The Maine Principals' Association stripped Cheverus High School of the 2010 Class A boys' basketball state championship on Monday.
Edward Little, which lost to Cheverus in the state title game, will likely remain the runner-up.
The MPA's Interscholastic Management Committee voted unanimously, 11-0, to vacate the Stags' 2010 Western Class A and state championships due to the use of an ineligible player.
The player, Indiana Faithfull, was an Australian exchange student and a senior guard. According to the MPA, Cheverus first discovered that Faithfull's eligibility might be in jeopardy just prior to the end of the first semester in January of 2010 and self-reported to the MPA.
The MPA ruled the school had violated the Four Seasons of Competition Rule for the entire 2009-2010 season as well as the Eight Consecutive Semester Rule for the postseason. The MPA said Faithfull should have been ineligible for the entire season, and had to sit out the final five games of the regular season.
Faithfull's family was granted an injunction just hours before Cheverus played its first-round game in the tournament. Faithfull played in all three games of the Western Class A tournament and was named the tournament's outstanding player. He went on to score a game-high 23 points in Cheverus' 55-50 win over Edward Little in the state title game. He was later named the state's Mr. Basketball.
Edward Little coach Mike Adams said the decision provides some closure for him and his players.
"There are a lot of emotions that go along with it. We've moved on. We've gotten past it," he said. "Nobody has called me up and offered me a Gold Ball and I'm glad they haven't in some ways."
Adams said the majority of the players on that team do not want the title. If the offer ever came to him, he would decline it.
"It still hurts to lose a game like that, and the fact that we haven't won one (since 1946) means when you win one, you want to win that on the court, not in the court," he said.
"We watched two teams celebrate (EL lost to Thornton Academy in the 2009 title game) and two communities celebrate and that hurts and that still hurts and it will probably always hurt because we were so close," he added. "But for somebody to say, 'Here's a Gold Ball now,' I can't bring that moment back and bring the crowd back and say, 'Here's your crowd, here's your moment that you've worked so hard for so you can hold that ball over your head, hug your parents and jump around and have a good time.'"
Two weeks after Cheverus won the title, the MPA appealed the injunction. In June, 2010, Faithfull filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission that the MPA had discriminated against him when it didn't let him play. An MHRC investigator's report said Faithfull had reasonable grounds to claim discrimination, but the commission split, 2-2, reverting the case back to the court.
Last spring, a Cumberland County Superior Court judge reversed the previous ruling and lifted the temporary restraining order, opening the door for the MPA to take the action it did on Monday.
"It's unfortunate that it took this long to get there through really no fault of the school or through no fault of our own," MPA executive director Dick Durost said.
Durost said this is the first time the MPA has had to vacate a championship in a team sport after the title game was played. He stressed that Cheverus did nothing wrong at any point during the process.
"They did what we would expect our member schools to do. They removed him from the roster and they were prepared to move forward," Durost said. "When the family filed for the temporary restraining order, in essence they, to some degree, tied the hands of the school when that was awarded."
Durost said the committee did not take any action on what would happen to the 2010 championship because it would essentially have to predict how the Western Class A tournament and state championship game would have turned out if Faithfull had not played.
"How do you anticipate what might or what might not have happened if the student-athlete had not been playing?" Durost said. "We've never had this situation in a team sport before, so it is kind of precedent-setting."
"I don't think (awarding the title to another school) is likely, but certainly if a school called me and wanted to have a conversation about it, we would have the conversation," Durost said.
"I'm not going to initiate that call," Adams said.
Edward Little athletic director Dan Deshaies said school officials have not formally discussed what they would do if the Red Eddies were offered the title.
"We have not even considered anything like that yet because, first of all, I haven't even heard anything from the MPA yet," Deshaies said.
Adams said he was "glad the MPA did the right thing."
"I respect the MPA for doing what they did. I think it was a battle that was worth fighting and I'm glad they fought it," he said.
"That's why the MPA has its rules, (so) it's even for everybody and that nobody has a distinct advantage over anybody else. And that was an advantage. It certainly showed in that game."
Cheverus athletic director Gary Hoyt declined comment. In a press release issued Monday afternoon, Cheverus said its actions were in compliance and school administration "will review the MPA's decision before commenting on the substance of the MPA ruling."
Bob Brown, who coached Cheverus in 2010, told The Forecaster on Monday that he was disappointed in the decision.
"I think if people look at history, they might find other examples where exceptions were made," said Brown, who retired after last season. "If you know the whole situation and how it came about, we did nothing but follow the spirit of the law."
Brown said he believes history will reflect Cheverus won the 2010 title, even if MPA records will show the title as vacated, with Edward Little still listed as the runner-up.
"All my players know (we won it)," Brown said. "I know. I think everybody knows."
"Well, yeah, they did (win)," Adams said when informed of Brown's comments. "But they did it in large part because of a player that shouldn't have been playing."
"The only thing that I know from that year is that EL was the Eastern Maine champion. That's the only thing that sticks," he added. "The only thing that's left from that season is that there's only one team that earned the right to be there and that was EL."
Adams said he is fine with the debate over who the real 2010 Class A champion continuing. He just hopes the debate over whether his team should be the champions on paper will end with the Monday's decision.
"It's good to have this chapter closed and everyone can move on," he said. "I'm proud of our kids and all they accomplished and I don't want this to be dug up again with people saying 'EL wants this' or 'EL wants that.'"
The Forecaster sports editor Michael Hoffer contributed to this report