Brunswick High School has filed an appeal with the Maine Principals’ Association that would allow the varsity team to compete in 2022. The Times Record file photo

Brunswick High School will try to convince the Maine Principals’ Association next month that it should field a varsity football program in 2022.

The Brunswick School Department on Oct. 6 canceled the remainder of the team’s season and fired longtime coach Dan Cooper in the wake of its investigation into an alleged hazing incident during a preseason team retreat at Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick.

High school varsity teams that can’t complete a season face a two-year ban from competition, according to MPA rules.

Mike Burnham, director of the MPA, said the rule does not apply for schools that shuttered seasons because of COVID-19 safety concerns.

Schools whose varsity sports teams couldn’t finish a season can file an appeal to the MPA’s Interscholastic Management Committee to have the two-year ban waived.

“We did file a waiver,” Brunswick Athletic Director Aaron Watson said. “We’ve petitioned the MPA to hear our appeal. We’ve requested to present our appeal at the committee’s next meeting. We are hopeful that when we present, when we get opportunity, that they’ll see how important it is, that they’ll see we’ve taken appropriate steps all the way through. We feel good about our appeal.”

Burnham said the MPA will hear the appeal when the Interscholastic Management Committee meets during the third week of January.

“The process for any appeal heard by this committee is to give the school asking for the appeal an opportunity to explain their rationale,” he said. “The committee then asks clarifying questions, almost always they go into executive session to discuss the appeal, and will most often render a decision on the appeal once they return from executive session.

“There have been cases where additional information has been requested prior to a decision being made but that’s not common. This has nothing to do with the two-year non-completion. This is for any appeal.”

Burnham added that the committee’s decision is final.

Matt Barbour, whose son, Gavin, was a junior captain on the Brunswick football team this fall, said Wednesday that parents are eagerly anticipating the outcome.

“The waiver piece is mission critical,” he said. “It’s good that this piece of the puzzle is starting. We know things are progressing and there is potential for a positive outcome, which is exciting. But we are still in a position that we don’t have a coaching staff, and there’s been no communication with the school. The coaching situation needs to get moving, but we also know that without the waiver we can’t even look to getting a new coach.”

Brunswick schools Superintendent Phil Potenziano previously said he began an internal investigation into the football program around Sept. 8 after he became aware of possible hazing, bullying or assault at the preseason team retreat.

A week later, Potenziano canceled the team’s homecoming game and placed head coach Cooper and assistant coach Greg Nadeau on non-disciplinary administrative leave.

The Brunswick High football team hopes to field a varsity program in 2022 after it presents an appeal to the MPA in mid-January. Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald

Then, on Oct. 6, Potenziano announced in a letter to the community that the season was over.

“I am writing with some regrettable news about our football season. I wanted first to inform you that Daniel Cooper is no longer affiliated with our athletic department,” Potenziano wrote at the time. “His departure, the removal of some players from the team, and the number of ineligible or injured players on the team have caused the administration and I to seriously evaluate our ability to safely field a team for the remainder of the season. After very careful deliberation, we have concluded that we cannot safely field a team and continue playing contests for the remaining three games of the season.”

Brunswick police announced in early November that there would be no criminal charges after its investigation into the alleged hazing incident.

Potenziano did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

Burnham said the MPA routinely hears a variety of appeals, although most are based on eligibility issues.

Some schools in Maine have had to cancel their varsity football seasons for a variety of reasons in recent years.

Camden Hills, for example, abruptly canceled its season after the third game of the 2015 season, citing safety concerns. Camden did not field a varsity team in 2016, but it returned in 2017 in a newly formed Class E, which was designed to help struggling programs stay competitive.

The MPA ultimately replaced Class E with eight-man football in 2019.

Traip Academy in Kittery couldn’t finish its varsity football season in 2017, also because of low numbers in the program.

However, the MPA Management Committee granted Traip an exemption for safety reasons as it, too, was competing in the developmental Class E.

“They were as supportive as they possibly could,” Traip athletic director Mike Roberge said.

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