The Brunswick High School varsity football program will be back in action for the 2022 season.

The school won its appeal to the Maine Principals’ Association’s Interscholastic Management Committee on Thursday morning, allowing the program to participate in the upcoming season and, should it qualify, in the playoffs. Brunswick was appealing a rule in the MPA handbook requiring that varsity teams that don’t complete their season wait two years before competing again.

The appeal was approved unanimously following a half-hour executive session.

“I’m just excited to have this page being turned,” Brunswick Athletic Director Aaron Watson said. “There are few 100 percent guarantees in life, so this was not a 100 percent guarantee. … We feel like we’ve made the right choices, we feel like we’ve done the right things, and we know now that we have done the right things from that incident, moving forward.

“There’s still work to be done, but this was a big thing that needed to happen.”

Brunswick superintendent Phil Potenziano released a statement after the decision.


“We are pleased that the committee understood these extenuating circumstances and saw fit to approve our request,” he said in the statement. “We are happy to get our student-athletes back to playing a sport that supports their physical health, well-being, and social development.”

Brunswick shut down its football season on Oct. 6 following an investigation into an alleged hazing incident at a preseason retreat. The Dragons, who had played in five of the previous six Class B state championship games, were 1-3 at the time of the shutdown.

The rule in the MPA handbook is Appendix Z, which states that “any member school which submits a game schedule in Heal point or Crabtree sports for a specific sport and does not complete that season’s schedule, will be prohibited from participating in varsity competition leading to postseason play in that sport for the following two years after that season.”

Watson and Potenziano handled the school’s appeal, with Watson pointing out several measures the school has enacted to try to prevent bullying or hazing incidents in the future. Watson said coaches will read the school’s policy to their teams and have athletes sign a hazing policy. He added the school will work with Bowdoin College on holding presentations about bullying and harassment.

Watson said the initiatives are geared toward “providing a playing field that’s free of bullying, harassment and hazing.”

“The sooner we can get to this and the sooner that we can get past this and turn the page, our community is going to be excited about seeing some of the things that we have done,” Watson said. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to do that as soon as possible, and show our student-athletes how serious we are about these initiatives.”


Watson and Potenziano described the effect the incident and its fallout had on the school and the community.

“We want to ensure that students feel welcomed and supported,” Potenziano said. “Our commitment to ensuring such an environment was rattled, or was challenged last year.”

“All of our student-athletes, not just the football athletes … have been through a lot with this unfortunate incident that occurred,” Watson said. “They’ve all been affected by this, negatively. They’re ready and anxious to turn the page.”

Watson said reinstating the varsity football program was key to that progress.

“The support to get football back is tremendous,” he said. “Folks do understand that we have to make some changes, and I think that those changes are going to be welcomed. The opportunity to have football back is going to heal a lot. It’s going to heal a lot of our community feelings and our students’ feelings.”

The committee asked Watson and Potenziano about the status of the program going forward, including whether Brunswick plans to play 11-man or eight-man football. Watson, who projected player turnout in 2022 as being between the low 30s and upper 40s, said the hope is to field JV and varsity programs and play 11-man, but that the decision isn’t final.

“There has been some discussion about eight-man,” Watson said to the committee. “There’ve been lots of talks about how this could be offered. No final decisions have been made at this point. I think a lot of that’s going to be based on what we hear here.”

Watson also spoke about the team’s process in hiring a new head coach, and elaborated on that topic after the appeal. Brunswick fired its previous coach, Dan Cooper, following the incident.

“This is going to be a pretty in-depth, maybe even more so than normal, hiring process,” Watson said afterward. “We do want to make sure that the person that takes over this program is crystal clear on the expectations that we have for all of our coaches, not just football. We expect them to be good citizens and good role models for our kids, and teach them great things. … We want this done as soon as possible, but we’re certainly at the same time going to take our time and go through the protocols and the stages of the hiring process here meticulously.”

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