Statement from the Bellevue Wolverines Football Club, the booster group identified in the independent report commissioned by the WIAA on the Bellevue High School football program:
From the outset of this investigation, we pursued every possible avenue to vocalize serious concerns about the investigators’ extraordinarily blatant bias, coupled with their aggressive and prejudiced tactics used to develop this report. Now we have seen the report, and its contents not only confirm our concerns with the investigation, but they are significantly increased because of the investigators’ seriously flawed conclusions and profound misinterpretation of WIAA regulations.
To be clear, we believe that we did not violate any WIAA regulations. Moreover, we are proud of our BHS football community – and we are proud of our club’s commitment to the many causes we serve. We look forward to working with the Bellevue School District toward a fair resolution of this issue.
Tellingly, the report fails to provide any evidence to support allegations against BWFC and BHS football coaches. By its own admission, the report is based on “inferences rather than direct evidence,” and it is instead rife with errors, misinformation, rumors and the conjecture of the investigators. We believe the WIAA’s own fact-finding guidelines prohibit such sloppy methodology.
There are several examples of problems with the report’s careless conclusions:
• It is not the responsibility of BHS coaches to monitor players’ addresses.
o No WIAA rule requires coaches to investigate the validity of players’ addresses. That responsibility lies appropriately with the district. Yet, the report misplaces blame and goes as far as to accuse coaches and others of “cheating” in this regard.
• All BHS coaches have been compensated well within the WIAA’s rules.
o The report acknowledges payments to coaches to be “technically correct” under the WIAA’s rules, yet it goes out of its way to show cumulative payments over a 10-year span to make the report appear more inflammatory.
o The report is selective in its language and deliberately distorts the WIAA rule regarding coaches’ payments. The rule states: “Coaching stipends and all gifts to a coach exceeding a total of $500 in a season must be approved by the school’s board of directors.”
o The report omits this important “in a season” distinction covered by WIAA Rule 23.1.1, which allows payments to be made to coaches outside of the season, and for duties other than high school coaching.
o Indeed, the scope of Coach Goncharoff’s additional responsibilities fall far outside the football season, and encompass a wide range of youth programs, camps, player mentorship and other laudable activities.
• The Fort Worden annual summer football camp is not a “special inducement” for players, and thus does not violate WIAA Rule 27.1.0(A)(1).
o The Fort Worden camp has long been offered to football players as a joint effort of Bellevue High School and BWFC. The report suggests that other schools do not have team camps, which is patently wrong – many, many schools have team camps organized, funded and sponsored by booster clubs, with funds made available for students in need.
o The camp is coordinated and managed in partnership with Bellevue High School, which takes responsibility for reviewing and approving scholarships for all participants.
• The Bellevue Wolverines Football Club did not, nor did any coaches, pay The Academic Institute tuition for football players.
o It is undisputed that the BWFC has long supported The Academic Institute among its wide range of charitable causes, with unrestricted contributions. Its history of this support has been well documented following the rules and guidelines for nonprofits.
The report weakly insinuates that an email from The Academic Institute executive director Jennifer Vice, in which she confirms relying on support from BWFC contributions to help fund one student’s scholarship, proves a WIAA violation, but this is yet another example of the investigators’ reliance on inferences over evidence. It is hardly surprising that The Academic Institute chose to allocate some of the grant money it receives from BWFC to offset the tuition of student-athletes, and this violates no WIAA rule.
• Directing students to attend The Academic Institute is not a WIAA rule violation.
o Regardless of whether coaches encouraged students to attend The Academic Institute or not, doing so does not constitute a WIAA rule violation.
o The citations used by the investigators in this portion of the report have nothing to do with a coach’s role in helping student-athletes achieve academic success.
o Effective coaches take interest in their student-athletes’ performance on and off the field, and it is not outside the scope of a coach’s role to counsel a player on improving his or her grades.
There are many more examples of the report’s missteps, but most infuriating to us continues to be blatant harassment and disrespect of the families, students, volunteers and generous supporters within our community, at the hands of these investigators.
We are deeply troubled by the pain that innocent families have endured over the past 15 months. No family should be harassed, bullied, belittled, intimidated and especially discriminated against because of their race or background. We also believe the investigators’ methods, beyond those that resulted in the dismissal of one investigator, flagrantly violate the WIAA’s own guidelines regarding fact-finding conduct outlined in the WIAA 2014-2015 Handbook, Appendix 11.
While this process is far from complete, we are committed to working with the Bellevue School District and WIAA to ensure the Football Club and Bellevue coaches continue operating within the bounds of WIAA regulations, as we always have done.