Gardner High School was stripped of its 2012 Central/South girls’ swim title and placed on probation for two years by the MIAA Monday after an investigation into the high school swim program revealed numerous violations of the bona fide team rule. The team also forfeited its regular-season wins.
A letter from MIAA board of directors chairman and Case principal Brian McCann said, “The conduct of your swim program has been of concern to the Board for many months . . . it appears that MIAA championships earned by your teams over the years, if this past year is any indication, were achieved by a non-school “club team” rather than an education based high school team.”
The letter was sent to Carol Daring, Gardner superintendent of schools. Gardner had won 16 state swim titles under coach Don Lemieux, also the director of the Greenwood Swim Club, and the focus of the MIAA investigation. After winning the sectional title in February, Lemieux was told he couldn’t attend the Division 1 state championship the next week. He resigned before the state meet and Monday’s announcement was the end result of a lengthy investigation by a subcommittee of the MIAA board of directors.
McCann’s letter detailed the multiple days swimmers were allowed to miss Gardner High practices because they were participating in club activities. According to MIAA rules, “bona fide members of a school team are precluded from missing a high school practice or competition in order to participate in a non-school athletic activity/event in any sport recognized by the MIAA.”
The letter continued: “The 2012 roster you submitted following our [August] meeting includes only one Gardner High School student who was not connected to the team through school choice, home schooling, or through a cooperating school. This is unusual. That roster also reflects that every member of your swim team (with one possible exception) was a member of the Greenwood Swim Club, another suggestion that your team was more reflective of a non-school club team than a school team.
“In light of the aforementioned, the subcommittee requires that all regular-season competitions in which ineligible members competed (by virtue of bona-fide team violations, home school ineligibility, etc.) be forfeited. In addition, the MIAA team trophy presented in conjunction with the MIAA 2012 Sectional Tournament must be returned to the Association, and that championship forfeited (given that most of the participants were likely ineligible due to bona fide team rule violations). We respectfully request that the actions described above be completed before the beginning of the winter season.
During the probation period, McCann said, “the school leadership needs to demonstrate to the MIAA Board of Directors better institutional control of the athletic program, and establish protocols that will ensure compliance with all local and Association policies.’’