Supporters of the Bellevue High School football team and its boosters Tuesday assailed the school board, independent investigators and school administrators for the way complaints about the football program have been pursued.
Supporters of the Bellevue High School football program filled a school board meeting Tuesday evening to air their grievances about how the team has been treated over the past year.
For more than 45 minutes, the outraged supporters criticized The Seattle Times for “tabloid” articles about the program, the district for initiating an investigation last year, and the investigators who were tapped to review the team.
The independent investigation of the Bellevue High football program found that its boosters paid for athletes to attend an alternative private school and that false addresses were used to help players gain eligibility, officials said in a news release last week.
The district said Tuesday it will make public the “comprehensive and lengthy” report by April 26.
Bellevue football investigation:
Some supporters said that the investigators, who were hired by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), had gone too far afield in looking into the storied football program and criticized the school district for failing to control what sorts of questions the investigators asked.
In front of a standing-room-only crowd, many of the speakers also questioned whether there was a racial motivation behind the investigation, contending that many of the players that were the subject of scrutiny were minorities.
“This is more than just football. It’s about being black in Bellevue,” said Michael Rogers, the father of a player. Marisa Spooner-LeDuff, the guardian of another player, told district leaders to resign, bluntly ending her remarks by telling them: “You’re racist.”
Tim Mills, the district superintendent, said during a break in the meeting that there was no racial motivation when the district called for the investigation last year.
Bob Westinghouse, a former federal prosecutor who was one of the investigators, said there also wasn’t any racial motivation or bias during the review.
“This is nothing more than trying to put together some sort of smoke screen to obfuscate the facts,” Westinghouse said.
“We’ll let the facts speak for themselves.”
Team supporters have been frustrated that school district officials summarized the report last week — that there is evidence to support problems in the program — but haven’t disclosed the whole thing.
Mills said in a letter to families Tuesday that the district was still reviewing the report, and conducting “due diligence” about its findings. Mills said private information had to be redacted before making the report public.
The school district requested that the WIAA, which governs high-school sports, review the Bellevue program after a Seattle Times story recounted that 17 Bellevue football players had attended The Academic Institute, an obscure program at a Bellevue office park that two former teachers had labeled a diploma mill.
If the findings in the WIAA report are confirmed, penalties could possibly range from probation to forfeiting state championships.