Supporters of the Bellevue High football program, as well as its embattled coach, packed Tuesday night’s School Board meeting to urge school officials to fight back against sanctions imposed by athletic directors from the KingCo Conference.
An emotional Butch Goncharoff urged Bellevue School District officials Tuesday night to fight sanctions imposed earlier in the day by athletic directors from the KingCo Conference, including a ban on postseason play for four years.
Goncharoff was cheered by team supporters and players who packed a Bellevue School Board meeting. They repeated the coach’s questions about the fairness and legitimacy of several investigations that found numerous violations of league rules.
“This is wrong. This has been a setup since Day One. You may not like me. You may not like the football club. I can live with that. Don’t punish these kids. Fight back,” Goncharoff said to loud applause.
What could be coming for the Bellevue football program:
Next: Appeal within five days to KingCo
Then: Appeal to SeaKing District executive board
Finally: Appeal to WIAA executive board
Several parents of football players also urged the School Board to challenge the sanctions.
Bellevue football investigation:
“No playoffs? No out-of-league games? You might as well tell eighth-graders there will be no Bellevue football for four years. Can you stand up to KingCo if for no other reason than that the kids did nothing wrong?” asked Dale Echigoshima.
Other parents called for Goncharoff’s immediate reinstatement. The coach is on administrative leave following a district investigation that concluded he wasn’t truthful about payments he received from boosters and other organizations. District officials have recommended that he be terminated, but no action was taken at Tuesday’s meeting.
Only one parent, who was at the meeting to speak in support of special-education funding, suggested that the district’s focus should be on education.
Bellevue School Superintendent Tim Mills said the district would appeal the KingCo sanctions. He criticized KingCo for not providing any specific factual information to support its decision.
“We believe that these sanctions are too severe and not in line with previous sanctions of similar violations,” Mills said. He also questioned why the entire Bellevue athletic department would be on probation for four years when no allegations have been made against other sports teams.
“To put those programs on probation is astounding to us,” Mills said.
Following the public-comment period, one former player voiced his support for Goncharoff and the program.
“I hope the truth comes out,” said Nyonza Musinguzi, who graduated last year. “Bellevue football has done nothing wrong. All Butch did was help kids.”