Bellevue Coach Butch Goncharoff: ‘This is a setup’
Jun 7, 2016, 11:38 AM | Updated: 10:37 pm
The Bellevue School Board was swarmed by passionate parents Tuesday urging members not to fire the high school’s coaching staff. And among the crowd making public comments was Coach Butch Goncharoff, who is at the center of the recent controversy around the football program.
“Look, you may not like me, you may not like the football club — I can live with that,” Goncharoff told the school board. “But don’t punish these kids. They did nothing. This is wrong; you know it’s wrong. Fight back. Somebody fight back.”
The district concluded its own investigation in the wake of a scathing investigation by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. That produced a range of allegations from illegal recruiting to suspicious financials. The district found that the coaches were excessively paid for summer football camps, which violates district policy. The coaches have argued against this finding.
To add to the controversy, on Tuesday the KingCo Conference — the organization that manages school sports activities — banned Bellevue High School’s football team from competing in any postseason games, meaning no titles for four years.
“…the investigators, turning over every rock, found no evidence of illegal recruiting,” Goncharoff said. “The district found no evidence of illegal recruiting. Yet the conference magically finds illegal recruiting? This has been a setup since day one … Where is due process?”
“The conference is wrong,” he said. “You know it’s a setup. Appeal and fight back.”
Bellevue School District Superintendent Dr. Justin (Tim) Mills announced Tuesday that he will appeal the KingCo Conference decision, saying it is too severe. Mills also questioned if the decision was based on any factual information. The district will appeal within five days, KIRO 7 reports.
No matter how well they do over the next four years, the Bellevue High School Wolverines football team won’t be going to the postseason.
The KingCo Conference banned Bellevue from postseason play as a punishment for the findings of an investigation that uncovered a series of violations at the powerhouse football program, including that coaches directed athletes to attend the school, that boosters paid for athletes’ tuition, that false addresses were used to gain eligibility and that coaches coordinated tuition payments for athletes.
On Tuesday, the Conference’s athletic directors finished an investigation into those findings. The directors say that the findings of the previous investigation into the football program were true and released a list of sanctions against the team.
In addition to the ban, Bellevue will not be able to compete for a title and the team will not be allowed to play non-league games for the 2016-17 season or play out-of-state opponents for four years. Coaches involved are suspended from the program and its feeder programs for two years and the Bellevue High School athletic department is on probation until the 2019-20 school year. The program will not be able to accept donations from outside public or private entities for four years.
There’s a possibility the program could forfeit KingCo titles if evidence supports it.
The Bellevue Wolverines have been one of the top prep teams in the country. Boosters for the team have argued that investigators skewed the facts to make the district look bad. The boosters even prepared their own examination into the WIAA’s original investigation.
MyNorthwest’s Dyer Oxley contributed to this article.