Commission as to whether Cheverus High should relinquish its 2010 Class A boys' basketball championship for using an ineligible player, the judge in the Indiana Faithfull case received none.

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Indiana Faithfull led Cheverus to the 2010 state Class A boys’ basketball title, but the fight continues over whether he was eligible at the time to do so.

The commission voted 2-2 Monday morning in Augusta on two charges brought by Faithfull and his family:

First, that the Maine Principals' Association discriminated against Faithfull on the basis of his national origin (Australia, which uses a different academic calendar than the United States).

Second, that the MPA is retaliating against him for suing for the chance to complete his senior season, and by continuing to pressure Cheverus into giving back the Gold Ball and state title from its 55-50 victory over Edward Little in February of 2010.

Normally made up of five members, the commission has one vacancy created when Ken Fredette (R-Newport) was elected to the State Legislature.

"This is just one step in the process," said Dick Durost, executive director of the MPA. "This is still going to go through the courts."

Last week Faithfull completed a post-graduate year at St. Thomas More, a prep school in Oakdale, Conn. He has accepted a basketball scholarship to Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.

Wofford is coming off back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Division I tournament.

"We hope the case is resolved before Indy graduates from Wofford," said Paul Greene, the attorney representing Faithfull on a pro bono basis from the Portland firm Preti Flaherty.

Greene said the next step is likely to go back before Justice Joyce Wheeler in Cumberland County Superior Court. It was Wheeler who issued a temporary restraining order against the MPA to allow Faithful to participate in the Class A tournament two weeks after the principals association ruled he was in violation of its "Eight Semester Rule" and thus ineligible to continue playing.

Durost, of the MPA, continues to dispute Wheeler's ruling.

"We intend, as we did then, to follow this through the court system because we believe the temporary restraining order was granted inappropriately," he said. "It's been very clear from our member schools that they absolutely want us to pursue this, because this is one of the basic rules that the 153 public and private schools have put in place and agree to. If it's set aside, then one of the most basic policies would have no teeth and meaning to it."

Faithfull spent three years at Cheverus, boarding with a local family in Portland, beginning with 10th grade in the fall of 2007. He started ninth grade in Australia in January of 2006, halfway through a basketball season that runs concurrent to the season in the United States. The academic calendars, however, do not. So he wound up playing five seasons of basketball, four and a half of them since starting ninth grade.

Not long after Cheverus won the title, the MPA said Faithfull violated its "Four Seasons Rule" and asked the Stags to give up their championship. In June of 2010, Faithfull filed a complaint with the human rights commission.

"We worked so hard to win the championship," Faithfull said Monday afternoon in Portland, "so I feel like keeping it would be a good thing."

Faithfull and his father, Marc Schaffer, plan to fly back to Sydney today.

"For Indy, he had all the support of his teammates and those families as we were going through this fight," Schaffer said. "So staying in it and continuing to fight is his way of supporting them for what they achieved."

A report from the human rights commission following a six-month investigation found reasonable grounds to believe the MPA discriminated against Faithfull, but no reasonable grounds to support the retaliation charge. Because Monday's hearing resulted in no majority vote, the commission entered a finding of no reasonable grounds.

Any decision would have been non-binding, said John Gause, commission counsel.

"The process is designed to give people a forum to understand both sides of a complaint," he said, "and hopefully, if there are reasonable grounds, to resolve the complaint."

Instead, the matter bounces back to Superior Court, where Greene said he will make a motion to re-open the case and add the "Four Season" component.

"There was not going to be closure (Monday) either way," Greene said. "Justice Wheeler said she wanted guidance. Hopefully, the report can still provide guidance for her since the commissioners could not."

Durost said it may be months before the case is resolved.

"I think we were pleased, certainly, that they didn't find our policy in violation and discriminatory," he said. "Obviously, we would have preferred a 4-0 vote in our favor, just as I'm sure the other side would have, but it certainly casts some doubt on the original charges as filed."

 

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: gjordan@pressherald.com

 

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