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The other side of the Garfield High School controversy

Garfield High School (Seattle Public Schools)
LISTEN: Garfield High School football team members address allegations of recruiting

After The Seattle Times reported that Garfield High School was under investigation for possible football recruiting violations, those close to the program want people to know that there’s another side to the story.

“For me personally, it’s very frustrating, angering,” said assistant coach Thomas Bogan. “I’m hurt. I had an opportunity to coach the young man and some of the things in the article are untrue.”

RELATED: Garfield High School suspected of breaking recruitment rules

The Time’s reported that 19-year-old Will Sanders came to Seattle from Texas and played football at Garfield High School. Sanders told The Times that Coach Joey Thomas hyped the football team to him before he made the move. But when the season was over, he returned home for Thanksgiving. He was not brought back to Seattle, however, Sanders told The Times:

‘They told us they would pay for us to come back up after Thanksgiving,’ Sanders said in an interview, referring to himself and another youth who had been flown up from the city of Beaumont, in southeast Texas. ‘But when I called, Coach Thomas starts giving us the runaround, and that was it. They just left us.’

The other side of the story largely comes from John McKinney, a Seattle resident who originally hails from Beaumont, Texas. He came to the Emerald City homeless and with drug problems. But he credits the “great people of Seattle” for helping him get his life straight. In turn, he now tries to help others, especially from his hometown.
That’s what John did with his son, Cameron.

From Beaumont to Garfield High School

“Cameron’s brother, Chad, was murdered in Beaumont, Texas,” McKinney told the Ron and Don Show. “Cameron was having a difficult time. I brought him up here for a visit. He liked Seattle. I could see he didn’t want to go back home. He went back home and he did some things.”

McKinney worked it out so Cameron could return to Seattle.

“Garfield showed him so much love and encouragement he just jumped on it and never looked back,” McKinney said. “I had a whole community in Beaumont, Texas watching Cameron’s success … and we have a lot of talented kids that don’t get an opportunity.”

Cameron kept his grades up and played right into a college scholarship at the University of North Dakota where he is today. Some time later, McKinney came across another youth from Beaumont, Will Sanders.

“Will was introduced to me by a friend of mine,” McKinney said. “Will was having a few issues in Beaumont and they had been watching Cameron’s story. They had seen how Cameron had got his life straight … I flew (Will) here, as a matter of fact.”

According to McKinney, Garfield’s football coach did not recruit the kids from Texas.

“I’m the Beaumont person,” McKinney said. ‘That was just the situation because of Cameron’s success and that was my community, and wanting to help a kid get his life straight.”

“He came up here to get the grades up,” he said. “He couldn’t play sports without the grades. I said, ‘Hey man, you got to take care of business in the classroom.’ Evidently, he wasn’t doing what he needed to do; he had not been handling his business. He did not have to leave (back to Texas). But he insisted on leaving.”

Will flew back to Texas around the Thanksgiving holiday, according to McKinney.

“I told him he didn’t have to leave,” McKinney said. “He chose to leave. Whatever reason, he wanted to go home. I didn’t even get into that. I took him to the airport, I gave him $400. I told him to call once he got home. He never called. I never saw him or talked to him again.”

McKinney said he didn’t know that Will had later returned to Seattle until he randomly got a truancy report in the mail.

“That tripped me out,” McKinney said. “I didn’t even know he was here.”

McKinney’s side of the story strays from the narrative in The Seattle Times. Both Coach Bogan and McKinney were tight-lipped about other details around the young man’s situation and what happened at Garfield High School. They just want to get the word out that there is more to the story, and that what happened in the cases of Cameron and Will are far from recruiting for a football team.

“I do know that from my own situation with Will, there was an opportunity presented to me to help Will with the deadline that he had,” Coach Bogan said. “I reached out to Will and he seemed enthusiastic about getting the help. I told him, ‘Hey, I’m not going to do the work for you. In fact, I’m not going to be the one to push this. I’m looking for you to come to me, but I’m letting you know that I am here and willing to help you.’”

“A couple practices went along and I said, ‘Hey Will, I haven’t heard from you in regards to this assignment,’” he said. “He said he would let me know, and over the course of time he never followed through.”

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