After a record run of 11 state titles in 16 years, the Bellevue High School football team will not play in postseason games for the next four years if a KingCo Conference ruling is upheld.
The ruling came after evidence that the program committed several violations, including creating false addresses for athletes to gain eligibility, having boosters pay athletes’ tuition and coaches coordinating payments for athletes.
KingCo reviewed sanctions that the Bellevue School District had proposed for itself following the findings of an independent 68-page report that discovered wide-ranging rules violations within the program.
KingCo ruled the Bellevue football program cannot receive any donations for four years, including money, equipment and products from outside entities.
As to whether Bellevue should have to forfeit its record number of state titles — including six consecutive from 2009-14 — the conference left that to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
Other KingCo sanctions include limiting Bellevue football to league games only for 2016 and 2017, and not allowing games versus out-of-state opponents through 2019.
High school athletes hoping to transfer to Bellevue will be required to submit a “residency packet” — including copies of purchase/sale agreements or rental contracts from properties located inside the Bellevue High School service area — prior to the transfers being reviewed and approved by KingCo officials.
Bellevue boosters released a statement challenging the conclusions reached by KingCo and condemning the severity of the sanctions Tuesday afternoon.
“The four-year penalties will fall mainly on kids who had nothing to do with this dispute,” the statement read in part. “Robbing our kids’ right to compete is not the solution, nor is depriving them of the ability to receive the same booster support that other area teams receive.
“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,” it continued. “We will continue to defend our right, and the right of booster clubs around the state, to make these activities available to kids.”
Tuesday’s announcement comes nearly two weeks after the Bellevue School District placed head coach Butch Goncharoff on administrative leave and suggested he be fired after he “knowingly and repeatedly” violated the district’s policies regarding “direct financial interest in any activity that conflicts with his/her duties and/or responsibilities.”
Bellevue schools alleged Goncharoff earned more than $420,000 in additional income since 2009 for duties directly related to his position as BHS football coach, then lied about it to supervisors.
The Seattle Times had reported that Goncharoff and staff were accused of developing a close relationship with alleged “diploma mill” Academic Institute in order to ensure the eligibility of key players on the football team.
Bellevue will be allowed to appeal the ban at the district and state levels.