A former Bellevue High School football player’s parents say their son lived within school district boundaries, contradicting the player’s account, which ran as part of a Seattle Times investigation. Documents reviewed by The Times corroborate the player’s version of events.
The parents of a former Bellevue High School football player have disputed their son’s account of his time on the team, calling a Sunday Seattle Times article on the subject “false and misleading.”
Part of Darien Freeman’s account, however, is corroborated by documents reviewed by The Seattle Times.
In an article about how Bellevue’s success was aided by a small private school, Freeman, 20, told The Times that he lived in four different cities during his years with the Bellevue football team — Sammamish, Bellevue, Auburn and SeaTac. That would be a likely violation of rules that generally require student-athletes to live within a school’s attendance boundary.
Freeman described in detail the hours he spent busing from Auburn to Bellevue, catching a 5:30 a.m. bus to start class around 8:15. He often wouldn’t get home until well past dark. Later, when the family lived in SeaTac, he said, his mother would drop him off at a bus stop in Renton to commute.
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Freeman’s parents, Yusef and Allona, wrote in a letter this week to the school district that their son lived in the Bellevue attendance area. Supporters of the Bellevue football program have shared the letter on social media.
Records reviewed by The Seattle Times, however, show that Freeman’s father has had a home address in Auburn. Court records from an eviction case also show a Yusef Freeman was renting an apartment in Sammamish in 2009. Darien Freeman had said he lived in that city during his 2009-10 freshman season.
Later, a traffic citation was issued to a Yusef Freeman with an address in SeaTac.
The parents also disputed Freeman’s account in which he said his father had asked him to thank Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff for helping pay rent. They said Goncharoff never gave the family money to pay for rent.
After The Seattle Times story was published on Sunday, a distraught Darien Freeman called a Times reporter, saying he’d just spoken with Goncharoff. Freeman said he may have misunderstood the conversation about rent and that it was possible Goncharoff had only worked to help the family find a place to rent in Bellevue.
During that conversation on Sunday, Freeman reaffirmed the other aspects of his account.
Among those, Freeman said Goncharoff directed him to attend the Academic Institute instead of studying at Bellevue. Students at AI — a school derided as a “diploma mill” by two former teachers — are still allowed to play on the Bellevue football team.
The parents confirmed in their letter that they received financial support, but said they properly requested aid from the school. The families of two other players have described how supporters of the football program had a role in coordinating scholarships for the players.
In 2012, Freeman was among 17 boys pictured in the sophomore, junior and senior pages of an Academic Institute yearbook reviewed by The Times. Of those 17 boys, seven were Bellevue football players.
Earlier this week, the Bellevue School District requested an investigation of the football program by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, which governs prep sports in the state.
Freeman’s parents criticized The Times reporters who wrote the Bellevue High story, saying they “hounded and harassed” their son and “tricked him” into saying things that he has no knowledge of.
Freeman met with a reporter on two separate occasions at a SeaTac restaurant. He openly shared details of his high-school experiences, saying he felt like the program was putting kids in a poor position to succeed after high school and that he didn’t want to see the program have a negative impact on others in the future.
Freeman said he didn’t even want to go to Bellevue High in the first place.
“My freshman year, I remember we were living over there by Skyline High School (in Sammamish),” he said. “I kind of liked it there. I wanted to go there. My dad was like, ‘No, you’re going to go to Bellevue.’”
During one of the meetings with The Times, Freeman said he no longer had a relationship with his father.
Yusef Freeman did not return a call Friday seeking comment on his letter. Darien Freeman has not returned multiple messages left for him this week.