Investigator: Parents say Sealth recruited daughters
Seattle Times staff reporters
Chief Sealth investigation at a glance
Previously: Chief Sealth senior Valerie Cook was ruled ineligible to play in this year's state championship tournament after school officials determined she and her family had lied about their residency. The news came during a broader investigation into recruiting allegations.
Thursday: Seattle School District investigator said parents have told him their daughters were recruited.
Next week: The district expects to complete its investigation.
Ultimately: Chief Sealth's coaches could be disciplined or fired. The team could be forced to forfeit games and possibly two state-championship titles.
The investigator examining possible recruiting violations at Chief Sealth High School says parents have told him their daughters were improperly recruited to play basketball. Some parents have even provided him fake lease agreements that were part of a scheme to deceive the district and enroll their daughters in the school.
The Seattle School District was supposed to complete its investigation of Chief Sealth girls basketball coach Ray Willis and his assistants, Amos Walters and Laura Fuller, by today. However, Eddie Hill, the district's investigator, said there are more interviews he needs to conduct. He and district spokesman Peter Daniels said they expect the investigation to be completed by the end of next week.
If the investigation finds evidence of recruiting or other wrongdoing, the coaches could be fired and the team could forfeit back-to-back state titles.
The investigation began after The Seattle Times reported Feb. 15 that coaches at the West Seattle public school recruited girls in violation of state athletic rules. Six of those girls helped Chief Sealth win a state title last year, and three led this year's team to another. Chief Sealth finished the season undefeated and ranked No. 9 nationally by USA Today.
More than a dozen parents, players and coaches independently gave detailed accounts to The Times of how girls were recruited in recent years to play at Chief Sealth, some as early as the sixth grade. Parents and players said they were promised starting spots and college scholarships to play for the school. Four parents said coaches even provided them the bogus lease agreements so their daughters could enroll in Chief Sealth without having to move from the suburbs.
"Nobody has changed their stories from what they told The Times," said Hill, who over the past month has interviewed many of the parents and players who talked to the newspaper.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), which oversees high-school sports in the state, strictly forbids coaches from recruiting or attempting to recruit athletes. Coaches can't offer enticements such as playing time or help getting college scholarships.
All three coaches denied any wrongdoing when interviewed by The Times.
Hill, a former Chicago police officer, said he is 80 percent done with his investigation but intends to interview at least five more people. He was asked by the district to interview about 40 people.
Parent Rebecca Rogers said Hill interviewed her for about two hours at her home on March 19. She says she gave him a detailed account of how the coaches recruited her daughter, Leah, then a 6-foot-2 sophomore at Renton High School.
Rebecca Rogers gave Hill a copy of a fake lease agreement and rental receipt she says the coaches provided so her daughter could establish residency in the Seattle School District without moving from their Renton home. Leah ultimately enrolled at Sealth and played her junior year there in 2003-04.
Except in rare circumstances, a student may play athletics at a school only if the family lives in the school district or the student passes an eligibility hearing after transferring schools.
Rebecca Rogers said Hill took five to six pages of notes during the interview.
"I felt he was interested in the truth and the facts," she said.
Another parent who had an extensive conversation with Hill was Darliene Boswell.
"He listened to what I had to say, he wrote stuff down," Boswell said of her March 9 meeting with Hill. "I told him exactly what I told [The Times]."
Boswell says her daughter, Denay, then a sophomore point guard at Mariner High School near Everett, was recruited by Walters with the promise of playing time and a college scholarship if she transferred to Chief Sealth.
Boswell said Walters even gave her a fake lease, which she used to enroll Denay at Chief Sealth while they were still living in Everett. Boswell also said Walters advised her that if anyone asked about the fake lease, she was to say Walters was her brother.
Before the school year started, the Boswells moved into an apartment in West Seattle, within Seattle School District boundaries.
In addition to interviewing parents, Hill also questioned Willis, Fuller and Walters. He said he expects to interview Willis again.
The investigation could result in discipline as serious as the firing of the coaches if findings reveal wrongdoing.
If the school district finds any rules violations, the Metro 3A League, of which Chief Sealth is a member, could impose other penalties against the school. Those could include fines, forfeiture of games and the loss of the team's two state titles.
Christine Willmsen: 206-464-3261
Michael Ko: 206-515-5653
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