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Bellevue High School’s football program has ‘gone too far’

An independent investigation found a series of potential violations on the Bellevue High School football program. (AP)
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It might not be much of a surprise to some that a successful football program has found loopholes to keep its success rolling. But just how far it has gone, might be a bit too far.

The Bellevue High School Wolverines, one of the top prep teams in the country, are using a 40-student private school to farm talent for the program, The Seattle Times reports.

Related: Bellevue head football coach suspended, team on probation

Students become eligible to play for the Wolverines by traveling to The Academic Institute, Inc., which costs $1,750 per month for four classes. By attending a private school in Bellevue that doesn’t offer football, students living outside the high school’s boundaries are allowed to play for the Wolverines.

The fact that students from private school are playing for a public school team is nothing new. It’s an option that gives students more opportunities. However, The Academic Institute is being called a “diploma mill” that doesn’t meet education standards.

People are already cynical about prep sports, this just makes things worse, 710 ESPN Seattle’s Mike Salk said.

“This in no way surprises me,” Salk continued. “This confirmed everything I believe programs have been doing to keep consistency.

“Almost every day, week, or month there’s something out there to make you more cynical than you already are.”

The questionable recruiting tactics seem almost absurd for a program that gets so much public support already. The booster club raised more than $400,000 in 2013 to cover things such as travel expenses and uniforms, the Times reports. That alone creates an imbalance with other programs, 710 ESPN Seattle’s Brock Huard pointed out.

The Wolverines have won 11 state championships in the past 15 years with the help of at least 17 students from the private school over seven years, according to the Times. Some students have had their tuition paid for, at least in part, by supporters.

It’s natural that a successful program would continue to draw talented players, Brock said. His father, Mike, had a lengthy and boast-worthy coaching career, which included Puyallup High School, where he led the team to nine championships. That success drew people from outside the area, Brock explained. People would actually move to live within the school’s boundaries so their children could play football there.

A great program that draws more people to the school district is one thing, but a program that sacrifices education to ensure more championships is another.

“This seems like it’s gone too far,” Salk said.

It’s unlikely the Bellevue High School football team is the only program doing this, Salk said. However, if other programs are doing it too, does that make it justifiable?

Correction: A previous version of this report did not clarify the tuition rate at The Academic Institute, Inc. Tuition costs $1,750 per month, according to The Seattle Times.

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