SEATTLE (CN) — A Seattle-area high school football team may have to forfeit the 11 state championships it’s won since 2011, as an investigation claims it used ineligible players, falsified their addresses and let boosters pay their tuition at a so-called “diploma mill.”
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association and the Bellevue School District sponsored an independent investigation into the Bellevue High School football team after a series of Seattle Times articles raised serious ethical questions.
Seattle’s largest suburb, Bellevue, pop. 125,000, is across Lake Washington from Seattle.
The Times reported that 17 Bellevue High football players attended the Academic Institute, a private school that two former teachers called a “diploma mill.”
Under WIAA rules, students who attend a private school with no football team can play for any public school team in their home district. Bellevue High School allegedly let football players who could not academically qualify to play sports take classes at the Academic Institute to cinch passing grades and play football for Bellevue.
The WIAA and the Bellevue School District issued a joint statement about the findings of the investigation, but did not make the report available.
The investigation found that coaches told players to attend the Academic Institute, boosters paid for their tuition there, players used false addresses to gain eligibility, and coaches coordinated tuition payments for players.
The investigation found there was not enough evidence to support claims that players received subsidized housing to gain eligibility, according to the joint statement.
“Our mission is to ensure that all students in the state are competing on a fair and level playing field,” WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese said in the statement.
The Bellevue School District said it is “committed to a thorough review and a timely response to all information included in the fact-finding report.”
The WIAA and the school district said they would not provide additional statements or comments.
Penalties for the violations could include probation and/or forfeiture of state championships.
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