The Time to Forgive
Steve Belles isn’t a monster.
Steve Belles is a human being.
It’s time we all start treating him like one.
Monday a handful of administrators from the Arizona Board of Education gathered in the east Valley and, after hearing from a number of character witnesses – including ex-Hamilton High players, coaches, and peers in support of Belles, dealt the former HHS head coach another gut punch – an additional two-year suspension to his teaching certificate.
By now, most are familiar with the ugly details of the Hamilton football scandal.
For Belles, a five-time state champion head coach, his current five-year wait to possibly return to coaching and, more importantly in the bigger picture, teaching history, will be shelved until at least the summer of 2024.
The 2017 Hamilton hazing and sexual assault incidents are still a black eye for everyone in and around the Chandler school. Belles called it, in an exclusive interview with Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat back in May of ’17, simply, “Hell on earth.”
He took, and continues to take, responsibility when others haven’t.
So when is enough, enough?
Despite being cleared of all charges and never being found guilty, Belles served his time. He took the high road, which, in this case, was a lonely one, driving Uber and Lyft to help make ends meet for himself and his family. He’s gone through personal and professional strife but refused to throw blame at anyone except himself. Remorseful isn’t a strong enough word to express his deep regret for everything that occurred inside Hamilton’s locker room – which was completely “remodeled” following the incident.
Earlier this week a small number of administrators buried him a little deeper but, according to sources I spoke with, Belles – ever the optimist – said, ‘I’ve waited five years, I can wait two more.’
Belles withdrew from a teaching position opening at Sandra Day O’Connor High in 2019 because he didn’t want the Deer Valley School District to receive negative publicity.
With over two decades of Arizona high school teaching experience at St. Mary’s, Desert Mountain, Mountain Ridge, and Hamilton, and with our state in desperate need of experienced educators, how much sense does it make to keep Belles sidelined and freeze his state retirement for another two years?
On the coaching side, his name over the years has quietly re-surfaced at other schools and, this off-season, was linked to a number of Valley programs, including one who, according to people close to the situation, was ready to name him varsity head coach if his teaching certificate was reinstated.
“I was the captain of the ship,” he regrettably explained regarding the scandal during his transparent in-studio sit down with Cesmat nearly five years ago. “I’m the one being held responsible and that’s just the way it goes when you’re the guy in charge.”
As I write this column on March 3rd, 2022, 1752 days have passed since that interview.
He has more than paid his debt to society – a society which often thrives on second chances for those deserving.
Enough is enough.