The new head coach, who works at Amazon, was a volunteer assistant last season for the Wolverines. He won four state titles as a player at Bellevue.
Michael Kneip began his football coaching career by giving thanks.
The 2012 Bellevue High grad watched from afar as the Wolverines football program was investigated and penalized for multiple violations, resulting in the 2016 removal of his former coach, Butch Goncharoff.
Mark Landes, a former assistant, kept the program going the last two seasons. He resigned after leading the Wolverines to a Class 3A state-tournament semifinal finish. Kneip, a volunteer coach last year, was named his replacement in April.
“I texted (Landes) right away, thanking him for what he did for this program,” Kneip said. “He did an amazing job in my eyes in taking the blunt of the sword (that) gave me the ability to have a fresh start. The storm is weathered, and now we can go forward. If I have success either this year or next year, it’s because of coach Landes taking that initial hit.”
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Kneip, an offensive lineman, won four consecutive Class 3A state football tournament titles under Goncharoff. Kneip played at the University of Washington, graduating in 2016.
Only a month into his first coaching gig, Kneip, 24, has completed his staff and mapped out his practice schedule for the 2018 season.
“He’s young, but he’s got great enthusiasm and passion,” said John Hill, the school’s principal and new athletic director. “He brings an obvious honoring of the success and history of the school and also is very progressive in his (philosophy).”
Kneip, who works at Amazon, said he’s initiated plans to have the players do more community service and attend other Bellevue sporting events to show support for classmates.
Kneip said there are those who didn’t play the past two years because of the changes who have expressed interest in returning to the program. Coaches can begin offseason work with their teams June 4. The first day of practice is Aug. 15.
The Wolverines lost senior running back Isaiah Ifanse, who rushed for 2,485 yards and 44 touchdowns last season before signing with Montana State.
“With Isaiah, when you lose three-fourths of your offense from 2017, that’s a huge blow,” Kneip said. “You can’t really replace someone like that, but what good teams do is not reload but build discipline in the system that helps it take care of itself.”
That’s a tactic Kneip picked up from playing for Goncharoff, who guided Bellevue to 11 Class 3A state titles (two of which have been vacated) in 16 years with a 193-14 career record.
“I don’t know all of the details; I tried to stay away from it,” Kneip said of the investigation by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) that found violations of state rules. The probe followed a series of stories in The Seattle Times that detailed possible violations.
“(Goncharoff) created something extremely special,” Kneip continued. “People ask me what I take from all of that and (I say), he made us into really amazing men where when we went to college, we went and succeeded. That’s my biggest takeaway. And I tell these kids that my job is to make sure you’re prepared to go succeed.”