The Bellevue High School football team can make a return trip to the playoffs this year with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association voting to lift the team’s two-year postseason ban, the state’s governing body announced on Monday.
The former national powerhouse Wolverines were barred from reaching the postseason last year because of WIAA sanctions regarding the program’s recruiting and out-of-season coaching.
But there’s a cost: Bellevue will vacate its wins from 2012-14 – which include two state titles and another trip to the state championship and pay a $2,500 fine. The WIAA’s executive board voted in favor of the decision Monday, which comes two years after Bellevue’s longtime coach, Butch Goncharoff was removed from his job. He’s now coaching at Cedar Park Christian in Bothell.
“The Board recognized that there has been a culture shift at Bellevue High School with the changes that have been made to the program,” WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese said in a press release. “The change in sanctions is an effort to address the institution that was responsible for the violations committed.”
Bellevue won 11 state titles from 2001-16 behind Goncharoff and reached the state championship game two other years. Former special teams coach Mark Landes has since taken over the program that was once ranked as the top-ranked team in the country.
Bellevue’s vacated wins would include its 2012 district playoff win over Lincoln, which was coached by former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna, and a quarterfinal win over Peninsula. Bellevue beat Peninsula in the quarterfinals, again, in 2013 and then ran through Sumner and – again – Peninsula in the 2014 playoffs.
The school’s $2,500 fine will be applied to the WIAA’s coaches’ education and concussion-management programs, according to the WIAA. And Bellevue will also be required to report regularly to the WIAA’s executive board to show “institutional reform.”
Bellevue is ranked No. 5 in the 3A classification The News Tribune’s most recent state rankings and just came off a 35-21 win over the previously unbeaten defending 2A state champion Archbishop Murphy, which had opposing schools forfeiting to it last year.
The sanctions against Bellevue came following a series of Seattle Times articles, which prompted a WIAA investigation. That found that at least 42 transfer students contributed to Bellevue’s football team from 2008-15, and that some of their best players moved there from South Sound communities.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677