The KingCo Principal Executive Board said it didn’t have the authority to ban Bellevue High from postseason play. It also moved to increase sanctions on some coaches found to have violated coaching-pay rules.
A board of principals reduced some sanctions levied against the Bellevue High School football team and threatened to permanently expel the program if it doesn’t clean up its act.
The KingCo Principal Executive Board said Friday that it doesn’t have the authority to ban the school from the postseason — as a lower panel proposed last month — but continues to recommend that the school not be eligible for the playoffs. An appeals process may leave the ultimate decision to the executive board of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
The KingCo principals also removed some sanctions from Bellevue’s junior-varsity program and will allow that team to play in non-league games over the next two seasons while upholding a ban requiring the varsity team to play only within the league. A panel of athletic directors also had placed the entire Bellevue High athletic program on probation, but the principals changed that to apply only to the football team.
Bellevue School District officials, while acknowledging some violations, have sought to limit sanctions against the program. In its appeal, the district was represented by Rob McKenna, the former state attorney general and Republican candidate for governor in 2012.
Bellevue football investigation:
While lessening some sanctions, the KingCo principals moved to increase sanctions on coaches, suggesting that coaches found by the school district to have violated coaching-pay rules should be banned for four years. That’s up from two years proposed by a panel of KingCo athletic directors.
But the school district recently backtracked on its plan to terminate coach Butch Goncharoff and placed him on non-disciplinary administrative leave, so it wasn’t immediately clear whether the sanctions would apply to him.
Lake Washington High Principal Christina Thomas, who led the KingCo board review, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
The board wrote that it looked at alternatives to lessen the impact of the sanctions on students while maintaining consequences for adults. But it said sanctions that affect students are only “because their leaders at the Bellevue School District, including the Bellevue High School administration and coaches, failed to pay attention or intentionally violated WIAA rules.”
The committee expressed frustration with the district’s handling of the independent investigation — which had accused officials of obstructing the process. The principals said if the district doesn’t take “significant steps” to improve its self-reporting and cooperation “that KingCo should consider to remove the football program from the KingCo Conference.”
The board also asked the school district to consider paying for the cost of the WIAA’s independent investigation “to show good faith and sportsmanship.”
Those independent investigators began their work last year following a Seattle Times story that described how numerous Bellevue players had taken classes at The Academic Institute, a private alternative school that former teachers described as a “diploma mill.”
Bellevue later proposed some self-sanctions for violations it found, such as a suspension of its relationship with the football booster club. It appealed after athletic directors handed down stiffer penalties.
The process now will go to the SeaKing District, which has a chance to review the sanctions. Bellevue also can appeal to that level. There is another layer of appeal to the district directors panel before ultimately getting to the WIAA executive board.
The WIAA executive board is the only body that can decide whether Bellevue will be banned from the postseason, WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese said. Regardless of whether an appeal reaches the executive board, if the district panels uphold the recommendation that Bellevue be banned from the postseason, Colbrese said the WIAA executive board will decide whether to implement the ban.