A year after historic Washington power Bellevue was hit with stringent penalties including a ban from the postseason for recruiting, another Seattle-area powerhouse may be in trouble for similar charges.
As reported by the Seattle Times, Garfield High is under investigation for the 2016 eligibility of running back Will Sanders, who allegedly should have been ineligible due to poor grades. He also allegedly arrived in Seattle from Texas without any relatives to stay with and spent the entire season shifting between the school’s track coach and parents of football players.
Sanders himself blew the proverbial whistle on Garfield after he allegedly returned home to Beaumont, in Southeast Texas, for the Thanksgiving break and was then rejected when he attempted to return following the brief leave.
“They told us they would pay for us to come back up after Thanksgiving,” Sanders told the Times in an interview, referring to himself and another youth from Beaumont. “But when I called, Coach Thomas starts giving us the runaround, and that was it. They just left us.”
The critical factor to determine how far reaching Garfield’s alleged violations stretch may be the validity of the origin story behind Sanders’ trek West. Sanders claims he was actively recruited by Garfield coach Joey Thomas, while Thomas and Garfield officials have thus far refused comment, citing the investigation.
This tweet from Thomas, showcasing a video of Sanders that the now former Garfield star said was the first anyone saw of his athletic prowess, lends some credibility to that storyline.
What happened after a former football parent initially connected Sanders with Thomas is at the core of the debate, as the Times set out:
The two boys arrived in Seattle in early September. Within days, Garfield’s then-Athletic Director Ed Haskins temporarily authorized Sanders to join the football team despite poor grades from Texas that would have made him ineligible.
The following month, school records show, Garfield Principal Ted Howard approved Sanders’ status as a homeless youth, which is considered a hardship and can allow students to play despite poor grades.
The team went on to an 8-2 season, its best in years. Sanders, who played in six of Garfield’s 10 games, is credited with five touchdowns and 574 total rushing yards.
Haskins has since left Seattle Public Schools and recently started work as an assistant basketball coach at Washington State University.
Where Garfield’s football future goes from here remains uncertain. The one thing that does appear concrete is that another Seattle power is in the hottest of hot water for potentially violating the WIAA’s recruiting regulations.