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Tuesday, June 13, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Chief Sealth will appeal penalties

Seattle Times staff reporters

Chief Sealth High School, which broke numerous recruiting rules to build an undefeated girls basketball team, will tell the state athletic association next month why it shouldn't have to forfeit its two state championships.

In a June 9 letter to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), the Seattle School District disagreed with sanctions meted out by the Sea-King District board. Those sanctions included stripping Chief Sealth of the 2005 and 2006 district titles and recommending that the WIAA yank the state titles the team earned in those years.

The Sea-King District also decided the team must forfeit all of its district tournament games for the last two years, and it banned Chief Sealth from playing in next year's district tournament. The sanctions are the most severe penalties imposed so far in the largest high-school recruiting scandal in state history.

The WIAA executive board, which oversees high-school sports in the state, will hear Chief Sealth's appeal of those penalties July 24. The public meeting starts at 2:30 p.m. at WIAA headquarters, 435 Main Ave. S., Renton.

The Seattle School District in April found that Chief Sealth coach Ray Willis and assistants Laura Fuller and Amos Walters lured five players to the school with promises of starting spots and college scholarships — all in violation of state high-school athletic rules, which don't allow recruiting of any kind.

That investigation was prompted by a Seattle Times story Feb. 15, which detailed how the coaches recruited girls for more than three years, sometimes providing fake lease agreements so parents could enroll their daughters at the school without having to move from the suburbs.

Seattle school administrators recommended the team be placed on a two-year probation, during which Chief Sealth could play without restrictions unless coaches recruited again. That decision was upheld last month by the Metro League, but the Sea-King District — a higher governing body — strengthened the penalties.

"I think the penalties are unreasonably harsh," said John Boyd, Chief Sealth principal.

Boyd said the Metro League's principals and athletic directors met for 2 ½ hours to come to their decision.

"We had a spirited, honest conversation about what we thought was fair," he said. "Sea-King [board] met for a matter of minutes. This is a fairly complicated issue that takes some time to unravel. I really feel the girls on the team deserve a fair process."

Seattle School District spokeswoman Patti Spencer said, "We do take this matter very, very seriously. We [already] imposed a series of sanctions we judged to be appropriate — primarily, to penalize the adults who violated the rules. The Sea-King sanctions appear to impose severe penalties on the students."

The school district also decided not to renew the contracts of the three coaches, and it recently denied their appeals. Willis will keep his job as a counselor at the school, Spencer said.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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