A march by the Mt. Blue High School boys’ basketball team last weekend has put the team in possible violation of the Maine Principal’s Association’s  Sports Season Policy.

School officials  informed the MPA earlier in the week about the event and were drafting  a letter of explanation Thursday. Members of the boys’ basketball team dribbled their way through the parade route at last weekend’s Blueberry Festival Parade in Wilton. It was done in an attempt to raise money for the freshmen basketball program, but violated MPA rules because it was done during the two-week period during which schools are required to provide personal time for teams and athletes.

“Doing fundraising is not okay during the hands off period,” Mt. Blue athletic director Todd Demmons said. ” We self-reported it to the MPA and we’ll be sending a letter to the MPA to explain what happened.”

What kind of penalty arises from such an infraction is decided by the Interscholastic Management Committee. Its next meeting is September 22. Though MPA Executive Director Dick Durost declined to comment directly about the possible violation because he had not talked directly to Mt. Blue officials Thursday morning, he did say that in circumstances like this, a school would be allowed to handle the matter themselves initially.

“They have the first opportunity if there is a violation to deal with it and take their own internal disciplinary action,” Durost said. “If that were the case, the Management Committee would review that action, and if they were satisfied, they would be done. If not, the Management Committee could apply their own consequences. Schools are usually real good at dealing with that up front.”

Durost said that the MPA would even advise the school about what actions could be taken, if asked to have that conversation.

Demmons said when he first contacted the MPA earlier in the week, he was told by other staff members that since the situation was not a heinous violation, it was likely that the Management Committee would be satisfied if steps were taken to prevent such mistakes from happening in the future. During a board meeting earlier this week, Demmons took preventative measures by discussing it with various school officials in an attempt to be proactive on the issue.

“It’s just that this was innocent enough,” Demmons said. “People didn’t realize that what they did was wrong. They weren’t trying to hide it. Chances are it will be okay and we’ll be told to not let it happen again. The bottom line is that we’re moving forward and making sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The participation in the parade Saturday was organized by team members in hopes of raising funds for the freshman boys’ basketball program, which had been a victim of budget cuts. The idea of doing the nearly 10-mile dribble, which included being part of the Blueberry Festival Parade was made known ahead of time in local papers. The Sun Journal had a story detailing the players’ intentions the morning of the parade.

Because the attempt at fundraising came during the so-called hands-off period, which runs from August 1 to August 14, the players were going to be in violation of the Sports Season Policy. Despite the announcement in the papers, no school officials recognized the potential violation.

“I found out when a fellow athletic director sent me an email with a link to the Sun Journal story,” Demmons said. “I had been away for the weekend with my family. I got home and checked my email late Sunday night and thought, ‘Oh no'”

Had the team just marched in the parade, Demmons said, the school might not have violated the policy.

“It was the kids and parents trying to do it for a good cause and save freshmen basketball,” Demmons said. “I don’t fault them. The coaches weren’t involved. It was kids that tried to organize it and dribble. Unfortunately, our Blueberry Festival is right during the hands-off period every year. They thought it would be a good time to do some fundraising and be in the parade.”

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