Shocking Report Claims Massive Cheating by Perennial 3A Football Champ Bellevue
It's probably the MOST shocking and comprehensive case of cheating and rule breaking in decades in Washington State, and it could result in loss of state championships and other penalties.
Most Mid Columbia Conference 3A coaches at Kamiakin, Southridge, Kennewick and Hanford will take the high road when the subject of Bellevue comes up. But I can't help but think many are secretly rejoicing...sort of.
If you follow high school football, especially 3A or AAA, you've heard of the Bellevue Wolverines. They've won 11 state championships since 2001 under now embattled Coach Bruce Goncharoff. But now, after years of rumors, accusations and lots of money 'changing hands', the Washington State Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) appears ready to drop the hammer.
In 2015, the Seattle Times ran several stories about a "diploma mill" special school that many Bellevue High football players attended, so they could remain eligible, and wound up triggering a WIAA investigation into the program.
Bellevue is already one of the most affluent areas in the state, and their football booster club has been known to raise as much as $500,000 annually. But now, the WIAA investigation has turned up evidence making the program look like Oklahoma or SMU in the 1980's.
After decades of allegations of players illegally transferring, boosters paying for players tuition at this diploma factory, use of fake addresses for players so they could attend the school, and illegal payments to coaches, the WIAA hired two respected investigators, former federal prosecutors, to look into the program. The 68-page report included the following items, according to the Seattle Times:
- Top Bellevue Administrators willfully broke rules for decades or ignored allegations of wrongdoing, and worked to obstruct the WIAA investigation. They even destroyed residence records of former players who were believed to have lived outside the district.
- Player's families provided false addresses to the school so they could gain eligibility.
- Coach Goncharoff encouraged players to take courses at the controversial Academic Institute of Seattle so they could remain eligible. Transcript records reportedly show one player who got four "F" grades took courses at the private for-profit school, and then got A and B grades.
- Members of the Bellevue Football Club, the teams' boosters, paid the expensive tuition for players to attend this for-profit institution.
- Coaches were accused of recruiting or 'wooing' middle school players to try to find ways to attend Bellevue, especially if they were considered great prospects.
The report also indicates from testimony with former players and parents, that members of the booster club even paid cash in envelope's to players families to help with food and rent. Investigators also found one former player's address was actually a Mail Plus outlet in a nearby Bellevue Mall. Another family who was listed as the address for a player, said the athlete had never lived at their home!
Kamiakin is no stranger to the Bellevue program, having lost to them in the 2010 3A state title game, and in the state semi-finals in 2011. In 2015, Bellevue made it to the title game, falling to Eastside Catholic 48-42 in the championship. Neither Kamiakin or Kennewick, the two East Side representatives, played them in the playoffs.
In this week's NFL Draft, the latest Bellevue product, Myles Jack out of UCLA, was projected to be a First Round pick, but did not go on day one due to some physical injury questions. He too, was one of the players who attended the Academic Institute.
Some media experts, citing sources in the WIAA, say if the Bellevue investigation data is as damaging as it appears, it could result in probation for the program, coaches could be fired, there could be penalties or disbanding of the booster club, and they could be forced to forfeit some or all of their state titles, worst case scenario.
The WIAA has not stated what their exact next step will be.