New allegations of recruiting violations made against Garfield High School

by: Alison Grande Updated:

Garfield High School's football program is under investigation for possible recruiting violations.

The district is conducting a third-party investigation and says it immediately self-reported to the WIAA that it was looking into the allegations.

On Tuesday, a new anonymous complaint was sent to the school district about the Garfield High School Football Program with more allegations of recruiting.

 The person who sent the complaint to the district also sent it to KIRO 7.

The complainant claims to work at Garfield High School and says there are players who live outside of school boundaries and who are using fake addresses.

The complaint also says Coach Joey Thomas coaches Garfield players off season as part of another league, and recruits other students from that league to play at Garfield.

The district says it would investigate the new complaint that was sent to several district email addresses.

Coach Joey Thomas told KIRO 7 he couldn't comment during the investigation.

The original investigation by a third party hired by the district was supposed to be done on Monday, but there is a delay.

The district told KIRO7 Wednesday:

"We don't have any input or say into the conclusions of the investigation. We immediately sought an outside investigator to look into allegations because we are dedicated to truth and integrity."

Last week, KIRO 7 News reported that 19-year-old Will Sanders from Beaumont, Texas, said he was recruited to play football.

About Will Sanders

He said he got a call last August from John McKinney, whose son had also played football at Garfield. McKinney used to live in Beaumont. Sanders said McKinney saw a video on Twitter of him playing basketball in his high school gym and got in touch with him on the phone.

"He was saying he knew this place where I can come up to play football," said Sanders. "He was tied to Garfield and the coach wanted me to come up and play."

A couple of days later, he said, coach Joey Thomas called him.

"They told me everything I wanted to hear: 'Yeah, come up here and get a scholarship. You'll have a place to stay. You won't have to worry about nothing.'"

Sanders said McKinney sent him a plane ticket.

He wore No. 32 and played five out of 10 games for the Garfield Bulldogs last fall.

He was sidelined for five games due to eligibility requirements tied to his grades and an injury.

During his time at Garfield, Sanders stayed with other players. He was listed as homeless, which allowed him to play even with his low grades.

When the season was over, at Thanksgiving, he said he was encouraged to go back to Texas for a visit.

He said it was his understanding he'd come right back. But he says when he called Coach Thomas he said he was trying to get money together to buy a ticket.

In March, Sanders was able to buy his own ticket to come back to Seattle. He found out he'd been withdrawn from Garfield High School in December.

He'd had trouble with his grades at Garfield, didn't get any credit for the classes he took last fall, so he started at an alternative high school.

Last month he ran out of places to stay and was headed to a homeless shelter, until a mentor stepped in and found him a place to stay.

"I'm feeling like I've been used, mistreated, and betrayed because all of the things I was promised didn't happen," said Sanders.

The Seattle School District hired an independent investigators to see if the school violated WIAA recruiting rules.

In a statement the district told KIRO 7:

"We take the allegations regarding the Garfield football program very seriously. The issues are being thoroughly investigated by an outside investigator. We are committed to understanding if WIAA violations occurred and, if so, taking steps to address them. The district is committed to equity, to fairness, and to following the rules. The well-being and safety of our students is a top priority."

John McKinney told KIRO-7 he was just trying to help a kid out, from his home town in Beaumont. He says Sanders knew he was going home for good when he left in November.

Sanders says that isn't true, and that while he was back in Texas, coach Thomas told him. "He was like man the only thing you got to do when you get back up here is get a 2.0 and graduate. You've already got scholarships waiting on you, that was what made me want to come back up here," said Sanders. But he says Thomas didn't help him and seemed surprised when Sanders showed up back at Garfield in March.

Now Sanders is studying at an alternative Seattle high school and is focused on doing what he needs to graduate next year.

"I really just want to graduate, that's all I want to do, just to make my mom proud, that's everything," said Sanders.

As for the recruiting investigation, Sanders says he doesn't want the athletes to be penalized.

"I don't want no kids to be punished, not having a football season. But the coach, yes, he should have a major consequence because that's just wrong," said Sanders.

KIRO-7 reached out to coach Thomas and is still waiting for a response.

Next Up: