A father of two female former Bellevue High School student-athletes says the Bellevue Wolverine Booster Club's win-at-all-costs mentality has to be stopped now.
I remember the director of coaching for a premier soccer club being asked by a parent what his daughter should be doing to ensure she could play college soccer. The director’s response was as simple as it was direct: “Tell her to do her homework.”
The foundation of youth sports has always been to help prepare kids for life beyond. Athletes learn the importance of being on time. They learn the importance of hard work, of team work and of dedication. They learn that sometimes their best isn’t good enough and that life isn’t always fair. Overriding all of this, they learn that rules are made and there are consequences when those rules are broken.
Unlike any other varsity sport, if a child wants to play football, he has to play for his high school. There are no club programs outside of the school. Your high school is the main avenue to being seen by a college scout. If you live in Washington, only a few programs attract the most attention from scouts. Bellevue High School is certainly one of those programs.
As a father of two former Bellevue High daughters, I have never had direct contact with the football program. I’ve known many young men who grew up playing in the Wolverine football system and were part of it through high school. I took local pride in former NFL player Stephen Schilling’s success and am excited to see how far former UCLA star Myles Jack gets. I admired how hard these young men worked, whether on the practice field or the weight room, to be their best. I remember a Seattle Times story from 2004 that followed the team to a preseason team-building retreat, replete with tears from bonding exercises. It exemplified the good that can come from team sports. Like any athletes, those football players wanted to win. And so they worked harder.
Bellevue football investigation:
Unfortunately, it appears from news accounts that the program has been hijacked by a group of boosters and coaches more concerned with winning than with following Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) guidelines. They seem to hold their athletes to one standard while operating with another, lower standard. For a decade, I had friends and acquaintances with sons in other schools bend my ear about Bellevue’s “recruiting” of players. I always shrugged it off as sour grapes, even though I knew of at least one young man from out of the area who lived with another player’s family.
Now these same boosters and coaches, after having been independently investigated and reportedly found guilty of WIAA rules infractions, are crying foul. They have hired a public-relations firm to take their case to the public. They organized a rally at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue auditorium to drum up support. They walk through the Bellevue QFC wearing T-shirts saying “Back off Butch.”
According to news reports, some are even going so far as to accuse the investigators of racism. In my opinion, it is much more racist to rob a kid of an education by enrolling him in a school that has been described as a “diploma mill,” ensuring that when his high-school football career is over he is left with a subpar education, than it is to deny him the opportunity to play football for a program outside his neighborhood.
About 10 years ago, several Bellevue football players verbally harassed a female student athlete. The incident was reported to Bellevue football coach Butch Goncharoff by the coach of another sport. I was told that Goncharoff sat his players down and said if he ever heard of another instance like that it would be that player’s last day of football at Bellevue.
That was a coaching opportunity. That was a life lesson those young men can look back on for direction throughout their lives. The defenders of today’s rule-breakers are ignoring the injustice being meted out on the athletes who work so hard to do their best.
From all appearances, the Bellevue Wolverine Football Booster Club has run amok. It is time for the Bellevue High School administration, Bellevue School Board, and the WIAA to stand up to this group. Most important, it is time for the parents of current and future Wolverine football players to say that this microcosm of life called sport must be one of integrity and character — not win at all cost, integrity and character be damned.
Sure, it’s fun to pick up the paper late in the summer and see your football program nationally ranked. But if that ranking is attained by cheating the system, it has also come at the price of cheating the players out of having earned it.
Jeffrey B. Pyatt, 56, has lived in Bellevue for 22 years and had two daughters attend Bellevue High School. Pyatt, who is a Seattle real-estate lender, served on the board of a premier soccer club, including two years as board president.
Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.