Senate bill could rein in WIAA after Bellevue High football investigations

BELLEVUE, Wash. -- Rumors and whispers brought the investigations -- and eventually punishment for Bellevue High School’s football team.

Two years removed from the beginning of the recruiting scandal, and now one year into a four-year postseason ban, emotions are still raw.

“Who's going to represent the kids? This is what this is about. And if anybody thinks this is not about race, they`re mistaken. And it's on you to take control of the situation,” former coach James Hasty told the state Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor & Sports.

GOP leaders in the Senate wanted the hearing on a bill to wrest control from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

That powerful agency is a nonprofit that organizes and runs student athletics in Washington.

But it's not really public.

After claims that boosters from Bellevue High School were paying teens to play football at the school, many families went under the microscope

Students like Antonio Hill felt the investigations into his family and others went too far by getting personal about their finances and history.

“Felt it was really unfair, because we moved up there for a reason. Not just for sports. We came for better opportunities,” Hill said.

WIAA hit back, saying the allegations required private investigators to root out payments and enticements made to athletes by boosters and coaches.

“If you find something that looks wrong, you've got to keep digging,” said executive Mike Colbrese.

He admitted that harsh sanctions can be tough to handle, though.

“How do you punish and create situations when the people who created the violations, which are documented and Bellevue accepted as violations? How do you take care of them when they're gone?” he asked.

So stalled legislation may get new life -- and more transparency for kids who just want to play for the love of the game.

“These kids didn't do anything wrong. So what`s the point of Antonio not playing? It doesn't make any sense to me,” said former coach Pat Jones.

The WIAA accountability bill did not get past a committee vote, but is expected to be reintroduced during the next legislative session that begins in January.