Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Myers, Koons must face the music and still a horribly bad taste lingers
Thank to a hilarious statement from Kingfisher, a DA covering his bases, a coach who may still be coaching and an absent state superintendent, a do-the-right-thing celebration is not in order
Two good things happened on Tuesday.
Probably more than two things, but for the purposes of this column, it was two.
A couple of Oklahoma high school football coaches, who were somehow allowed to remain in their jobs even as evidence toward their rotten record in all things but wins and losses piled up, were made to face the music.
Jeff Myers, longtime Kingfisher High School football coach, following an OSBI investigation, was charged with one count of felony child neglect.
Also, Phil Koons, Ringling High School football coach and principal, also following an OSBI investigation, was charged with a misdemeanor count of outraging public decency.
Myers originally came under fire when Mason Mecklenburg, who suffered abuse as a member of Myers’ Kingfisher program, filed suit against Kingfisher Public Schools more than two years ago, a case that has since moved to federal court.
Mason Mecklneburg’s parents have also brought a filing in the Oklahoma State Supreme Court, attempting to force Myers’ ouster.
For context, an Aug. 29 story on the website of KOKH-25, Oklahoma City’s Fox affiliate, reported this:
Court documents allege that for almost two decades, the Kingfisher football program has condoned bullying, hazing, violence, and child abuse …
During a phone call with Jim Perdue, a former member of the Kingfisher Board of Education, the victim’s father asserted that, “We’re trying to establish a toxic dangerous culture that has been in existence since he showed up.”
“It'll blow you the f--- away. It is unbelievable, everything that we have found. All the way, starting back in 2005,” he added.
Koons arrived in Ringling in 2018. He’d previously led Tuttle for 21 seasons and Clinton for three whole games before resigning.
He was controversial long before joining the Blue Devil program and has been controversial since.
Here’s the way The Oklahoman’s Molly Young described it in a March 5 story detailing Ringling, the town itself, being split over Koons’ program.
Players have told police Phil Koons harassed, bullied, intimidated and mistreated them as Blue Devils football amassed win after win. Similar allegations have followed Koons from one central Oklahoma school to the next. Players’ accounts from Tuttle and Clinton were well-known by the time Ringling hired him in 2018.
When Young wrote that story, Koons had been suspended, placed on paid administrative leave, while the OSBI investigated. He emerged from that suspension in June, reinstated.
That’s the background.
It’s dense and hard to write because any summary leaves so much out.
Yet, back to where we started, two good things happened on Tuesday.
Two bad apples from the Bobby Knight school of horrible-human-being coaching have been charged with crimes following behavior that goes back years and years and years.
So why did these two good things have to bring so much bad with them?
Too little, too late
On Wednesday, Kingfisher Public Schools put Myers on administrative leave, so maybe one good thing happened Wednesday, too.
Of course, this is the same school system that refused to settle with the Mecklenburgs or cop to any of Myers’ wrongdoing.
It is the same system that turned a blind eye to malfeasance evidence suggests goes back almost 20 years.
“Nothing is more important to Kingfisher Public Schools than the safety, health and well-being of our students,” Kingfisher superintendent David Glover told The Oklahoman on Wednesday. “As a school district, we reaffirm our commitment to providing a welcoming, respectful and safe environment for every student and student athlete.”
However, given the timing, perhaps that statement would have been more truthful had it read like this:
“Nothing is more important to Kingfisher Public Schools than the safety, health and well-being of our students at precisely the time our football coach has been criminally charged after reflecting none of those values. As a school district, we reaffirm our commitment to providing a welcoming, respectful and safe environment for every student and student athlete even though our performance up to this point suggests we were never committed to such things in the first place but now, I swear, we mean it. Like, what else are we going to do, we’re 2-5 seven games into the season.* We’ll be lucky to make the playoffs. Maybe we can finally begin cutting this guy loose.”
*As it happens, Kingfisher topped McLoud 42-3 Thursday night in a contest that likely determined the final playoff spot in District 3A-1. Both teams are 3-2 in the loop, but the Yellowjackets have the tiebreaker. And yes, isn’t it interesting how they came up with their finest performance of the season one day after Myers was made to exit. Perhaps everybody’s had enough.
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Why charge him?
Following the investigation that produced the felony charge upon Myers, others were also charged.
Micah Nall, who’d previously coached on Myers’ staff, was hit with two felony charges, one for child abuse and another for perjury.
More than that, Mason Mecklenburg’s father, Justin Mecklenburg, and KPS board member Dana Golbek, were also charged by district attorney Mike Fields, who prosecutes crimes in Blaine, Canadian, Garfield, Grant and Kingfisher counties, with a misdemeanor count of failure to report child abuse or neglect.
For a period of years now, the Mecklenburg family has been attempting to hold Myers accountable. Indeed, it was evidence unearthed by the family and their legal representation that aided the OSBI immeasurably once it opted to investigate for itself.
That and anything Justin Mecklenburg failed to do since learning of his son’s abuse came in the name of keeping his son safe, a fact backed up by the DA’s very charging affidavit.
It explains Justin Mecklenburg originally approached Myers about what was happening inside his program on Oct. 25, 2019.
He also came to then-superintendent Dan Craig, still new on the job, on June 4, 2021, to make him aware of what had been going on inside the football program.
He also approached the Kingfisher Police Department to ask if any reports had been filed alleging abuse within Myers’ program.
“Justin had reservations about reporting [his son’s abuse] to local law enforcement for fear they would tell their sons and nephews who were on the football team,” is a direct line from the charging affidavit against him.
He didn’t want to fuel the fire and bring more abuse upon his son.
He didn’t want to make his son, or perhaps his family, pariahs.
Nonetheless, the district attorney chose to embrace his own version of the letter of the law, punting the spirit of it altogether.
One assumption makes sense.
Mike Fields has a lot of voters in Kingfisher who support Jeff Myers and though overwhelming evidence offers no choice but to charge Myers, he’s covering his political bases.
Given that, one must wonder who he’s coming after the hardest.
Myers, who was in charge of everything in which all of the abuse occurred. Or Nall, who has offered much on-the-record regret, yet maintains no sympathetic constituency.
Ringling’s at Wynnewood tonight and the Blue Devils (5-2, 3-1 District A-4) ought to top the Savages (1-6, 1-3).
Yes, if you didn’t know, Wynnewood continues to call itself the Savages, which is ridiculous.
Perhaps he won’t be, but all indications point toward Koons being on the sideline for that game.
The school system has released no statement saying he won’t. Koons, of course, is also the high school principal, leaving only the superintendent above him in the district’s hierarchy.
He’s entrenched, too.
Ringling only counts about 120 students and the entire high school faculty directory on the district’s website counts 10 names and pictures.
Koons is listed as principal, Shelley Koons as counselor, Sterling Koons as a teacher and Carly Koons as a teacher.
Finally, you know who was never on top of any of this stuff at Kingfisher or Ringling despite the issues at both predating his state superintendent election.
Ryan Walters, that’s who, who may by weak on rampant hazing, abuse and neglect in Oklahoma high schools, but who wants you to know he stands unequivocally with Israel, which is terrific but also irrelevant to the job for which he was elected just like every other headline he chases.
He could thank the Mecklenbergs. He could show up in Ringling or Kingfisher and say abuse is beyond politics and it will not stand and subsequently begin acting like somebody who believes those words.
But he doesn’t.
There’s no upside.
His base likes guys who run football programs as Myers and Koons have run theirs.
As mentioned, two good things happened on Tuesday.
Excuse me for not being thrilled.