The Wolverines, who are in the second year of a two-year ban, will make their case at a meeting Sunday and hope to play in the playoffs this season.
Bellevue is seeking to lift its football postseason ban, again.
The school will have the backing of the Bellevue School District when it presents its case before the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) Executive Board at its September meeting on Sunday. Bellevue petitioned the WIAA to reverse its two-year postseason ban in March and was denied.
According to Mike Colbrese, the WIAA executive director, the board denied the petition because it didn’t know the position of the Kingco Conference and BSD, which imposed the original penalties. Multiple investigations found the Bellevue football program in violation of WIAA rules regarding recruiting and out-of-season coaching.
In May 2016, the football program was given a two-year postseason ban, which runs through this season. Bellevue also had to play a reduced schedule of six games last year and is banned from receiving help from an outside booster club until 2020.
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It is just the postseason ban Bellevue hopes to get lifted. The Wolverines are 2-1 to start the season and ninth in The Seattle Times Class 3A state rankings.
“The board felt in fairness to the league and school district, they (Bellevue High officials) had to get their input,” Colbrese said. “The board will make the decision on what to do with Week 10 (the first round of the playoffs) and they will be given the league and the district’s take on whether or not (Bellevue) should be allowed back in this year’s playoffs.”
BSD athletic director Jeff Lowell, BHS athletic director Lauren McDaniel, Bellevue football coach Mark Landes and Dan Sullivan, the program’s booster club president, are expected to speak before the WIAA board in support of lifting the postseason ban.
According to BSD spokeswoman Christina Wilner, it’s the district’s position that “any further enforcement of the ban would be unfair to students.”
Since the WIAA sanctions, Bellevue established boundaries with its new booster club while the district instituted additional oversight, revised policies and requires mandatory training for staff, the district said.
BSD also highlights its revamped football coaching staff as a show of good faith in changing the program. Landes was a special-teams coach on former coach Butch Goncharoff’s staff. The latter guided the Wolverines to 11 Class 3A state championships in 16 years with a 193-14 record. Goncharoff is currently the coach at Cedar Park Christian in Bothell, which is 2-1 to begin the season.
He and longtime assistant coach Pat Jones recently settled a suit against BSD through arbitration regarding 2016 back pay. The coaches were paid money owed from the postseason.
The Bellevue Coaches Association also won a suit against the district that resulted in a revision to the collective-bargaining agreement. Now, a 48-hour notice must be given before a violation of any kind is reported to the WIAA or Kingco. Within the time frame, the union and district must meet to hear the coach’s side of the issue. The change protects all coaches within Bellevue School District.
Jones, who is working with Wolverine Junior Football and writing a book about his ordeal, still has a defamation lawsuit against BSD pending. It is expected to go to trial in April 2018.
“I’m not sure what’s changed, but we’re going to listen to them and consider everything for sure,” said Pat McCarthy, vice president of the WIAA executive board.
A decision from the WIAA could come Sunday or Monday.