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The crux of the legal dispute involving Springfield high school football quarterback Kylan Mabins is a choice between two alleged wrongful acts.
Mabins, prior to his senior year, transferred from Kickapoo to Glendale. He has been ruled ineligible to play for the Glendale Falcons this fall.
One version of what happened is supported by Springfield Public Schools and the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) defendants in a lawsuit filed by Mabins.
SPS and MSHSAA say Mabins left Kickapoo, where he started as quarterback in 2022, to transfer to rival Glendale after being recruited by then-head football coach Mike Mauk and his son Ben Mauk, then an assistant Glendale coach.
Mabins’ parents say that narrative is not only false, but is also a coverup for the real reason. They say their son changed schools because coaches in the Kickapoo football program created an intolerable environment of racial discrimination and homophobia.
The ineligibility, they say, will diminish their son’s chances of getting a scholarship to play football in college.
Darline Mabins, Kylan’s mother, says four schools have contacted her son about playing football: Harvard, Augustana (in Sioux Falls, South Dakota), William Jewell and Oklahoma State.
“Guess what they’ve asked him for? Film from his first three games this season. Film that he doesn’t have,” Darline Mabins said.
Thus far, Mabins, his family and their legal team are losing the battle.
In fact, the Mabins lost again Wednesday when the MSHSAA Board of Directors met and upheld an earlier ruling that Mabins can’t play because of “undue influence” by Mike and Ben Mauk.
Nevertheless, the parents continue to contest the matter in Greene County circuit court.
A hearing is scheduled for Monday morning. The family’s attorney, this time, is seeking a preliminary injunction, which preserves the status quo until the courts decide on the merits of the case. If approved, it would allow Mabins to play football for Glendale in 2023.
Family complained of racism before QB controversy
Darline Mabins wrote a July 28 letter to the human resources of Springfield Public Schools about the alleged discrimination against her son. She shared it with the Springfield Daily Citizen. It says, in part:
“On April 14, 2023, my husband and I, individually and on behalf of Kylan, made a report of racial discrimination and hostile environment against the athletic leadership at Kickapoo. We outlined the conduct of racial discrimination that our son had endured, which had brought him to the point of closing in on himself and withdrawing from his family and friends.
“As parents, we were worried that he could be in the early stages of depression. He was going to his counselor at Kickapoo and reported to him that he felt Kickapoo was a toxic environment.
“My husband and I met with Garrett Lombas (a counselor) on Feb. 5, 2023, to further discuss with him our concerns with Kylan’s feelings on the environment at Kickapoo. Kylan did not want to attend the school and his grades were suffering, contrary to his character and past performance.”
(The lawsuit mentions allegations of “homophobic comments.”)
It should be noted that Feb. 5, 2023, was several weeks prior to Kylan Mabins’ announcement in April that he planned to transfer to Glendale.
The Springfield Daily Citizen reached out to Darline Mabins for specifics on what happened to her son at Kickapoo.
She provided three examples of what she says were remarks made to her son by Kickapoo football coaches.
- She said her son was in the weight room with other African American athletes and they were playing rap music as they worked out. A coach came in and said, “You people might listen to this music, but when I’m in here I’m not going to listen to it.”
- She said a coach asked her son: “Are you blind or just stupid?”
- She said a coach asked her son what his grade-point-average was. He said 3.5. She said the coach’s response was: “That surprises me.”
The Springfield Daily Citizen also reached out to Stephen Hall, SPS spokesperson, for information on whether the school district investigated Darline Mabins’ complaint.
Hall responded via email:
“SPS disputes the claims made in the attributed quotes (from Darline Mabins’ complaint letter to SPS) you’ve provided in your email; however, due to pending litigation and confidentiality requirements, SPS is not able to provide the details you’ve requested. Any information regarding an investigation of student and/or staff conduct would be protected by law.”
Mike and Ben Mauk removed from football program
MSHSAA bylaws forbid the recruiting of high school athletes from one high school to another, which is described as exerting “undue influence” in convincing an out-of-district student to attend a school to play sports.
Exceptions are made for “hardships,” events beyond the student’s control.
Mabins’ parents argue that racial discrimination in an athletic program, as they allege was happening at Kickapoo, should be considered, at minimum, a “hardship.”
They also say there was no undue influence by the Mauks or Glendale football coaches on their son’s request to transfer to Glendale.
Mabins is now a student at Glendale and practices with the football team, but since he is ineligible by MSHSAA, he can’t play in games. The team is 3-1.
The decision by MSHSAA making Mabins ineligible was followed a month later by SPS’s decision to remove Mike Mauk and Ben Mauk as football coaches. No reasons were given.
Ben Mauk, 38, once played quarterback for Wake Forest and then the University of Cincinnati. Ben Mauk’s brother, Maty, 30, remains on the Glendale football coaching staff. He was a quarterback at the University of Missouri.
Another plot line here is that Mike Mauk had become a thorn in the side of SPS administration. He has an age discrimination lawsuit pending against the district.
It was filed in 2021, when Mauk was 62, by Bolivar attorney Jay Kirksey, who happens to be the lawyer representing the Mabins family.
A reporter with the Springfield Daily Citizen on Thursday reached out to Kirksey, but he did not respond to a request for comment.
Mabins attended out-of-season quarterback clinics
Mabins attended out-of-season clinics on quarterbacking that were held by Ben Mauk. The first one Mabins attended was the summer after he had graduated from eighth grade.
It is not known if those quarterback clinics are the sole basis for the “undue influence” allegation. The lawsuit contends that attending such clinics is allowed by MSHSAA rules. Many athletes attend sports clinics at schools other than their own.
MSHSAA investigators talked to football staff at Kickapoo, but it is not publicly known what they asked, or what any Kickapoo coaches said.
According to the Mabins lawsuit:
“Kickapoo responded to Mabins’ transfer request by representing to MSHSAA that the transfer by Mabins was because of athletic reasons and undue influence, which they knew would trigger an automatic ineligibility ruling for Mabins, as planned and anticipated by Kickapoo.”
In her letter to the school district, Darline Mabins complained that Nate Thomas, Kickapoo head football coach, Scot Phillips, assistant principal/athletic director at Kickapoo and Josh Scott were responsible for the “false claim” of undue influence.
Scott is the SPS director of athletics. He also sits on the MSHSAA board.
At Glendale, quarterbacks fling the football
Mabins wants to play in college. He has an online account with video highlights of his Kickapoo games.
The reality is college coaches are not impressed when a quarterback hands the ball off to a running back. Quarterbacks make their reputations — and attract college scholarship offers — by demonstrating their abilities to throw the football.
And Glendale football, as a result of Mike Mauk and his college-quarterback sons, throws the ball as much as any team in the state. Kickapoo does not.
It could be argued that the style of Glendale’s offense is an unspoken lure for potential quarterbacks.
Whether by coincidence or not, this was a good year for Mabins to transfer to Glendale because Cole Feuerbacher, who was Glendale’s starting quarterback the past three years, is gone. He is now on the Missouri State roster.
To contrast the programs: Over the past two years, Feuerbacher threw for 6,040 yards and 65 touchdowns. Mabins at Kickapoo threw for 2,636 yards and 25 touchdowns (These numbers are from the Ozarks Sports Zone/KY3).
The way things stand now — with Monday’s court hearing looming — Mabins might not be throwing touchdown passes for anybody this fall.