Bill Freeman, who guided Lawrence High School’s football team to five Kansas 6A state championships, has been transported to the Four County Mental Health Center in Fredonia, Kan., as he battles Alzheimer’s disease.
Freeman’s family made the announcement Monday.
“It’s very sad,” current Lawrence coach Dirk Wedd said. “He’s not only a great football coach, but he’s also a dear friend. He did so much for Lawrence High and Lawrence High tradition.
“He didn’t come up for any games last year, so it must be getting bad. He’s stayed close to Lawrence High and Free State, because of (coach Bob) Lisher. I don’t think he had missed a Lawrence versus Free State game until last fall.”
During a 36-year coaching career, Freeman won eight state football championships, including two at Osawatomie, Kan., and one at LeRoy. He compiled a 242-81-3 record. Freeman also coached at Baxter Springs, Parker Rural and Nickerson.
Freeman was 134-38 as coach of the Chesty Lions coach from 1974 to 1989, including a 65-6 record with four state championships during his last six seasons in Lawrence.
“He did an amazing, amazing job,” Wedd said. “From 1950 to 1968, Al Woolard won 12 state championships, but the program fell on hard times. Coach (Freeman) came in at a time when a lot of people didn’t think Lawrence High was coming back. He finished second in 1978 and then he won it in 1979. It was a couple years later, he started an amazing string with coach (Dick) Purdy.”
Led by Freeman and his successor, Purdy, Lawrence recaptured its old magic and won nine 6A championships in 12 seasons between 1984 and 1995.
Freeman, who has been inducted into the Emporia State Hall of Honor and the Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame, also won two track and field championships at Lawrence.