Friday news….

Good Friday morning. Today may be the day student athletes all over Washington will find out for certain whether there will be a fall high school sports season.

We were told by a source last night the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association is expected to have some kind of an announcement later today about the Student Athletes of Washington’s push to have Washington’s high school sports governing body reverse its July decision to move fall sports to next spring as the state continues its fight against COVID-19. The student group, which includes Mount Si High School’s Cole Norah, met last night with Governor Jay Inslee and WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman in a last-ditch effort most likely to allow fall sports to occur as scheduled this fall.

SAW did not officially announce anything, so we are left with what the source told us last night, and based on that, we would look for the WIAA Executive Board to have a meeting of some kind this morning, a possible vote, then the announcement would follow that meeting.

It is possible a Washington restart may look similar to that of Colorado. That state Wednesday night, with intervention from their governor, Jared Polis, and state health officials, partially reversed its decision to play football in the spring of next year, allowing districts the choice to do their fall sports now or next spring. However, according to Denver’s KUSA-TV, there’s a lot of strings attached. Among them: caps on the number of participants for each team, strict mask-wearing and social-distancing requirements, and limits on where participants can go (they must stay on the field at all times and not go into stadium bleacher areas to meet with family members or friends). Such restrictions, if that becomes the plan here in Washington, will render it unworkable for most if not all larger schools in the state, including those in the Kingco and Wesco Conferences, so if this is what is adopted here, we would look for Mount Si and Cedarcrest High Schools to remain as spring season programs, with schools mostly in eastern Washington likely able to do it this fall.

In a related development, the governor yesterday put cold water on one of the demands SAW had made of him in their list of requests they had made prior to yesterday’s meeting – the one regarding resumption of allowing counties to advance in the phased COVID-19 state restart plan. SAW had asked for this to resume, but the governor, according to KOMO’s Keith Eldridge, shot that down, suggesting that other metrics are also being looked at in addition to the main metric of positive cases per 100,000 people in a given county, and that there is still too much uncertainty about where things will go. So we’ll see. If this becomes a campaign issue in the governor’s race where Inslee is facing a perhaps stiffening challenge in his re-election bid from Republican challenger Loren Culp, the police chief of the small northeast Washington town of Republic in Ferry County, this could change.

But in the meantime, we all wait. We all hope, but we all want to salute the kids for their hard work these past couple of weeks. If we find anything out, we’ll let you know via our Twitter feed @snovalleysports. So give that a follow if you would and we’ll have all of the news there as we get it.

Also this morning:

Bellevue High School’s football program profiled in new book
A matter which has, and perhaps forever, will rub some Mount Si High School football supporters the wrong way is getting play in a new book.

The controversies and scandal surrounding Bellevue High School’s football program and their period of success in the 2000’s and 2010’s, matters which enveloped Mount Si heavily as rivals of the Wolverines in Kingco’s 3A conference back then, are being profiled in “Did the Truth Even Matter? The Real Bellevue Football Story.” The book is written by former longtime Wolverine assistant coach Pat Jones, who was a central figure in a lot of those issues during that time. There is much discussion in this book regarding the 2015 Seattle Times article which spawned a WIAA investigation, and that same investigation as well, challenging a number of things about both the story and investigation, among them alleged conflicts of interest associated with the two former federal prosecutors the WIAA had hired to do that investigation.

It apparently is the first of a series of three books that will be released addressing this subject, with the next book set to be released at a later date.

This book was released two weeks ago and you can buy it on Amazon for $22 hard copy and free with a Kindle device. It’s a long read, some 500 pages worth.

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Thursday news and discussion

Good Thursday morning. We have more discussion this morning on the continuing efforts of Washington high school student-athletes to get a fall sports season this morning.

As we told you earlier this week, the Student Athletes of Washington have a meeting this morning with Governor Jay Inslee, Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Executive Director Mick Hoffman and perhaps one or two others as they continue to make the case for fall high school sports. The group, which includes Mount Si High School’s Cole Norah, has also scheduled a rally for Sunday outside the WIAA’s office in Renton. However, it is expected that the meeting today may decide once and for all if there will be a fall sports season this fall or whether the decision made by the WIAA back in July to move the fall sports to the spring of next year as the state continues its fight against the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus will remain in place.

The news out of Minnesota that we told you about yesterday also has some importance to Washington athletes’ efforts. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Minnesota State High School League has scheduled a meeting for Monday to discuss potentially allowing football and volleyball, fall sports that state shifted to next spring back in August, to take place this fall, this after the newspaper Tuesday night, as we told you yesterday, reported discussions had taken place during a league board workshop regarding that possibility.

It is not clear officially, but the decision on this meeting and possible change may stem from the lawsuit that we also told you about yesterday as well that was filed by student-athletes in the state. The Star-Tribune reported the athletes are contending that the league’s board did not have the authority to change the season schedule, instead that power was delegated to their Representative Assembly, a group made up of athletic directors and other high school administrators around the state, in essence suggesting the decision was in violation of the league’s bylaws. This is where Washington comes into play.

Washington’s governance structure is very similar in high school sports to that of Minnesota’s. The WIAA has an Executive Board, but it also has a Representative Assembly which meets in the spring to vote on rule changes for the coming school year in high school sports. Those of you who are longtime readers of this blog know what it is we speak of as we have done a number of stories in the past about this assembly and rules change proposals. So, it is possible that if the meeting does not bear the results SAW is seeking today, they could go to court to seek action that way on these same grounds. However, WIAA’s bylaws are clear on this topic.

Rule 8.12 in the bylaws deals specifically with the responsibilities of the Board, and subsection 5 of that rule allows for the board to establish a yearly calendar of events including the beginning and ending dates for sports seasons. So any court challenge by SAW against the WIAA on Minnesota-style grounds would likely not go too far here. However, as for Minnesota’s case, we checked their state organization’s bylaws and they don’t appear terribly clear on this subject. So there is a chance a judge tomorrow when the case is heard could rule in favor of the kids on this one, and if they do, we’ll be sure to let you know. But there, too, is as much a chance of the kids not winning as well, especially if the court determines it does not have jurisdiction there. The Minnesota kids’ suit was filed in Hennepin County courts in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, elsewhere around the country, Connecticut high school officials announced they had reaffirmed their earlier decision to move football to spring of next year in that state. There were heavy protests last week in Hartford from athletes calling for a fall sports season. According to the Hartford Courant, state officials will look at alternative options and there is word a private high school football league is being established in one county.

We’ll continue to keep you posted on all the developments here and around the country.

Also this morning:

Former Mount Si baseball player finds college home for 2022
A former member of Mount Si High School’s baseball program no longer has to worry about his college future, as he found a place to play ball after he graduates from high school next spring.

Mason Gronewald this week announced his verbal commitment to attend, and play baseball, for NCAA Division III George Fox University in Oregon. The school is part of the Northwest Conference, and years ago, infielder Derek Aldrich, a Mount Si HS grad, played for that program, nicknamed the Bruins. Gronewald, an infielder who is playing for Mercer Island High School’s team this coming season as a senior, played his freshman year for the Wildcats before transferring to MI. His sister, Abby, is a 2019 Mount Si HS alum who played softball for the Wildcats and last spring was part of Fairfield University’s softball program in Connecticut but did not play.

A congrats to Mason from us here at the Journal.

NCAA Division I recruiting shutdown to last through the end of year, thanks to new decision
As we expected would be the case, the NCAA yesterday announced that the recruiting shutdown of in-person recruiting at Division I athletic programs would be extended to the end of 2020. This shutdown, which was imposed back in March in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, has resulted in all recruiting by college coaches of athletes to be done virtually, with no in-person activity such as campus vists or contact at tournaments or other events between coaches and potential recruits being allowed.

The shutdown was likely extended thanks to college campuses around the country continuing to be closed for on-campus instruction, and it is likely to remain in place until those campuses are allowed to be fully re-opened, which is expected once a vaccine is on the market, which is anticipated to be before the end of the year. This shutdown has impacted recruiting in all sports, but especially in sports such as baseball and softball, and this could force more of those athletes to opt for junior college or other alternative options, such as has been the case with Mount Si High School baseball players opting for the security of junior college opportunities with Yakima Valley College’s program as opposed to navigating the uncertain Division I recruiting landscape.

Recruiting in Division II has restarted fully, so the decision by the NCAA yesterday will not impact that.

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Washington student athletes continue fight for fall high school sports, and another state may be joining in the effort…….

Good Wednesday morning. A lot of news and discussion this morning on the continuing efforts to bring back fall high school sports in Washington.

First, on the heels of the rally that the Student Athletes of Washington, the group spearheading those efforts, announced for this weekend at the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s offices in Renton, SAW announced yesterday another meeting between them and top state officials. This meeting, expected to be with Governor Jay Inslee, WIAA executive director Mick Hoffman and one or two others, is set for tomorrow and Tracy Ford, the head of Ford Sports Performance, the Bellevue training facility that has been providing assistance to the SAW group, on Twitter indicated he expected this meeting would “tell us a lot” about what will end up happening.

As we told you the other day, we would look for the meeting to be potentially contentious. It may be even more so after what happened yesterday afternoon following the morning announcement of the meeting. The issue of SAW’s efforts came up in Inslee’s news conference on the state’s current fight against COVID-19, something which has become a regular feature since the start of the pandemic. KOMO’s Keith Eldridge asked a question of the governor about it, and Inslee responded by noting the state had made a recommendation and that the WIAA and schools made the final decision. That response from the governor has drawn some very nasty response on social media, as it has angered some of the group’s supporters. They argue that the decisions of the WIAA and schools were made under the recommendation of the governor, so they consider this “passing the buck” so to speak.

We have asked TVW to consider airing this meeting live on their network, Washington state’s version of CSPAN and available both on cable and Roku devices along with online, but have not received a response from them.

Meanwhile, in a related development, Ford announced a “big announcement” at some point this week. That announcement may be tied to the results of this meeting tomorrow, and could be a fall football program based through FSP, similar to one that Heir Football, another football training facility for high school athletes, has put together in the wake of the cancellation of fall football here in Washington. We’ll know more later this week.

Also, of note, there is word that the state of Minnesota’s high school athletic association may have a meeting Friday regarding resumption of some fall sports in that state.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, during a workshop for the Minnesota State High School League’s Executive Board, the board’s president asked the organization’s leader and their attorney for guidance on whether they could call a special meeting regarding a potential change of heart on the issue. The MSHSL voted in August to shift both football and volleyball back to March of 2021, but apparently, there was a lot of feedback from schools suggesting they were willing to make a go of it despite the risks. A decision on a meeting was expected today.

Other fall high school sports, such as soccer, were allowed to start and are continuing. This discussion may have been fueled by a lawsuit that was filed yesterday in Minneapolis. The Star-Tribune reported that three unnamed central Minnesota student athletes filed the suit, contending that the MSHSL violated its own bylaws by the board’s vote in August to shift those seasons, charging that that responsibility actually lies with their representative assembly, which is similarly constructed to the one here in Washington and which includes athletic directors and school administrators from around the state. This motion is expected to be heard Friday.

We’ll keep you posted.

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Tuesday commentaries: Idaho high school football bus incident, and the legacy of Ed Pepple

Good Tuesday morning. News and discussion on this Tuesday:

Culprits found in high school football bus incident in Idaho, thanks to community efforts
We have an update this morning to our Sunday commentary regarding the incident last Friday in northern Idaho where a bus containing football players from a high school on the Coeur D’Alene Indian Reservation had two of their windows broken after an alleged projectile was shot through them. It is very good news on two fronts.

First, according to the Bonner County Daily Bee out of Sandpoint, suspects have been identified in the case and have confessed. Secondly, the projectile turns out to have been a large rock, as opposed to something worse.

The paper reported yesterday afternoon, citing a statement from the Bonner County Sheriff’s office that juveniles from Clark Fork had confessed to allegedly throwing the rock through those windows of the Lakeside High School football bus as it was leaving Clark Fork following their game last Friday night bound back to Lakeside’s campus in Plummer, two hours away in Benewah County on the Indian reservation. The department added that felony charges were expected to be filed in the case against the unidentified suspects, who will remain such as they are under 18.

This is all good news for both communities, as for a couple of days, there was concern about the bus having been potentially the target of a shooting with some having suggested a possible racial motivation. But we refer you back to what Plummer-Worley school superintendent Russ Mitchell asked the community to do following the incident last Friday. On Facebook, he cautioned community members to reserve further judgement. “Until authorities have investigated the incident, it is unknown who or what ultimately happened,” he wrote, essentially asking the community to allow the investigation to run its course and allow the authorities to bring suspects to justice. Well, that’s what has happened, and we credit the Clark Fork community as well for that. In the Bonner County statement yesterday, the sheriff’s department noted that many area residents cooperated with authorities and provided information which allowed investigators to put together leads that resulted in opportunities to meet with persons of interest in the case, which then led to arrests and the resulting confessions.

As we mentioned on Sunday, this incident had the potential to do serious damage to the image and reputation of Clark Fork High School and the larger community there in eastern Bonner County, and it seems as if the community understood that well, which we praise them for here. And while there still is a little bit of damage to the reputation of the school out of this incident, it could have been so much worse, not just for the suspects involved – as the FBI also was involved in the investigation – but for the community at large. We also want to praise Clark Fork High School leaders for getting out in front of the incident as well, sending a note to the school – which Lakeside posted on its Facebook page – expressing their sorrow and anger at the incident. “We stand with you to hold whoever did this terrible act responsible. This is not who we are as a school or a community. As we always have, our school stands with you. Our community stands with you,” Clark Fork wrote in the note.

As we noted on Sunday, that school and community did not, and does not, need to be painted with a broad brush as the result of one or two individuals which, it seems to us now, were perhaps looking for a cheap thrill as opposed to something more sinister. But even so, this is a reminder for that community, and all high school communities, about the importance of educating teens about the idea that choices have consequences, consequences which could extend well beyond themselves and their families.

Again, as we noted before, this situation could have been so much worse for all involved but people allowed the investigation to run its course, the Clark Fork community stepped up understanding the potential negative impact to their community’s reputation, and individuals suspected in this alleged incident are going to face serious consequences. It’s not known if they’ll be tried as adults or not in this case; there are two factors we think will play into that – whether this is a first offense or a repeat offense and the age of the suspects (if they’re say 16 or 17, that might make it more likely they get charged as adults). Either way, these suspects will be facing a long time behind bars as a result of this if they’re convicted, and we are grateful for that.

Pepple’s passing a sad day for Washington high school sports
Yesterday, it was reported by the Seattle Times, then later by SBLive Washington, that legendary former Mercer Island High School boys’ basketball coach Ed Pepple had passed away, at the age of 88, after battling cancer. His death leaves behind a tremendous legacy of success in high school sports in Washington that likely will never be matched, with the many state playoff appearances and titles – and many historic moments – that Pepple and his MI teams achieved during his over 40 years at the helm of MI basketball.

Mount Si as you know competed against Mercer many times as members of Kingco 3A from the 1997-98 season up until Pepple’s retirement in 2009. His teams were always tremendous foes for Mount Si coaches and players, and his players always conducted themselves with the utmost professionalism and sportsmanship, not to mention great skill on the basketball floor.

A number of those former players have moved on to have success as coaches themselves – Gavin Cree took over for Pepple as MI’s coach and remains there to this day. Quin Snyder, who played for Pepple in the 1980’s, is coaching in the NBA, with the Utah Jazz. Matt Logie is coaching down at NCAA Division II Point Loma, and has made a point to offer top Kingco guys scholarships, and Mount Si guys have benefited, with both Quin Patterson and Bennett O’Connor earning those offers from Logie’s program earlier this summer, giving those guys and their families some peace of mind during what has been a tricky college recruitment process thanks to COVID-19.

So the legacy of Pepple’s success and vision will live on long into the future, and that is good news for our local high school boys’ basketball scene, as future generations of players can continue to benefit from the legendary coach’s wisdom and overall efforts. We offer our thoughts and prayers to the Pepple family and to Mercer Island High School and the entire Mercer Island community as they grieve this terrible loss.

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SAW group planning another protest … against the state’s high school sports governing body

Good Monday morning. Normally of course, we’re doing an Athlete of the Week in this segment, but with no fall sports to speak of, we bring you some news, and more from the Student Athletes of Washington, who clearly at this point are not going to take no for an answer.

Following their proposal for fall high school sports which was released late Saturday, the group of high school athletes from Washington, including Mount Si High School football player Cole Norah, has announced another protest. This time, the group is planning it in front of the head office of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, the state’s high school sports governing body. The protest is scheduled for noon this coming Sunday at the office, 435 Main Avenue South in Renton. It is scheduled to start at noon and run a couple of hours. For more information, go here to their page announcing this event.

The group has been very active as you know over the past couple of weeks, first rallying out in front of the state Capitol and running a petition campaign which generated over 35,000 signatures, then just this past Friday met with political and health leaders to get additional information and perspective on the issues surrounding the fight against COVID-19 which have resulted in a delay to start fall high school sports here in Washington.

The group had indicated on social media they were planning on more action against the WIAA, so this appears to be that. The association’s Executive Board, made up of athletic directors and other high school administrators from around the state, is scheduled to meet tomorrow, so if this comes up we’ll be sure to let you know.

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