Bully coaches are being chased out of Oklahoma and that's a very good thing
Nine Blue Devils, past and present, file suit against Ringling district
A very good thing is happening in Oklahoma’s schools.
It just doesn’t seem like it because the headlines ring bad.
Like this one, which showed up Thursday afternoon, above a story written by Molly Young on The Oklahoma’s website.
Or this one, above a story from Young and Murray Evans, appearing Jan. 4.
Or this one, above Nolan Clay’s byline, on Dec. 4.
They reek of discord.
No matter the side you’re on, no matter who’s right or who’s wrong, students have become alienated by the athletic programs of their schools and that’s not good.
But this is happening too:
Bully coaches are are on notice.
Bully coaches are being stood up to.
Bully coaches are losing their jobs.
Maybe more important than all of that, school districts throughout the state must be rethinking their vetting and hiring practices when it comes to choosing the next coach to lead any of their athletic programs.
Because Kingfisher stuck with football coach Jeff Myers until he was removed in-season last October, thereby repeatedly giving accuser Mason Mecklenburg and his family the figurative foam finger, residents may be paying substantially higher property taxes for years, all to fund a near last-minute $5 million pre-trial settlement.
Right now, Ringling has the opportunity to get off cheap in a suit brought by nine former and current students, which itself adds heft to their claims, some of the plaintiffs remaining right there in town and right there in school, perhaps right there still part of the football program.
Attorneys for the Ringling plaintiffs, Cameron Spradling and Tod Mercer, must be inclined to offer the district a reasonably painless way out.
Spradling ran point on the case that produced the millions settlement in Kingfisher. Yet, according to Young’s reporting, the Ringling plaintiffs “are seeking at least $75,000 in damages, plus attorney’s fees.”
If there’s any way the Ringling district might settle now for, say, anything within $425,000 of that $75,000 starting point, it should leap for it.
It’s not chump change, but it’s way, way, way less than $5 million and that was for only one plaintiff in Kingfisher.
The Ringling district is facing nine accusers, which is nine times more than one, and not only is their strength in numbers but enhanced credibility, too.
How seriously is the district taking it?
Well, even though it became clear Koons was being investigated by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation last February …
And even though Koons was placed on paid administrative leave soon after …
And even though a misdemeanor charge for outraging public decency was brought against Koons in October …
And even though Koons pleaded no contest on Jan. 2 …
And even though associate district judge Dennis Gay rejected Koons’ plea agreement after hearing the plaintiffs stories, an agreement that would have kept Koons out of jail while requiring he give up his teaching license for seven years, thus re-opening the jailhouse door …
Even though all of that, well, you’re just not going to believe it.
• The first picture you see upon visiting the Ringling district’s website is a picture of the football team, five coaches comprising the back row, the one in the middle, his head higher than the rest, belonging to Philip Koons.
• And should you venture to the high school section of that website and click on the faculty directory, you’ll also see this: 10 faculty mugshots, each with name and role below and, wouldn’t you know it, there’s Philip Koons again, the word “Principal” below his name.
• Take a look at the other nine mugs and you’ll notice three share Koons’ last name: Sterling Koons, teacher; Shelley Koons, counselor; Carly Koons, teacher.
When they hired him, did they hand the whole school over to him, too?
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It’s a small district.
Perhaps the web manager’s the last to hear about anything.
Or maybe Kent Southward, Ringling superintendent, also named in the ex- and current students’ civil suit, is just as horribly proud as these awful coaches.
He hired Koons.
Even though nobody’s denying the accusers’ claims Koons harassed and intimidated them, used racist, homophobic and misogynistic slurs to refer to them, or even that one time, as punishment, Koons forced them work out naked, maybe Southward’s prepared to go down with the ship.
Of course, the townsfolk may not like that.
Good chance they pay enough in property taxes already.
It’s also unfortunate, regrettable and may well paint a good town with a bad broad brush.
Change, though, is messy.
Upheaval for the right cause is still painful.
Doing the right thing’s no picnic
And there’s no longer any place in coaching for those who adore the examples of Adolph Rupp, Woody Hayes, Bob Knight, Mike Babcock or Col. Nathan R. Jessup, who you may remember Jack Nicholson playing in “A Few Good Men.”
Because tough is one thing.
Hard and fair is another.
Demanding accountability is another.
All three of those things are fine and dandy from coaches even now.
Being a self-important and purposely intimidating dick, however, is not.