HOME     |    HISTORY     |    POWER POLL     |    RANKINGS     |    HALL OF FAME     |    DIRECTORS










Yakima Herald-Republic

Published on Thursday, September 23, 2004

Semipro Football Returning to Yakima

The semipro Yakima Scorpions football team is no more. Or else it still exists. The players are all moving over to a new team in a new league. Or else they're not.

Depends on who's doing the talking.

This much is certain: Many of the people involved with the Scorpions a year ago have started up a new team, the Yakima Mavericks, that will play in the new Evergreen Football League. And nobody in that league wants anything to do with the Inland Northwest Football League in which the Scorpions played 10 games this year between April to July, with its home games at Zaepfel Stadium or its commissioner/owner, Chuck Love.

"We're not the only ones mad at Chuck Love. The entire league was mad at his antics," said Nathan Soptich, a former Eisenhower player who played on the Scorpions and is now acting as the Mavericks' general manager.

"A lot of guys are telling me, 'Yeah, if Chuck Love's not involved, I'd like to play football again,'" said Dean Carr, a former player under Love and now the owner of the new Spokane SaberCats.

"Because of Chuck, we're having a hard time getting people in Spokane to talk to us," said Jerrid Edgington of Spokane, commissioner of the new league. "That's all I've been doing since I started, was putting out fires and building bridges."

Why all this lack of love for Love? Start with unpaid bills and shaky arrangements.

The INWFL's postseason "all-star" game on Aug. 14, in which Love planned to pit the best players from the league against an all-star team from Oregon, was an example of both.

By the time of the game, many of the INWFL's selected players no longer wanted anything to do with the league. The INWFL's "all-star team," several team representatives said, was essentially a Spokane-area pickup squad intermingled with what few all-stars were willing to make the trip. Still, Love was optimistic about the prospect for a big turnout.

"He promised us 20 percent of a 3,500-ticket gate, with tickets at six to seven dollars, and promised to pay for the (Oregon team's) bus trip up," said Ipo Ross, commissioner of the Oregon Football League, whose team was bused from Medford to the game in Okanogan. "Judging from what I saw in the stands, there were 30 to 40 people tops, besides the people who came from Oregon."

Six weeks after the Aug. 14 game, Ross says his team hasn't been paid anything by Love. And a $4,588 bill owed to Northstar Pacific Coachways in Medford, Ore., for transporting the Oregon team has also never been paid, though the bus line's owner said Love has told him several times a check was on the way.

"He (Love) has been giving me the run around for God knows how long," Northstar's Don Hamrick said.

Dave Stireman, who runs a division of the semipro Rocky Mountain Football League, brought a Utah team to play a Spokane team co-owned by Love in August 2002. Love wrote him three checks totaling $4,250, Stireman said for transportation and previously owed expenses from an earlier Utah team trip and then stopped payment on them the following Tuesday.

"I bet I've talked to him thirty, forty times, fifty times, and it's always the same story," Stireman said. "It's always, 'I'm a man of my word, I pay my bills, I'll take care of you.'"

According to Superior Court records, Unters Lewis "Chuck" Love has been sued more than two dozen times in King and Spokane counties alone for a variety of foreclosures, evictions and debt collections. He also has 1991 and 1992 convictions for bad checks.

A $945 check that Love wrote on June 8 to the Yakima School District for the Scorpions' use of Zaepfel Stadium came back as unpayable because of insufficient funds, according to Scott Izutsu, the district's assistant superintendent for finance.

Love, 51, a former three-year football letterman at the University of Idaho, said he pays his bills and discounts his detractors' accusations as mud-slinging and jealousy.

"They've been running me through the mud since Day One," Love said. "These guys starting the new league used to work for Inland Northwest Football League and they quit. It's like success breeds success, and now they want to point fingers."

There's plenty to point at, and plenty of people doing the finger-pointing, not just within the league.

According to the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, in 2003 Love arranged for insurance for the Inland Northwest league on two accounts, including one as Key Investments/DBA Yakima Scorpions. But, said L&I spokesman Robert Nelson, Love's representation of the way the semipro league worked that, in many cases, players might be paid a percentage of the gate was far from reality.

An L&I audit this summer of Love's Scorpions account on which L&I paid out more than $48,000 on 51 medical claims determined that there was no employer-employee relationship and "zeroed out" the account, waiving the account's $4,800 premium.

"We should not have been insuring the company," Nelson said. "We made the mistake."

On his second account, though, Love still owes L&I $9,562. "It is in collections," Nelson said, "but we have no expectations of getting the money back."

Still, Love said there will be an Inland Northwest Football League next spring and that the Yakima Scorpions will be part of it.

"Right now we have 50 players," Love said. "We're going forward." When asked to provide a roster list of his 50 Yakima players, though, Love refused.

If Soptich is right, Love may not have those 50 players. He expects "probably 90 percent" of last year's Scorpions to show up at the Mavericks' opening mini-camp, set for 10 a.m. Oct. 9 at Franklin Middle School. Last year's Scorpions head coach, Matt Bost, will be the Mavericks' head coach.

Edgington, the Evergreen league commissioner, said he'll be at the Mavericks' mini-camp to make plain to players what the league will be about and not be about.

"I lived the whole (INWFL) nightmare and know why everybody left. That's kind of why I got involved in this," Edgington said.

"Chuck Love has nothing to do with our league. We made a point of that."

Information about Mavericks and the Evergreen Football League is available online at http://www.yakimamavericks.com.

Reporter Scott Sandsberry can be reached at 577-7689 or by e-mail at ssandsberry@yakima-herald.com