Bellevue (Wash.) football has been banned from the postseason for four years by the KingCo Conference following an extensive investigation that uncovered multiple violations, including illegal recruiting, money provided to players’ families, payments to coaches without approval of the district, and the use of false addresses by players to be eligible.
One of the most successful programs in Washington — winning 11 state titles in 15 years — Bellevue football also cannot accept donations from outside sources for four years. That includes money and equipment. That follows allegations against the Bellevue booster club.
KingCo also set greater oversight and restrictions on transfers for the next two years; banned Bellevue from playing out-of-state opponents for four years; and barred the program from playing non-league games and limited the program to only 3A league games for two years. The Bellevue athletic department is on probation for four years.
Left still to be determined is whether Bellevue will be forced to forfeit its state titles.
“This begins the discussion of the penalty phase of the violations, and there are several steps working through that process,” Mike Colbrese, WIAA executive director, told The Seattle Times.
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Bellevue had issues a 68-page report in which it outlined violations and suggested sanctions.
Bellevue can appeal to the KingCo principals within five school days and then can take appeals further to the executive board of the SeaKing District and potentially the executive board of the state association.
School district officials have already said they are seeking to terminate the contract of longtime coach Butch Goncharoff for violating district policies.
In a statement, Goncharoff said, “This is another example of the incredibly flawed process that has been guiding this investigation for months. There are absolutely no facts to support KingCo’s conclusion — they have foolishly relied on the false inferences of the WIAA’s original report.
“Further, let me reiterate that I was completely cleared by my district of any wrongdoing, and then was denied the right to articulate my case to this conference. But worst of all, this decision is unfair to the players who are the heart and soul of this program. To deny them the ability to compete with their peers is wrong and goes against every principle of youth sports.”
In response to the penalties, the booster club said, in part:
“It appears the conference adopted – without a critical eye — the flawed rule interpretations and false inferences on which the WIAA report was based … Supporting athletics, the arts, and other extracurricular activities is precisely what the community should be doing, and the conference’s action sets a precedent that should raise a red flag to everyone. We will continue to defend our right, and the right of booster clubs around the state, to make these activities available to kids.”