Gardner, Mass. (FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) Gardner Mayor Mark Hawk has returned the trophy at the center of an ongoing dispute between Gardner High School and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.
On Wednesday, the MIAA announced that all Gardner High School winter sports teams are banned from playoffs after an incident involving the school's swim team. In a letter obtained by FOX 25, MIAA officials say the action is a result of the high school's failure to return the trophy awarded to the swim team for their 2012 sectional win.
The MIAA Board warned Superintendent Carol Daring about additional sanctions including rejecting Gardner's MIAA membership for the 2013-2014 academic year if the trophy was not returned by March 5.
The swim team's title was revoked in October after it was alleged that the team broke MIAA rules by allowing members to skip practice or competition for non-school athletics in a sport the association recognizes. Mayor Hawke returned the trophy to the MIAA on Thursday morning. MIAA officials say no one will be recognized for winning the 2012 swimming title.
Shortly after the swim team's title was revoked, the Worcester Telegram reported that Mayor Mark Hawke said if the MIAA wanted the trophy they'd have to pry his "cold dead, hands from around it."
Mayor Hawke tells FOX 25 the comment was a joke.
"Yes, that's Charlton Heston," says Mayor Hawk about his comment. "Now I have a new Charlton Heston quote, 'let my people go.' Let my kids compete because they have done nothing wrong."
The MIAA Executive Director Richard Neal says they gave Gardner school administrators three deadlines, but they ignored them all.
"The school leadership played Russian roulette with their kids," says Neal. "They're the adults responsible for their kids program and they decided to behave as they did."
The mayor says they will appeal the MIAA's decision. If that doesn't work, Gardner officials are prepared to take them to court.
The MIAA says they don't believe it's possible to appeal this decision.