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Sealth students to play tonight; investigation into recruiting continues
Seattle Times staff reporters
Players on the current Chief Sealth girls basketball team will be allowed to play tonight's district tournament game against Holy Names Academy.
The Seattle School District determined this afternoon that the girls were eligible to play for the West Seattle team after a preliminary inquiry determined they all currently live in the district.
The game begins at 6:30 p.m. at Bellevue Community College. The last time Chief Sealth played Holy Names, Dec. 2, Chief Sealth won 80-40.
The district launched its investigation after The Seattle Times reported Wednesday that Chief Sealth's coaches had recruited players for more than three years, violating numerous amateur athletic rules.
The Times did name some former players who lived outside the district while playing for the team but did not report that any current players live outside Seattle. Still, the newspaper did report that three of the current players — Regina Rogers, Christina Nzekwe and Valerie Cook — were recruited to the team while they were in the eighth grade.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), which oversees high-school sports in the state, strictly forbids coaches from recruiting or attempting to recruit athletes.
Patti Spencer, district spokeswoman, said the school so far has had only enough time to determine if the girls were living in the district.
She said school administrators are just beginning to investigate the broader allegations of recruiting by Chief Sealth head coach Ray Willis and assistants, Laura Fuller and Amos Walters.
"We are not speaking to the recruiting issue yet — that needs a thorough investigation," she said. "Our goal is to establish the facts."
The school district could discipline or fire the coaches.
If the school concludes it violated any rules, it will forward its findings to the Metro 3A League, in which it competes. Penalties could include fines, forfeiture of games, disqualification from this year's postseason and maybe even taking away last year's state title.
More than a dozen parents, players and coaches told the Times that girls had been recruited with promises of starting spots and help in securing college scholarships. Four parents said coaches even provided bogus lease agreements so their daughters could enroll in the Seattle School District without having to move from the suburbs.
The coaches have denied any wrongdoing.
Because it's an ongoing investigation, Spencer wouldn't reveal how officials determined the eligibility of the players or how they will continue to investigate allegations of recruiting.
Eddie Winston, stepfather of star player Regina Rogers, said he received a call Wednesday from Kelly, who asked him just two questions.
Winston said Kelly wanted him to verify his current address and to confirm the statements he made to the Times.
"I said, 'Yes I live there, and yes, I made those statements,'. " Winston said. "That was it."
Winston told the Times his stepdaughter, 6-foot-3 lead scorer Rogers, was recruited by Chief Sealth and he was given a volunteer coaching job to secure Rogers' enrollment at the school.
He said now that Rogers has been cleared to play, his primary concern is preserving the accomplishments of the girls on the team.
The undefeated Seahawks are ranked No. 1 in the state and are expected to win the title again this season. The state tournament begins in just two weeks.
"We're definitely going to fight anything that's going to penalize the girls," he said. "We feel that the administration and the coaching staff should be held accountable, not the kids."
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