Staff photo

Staff photo

Update: Committee upholds two-year probation, post-season restrictions for Bellevue football team

The Bellevue School District announced Tuesday that they will not appeal the most recent decision on penalties against the Bellevue High School football team, including suspending them from post-season play for the next two years.

The Bellevue School District announced Tuesday that they will not appeal the most recent decision on penalties against the Bellevue High School football team, including suspending them from post-season play for the next two years.

The Bellevue School District appealed some of the penalties stemming from the six-months-long investigation into the program a second time earlier this month. They contested decisions on post-season play and non-league games, as well as a four-year moratorium on donations from outside public or private entities.

The Sea-King District Two Executive Board announced their decision upholding most of the sanctions on Aug. 4, though some of the penalties were amended.

The Bellevue Wolverines football team will be on probation for the next two years and the team will be unable to receive any donations, according to documents. All transfer students during that time will also require approval from the Sea-King District 2 Eligibility Committee.

But, the team will be allowed to play a non-league game against Tumwater in 2016. The board also amended an earlier decision denying the team post-season play through 2019. The Wolverines will now only be restricted from competing in the state playoffs for the next two years.

School administrators presented their second appeal to KingCo officials on Aug. 2. In it, they took responsibility for violations that occurred, but maintain that the third-party investigation conducted by Carl Blackstone and Bob Westinghouse included unverified conclusions.

“BHS/BSD accepts responsibility for violations of WIAA rules that are supported by verified fact and evidence, not based on the lack of evidence or innuendo, rumor, supposition or adverse inference,” a letter accompanying the appeal read.

The WIAA investigation conducted by Blackstone and Westinghouse uncovered “significant and long-standing violations,” many supported by documents and interviews with present and former players and coaches. Some, however, were based on inferences rather than direct evidence, the investigators reported.

Blackstone and Westinghouse also alleged that the school district attempted to interfere with their investigation.

Following the investigation, KingCo officials handed down a series of penalties, including the recommendation that the team be put on four years’ probation and be ineligible to play in any post-season games during that time.

Also included with the most recent appeal was a memorandum from former Attorney General Rob McKenna and attorney Brian Moran. In their review of the WIAA investigation report, McKenna and Moran state that the Bellevue School District did not obstruct the investigation and that the investigators failed to maintain a neutral fact-finding role.

“The investigators apparently approached their task determined to support their initial hypothesis — that the BHS football program was cheating, and BSD helped,” the memorandum reads.

The committee did not address the report in their most recent decision. The group also did not take a position on whether the team will be able to keep titles earned with the participation of students who may have been illegally recruited. Whether there is any cause for further investigation of potential past recruiting violations is a decision for the WIAA and Bellevue High School, the board concluded.

Following last week’s decision, the district announced that they were satisfied that the impact of students who were not involved in any violation of WIAA rules was lessened and that they will be focusing on moving forward.

“At this time, in consideration that the majority of our appeal requests have been granted and have been successful in achieving the least possible impact on current students based on past precedent, we do not expect to appeal this decision and are looking forward to rebuilding our football program and healing our community,” their statement read.

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