State asked to investigate Bellevue football program | District, Academic Institute contest points made in recent article

The Bellevue School District and the Academic Institute released separate statements this week clarifying, and in some cases refuting, claims made in a recent Seattle Times article that labeled the latter a "diploma mill" for Bellevue High School football players.

The Bellevue School District has requested the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association conduct a fact-finding investigation into the Bellevue High School football program after months of allegations and penalties against the program.

Bellevue High School and the Bellevue School District take allegations such as those included in the Seattle Times article seriously. The Bellevue School District has requested that the WIAA conduct a fact-finding investigation,” the district said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

The Bellevue School District and the Academic Institute released separate statements this week clarifying, and in some cases refuting, claims made in a recent Seattle Times article that labeled the latter a “diploma mill” for Bellevue High School football players.

According to a statement issued by the Academic Institute on Monday, Aug. 24, the Times’ article contained several incorrect statements, creating doubt about the school’s credentials and reputation, according to school director Jennifer Vice.

“Contrary to what was reported, athletes are a very small percentage of the students we serve, and they receive no special privileges,” she emphasized.

The small school went on to dispute statements made in the article that the institution was a “diploma mill” for Bellevue High School football players, that financial aid could be coordinated by persons outside of the Academic Institute, that parents or volunteers could alter students’ grades, and other claims.

The Bellevue School District released a statement on Aug. 25 clarifying a handful statements made in the article, including that the school district made several attempts to speak with private citizens during its investigation but were denied, that there are no plans to broadcast any Bellevue High School football games on ESPN, and that the district is working with the booster club to ensure alignment with the Bellevue School District mission and compliance with applicable policies and procedures.

Neither institution commented publicly on any other claims made in the Aug. 23 article.

The Bellevue High School football team has been under fire since the district announced on June 3 that the program had violated WIAA and district articles against off-season coaching and illegal recruiting.

Longtime Head Coach Butch Goncharoff was given a two game suspension and probation for his role in the WIAA violations. Another unnamed coach also received game suspensions and probation. The school’s football program will be on probation for three years, and the school will lose KingCo revenue shares this year and two additional school years (2014-2015, 2015-2016, and 2016-2017).

Two investigations were conducted into the program beginning last winter – one by the district, and another by attorney Shawn Ann Flood.

Flood began a third party investigation into claims made by an Academic Institute students and Bellevue High School football player that he had been verbally threatened by a trainer in the presence of multiple coaches and that Assistance Coach Jeff Razore had threatened to revoke the student’s Academic Institute scholarship.

“Jeff further said something to (redacted) to the effect that if he left Bellevue High School football, he would lose his scholarship at the Academic Institute,” the student alleged in the investigation report. Several of the incidents investigated in Flood’s report violated school and district policies.

The role of the Bellevue High School Booster Club has also come into question over the last few months.

All Bellevue football coaches will be required to undergo mandatory training over the next three years. No other actions have been taken against the football staff or the booster club at this time.


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