Kylan Mabins and his parents Sean and Darline Mabins
Kylan Mabins and his parents Sean and Darline Mabins (Photo by Steve Pokin)

To read this story, please sign in with your email address and password.

You've read all your free stories this month. Subscribe now and unlock unlimited access to our stories, exclusive subscriber content, additional newsletters, invitations to special events, and more.



It sure seemed to me like Kylan Mabins won in court. But in the eyes of the law, he did not.

More specifically, he did not “prevail,” according to Greene County Circuit Judge Dan Wichmer.

Mabins is a high school football quarterback who transferred from Kickapoo to Glendale in the spring of his junior year in 2023. In the fall, he went to court to regain his eligibility to play football his senior year. Mabins had started at Kickapoo for the previous two years.

Because Mabins did not prevail in court, he and his parents were denied reimbursement for their attorneys' fees and costs. They sought to recover those funds from the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA.)

Kylan Mabins transferred to Glendale from Kickapoo. (Photo submitted by Darline Mabins, his mother)

I imagine those costs are substantial. Mabins had a team of three lawyers.

The reason I don't know the dollar amount is because the figure was redacted in court pleadings and no one will tell me what it is. I do not believe court rules for redaction allow for a dollar figure to be blacked out.

Kickapoo High School had contested the circumstances of Mabins' transfer, alleging he was encouraged to make the move by members of the Glendale football coaching staff.

The MSHSAA Board of Directors heard the matter and sided with Kickapoo and Springfield Public Schools and declared Mabins ineligible to take part in high school sports for a year.

That's when Mabins went to court; he regained his eligibility, although by the that time the football season had begun and the Falcons were 3-1 and had a starting quarterback.

Legal controversy over eligibility ended when football season ended

How did Mabins “win” without “prevailing”?

It's because Mabins was able to play football under a “temporary restraining order” — same as a “preliminary restraining order” — that was approved in September.

Sean and Darline Mabins gave a prepared statement with attorneys present at a media gathering at a Springfield law office.
Sean Mabins, far left, listens as his wife Darline Mabins reads from a prepared statement at a press conference in September. To her left are attorneys Jay Kirksey and Jacob Eddy. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

A full hearing for a permanent restraining order — where the merits of the case would have been fully contested and explored — was never held.

Why not?

Because, Judge Wichmer writes, the whole point of the court action had become moot, or pointless. After all, Mabins had been able to play. Once football season was over, he did not compete in a spring sport. The legal controversy over eligibility no longer existed.

A preliminary injunction basically preserves the status quo and attempts to prevent irreparable harm to the plaintiff. It takes a lower threshold of evidence to obtain a preliminary order than a permanent order.

First judge wrote there was ‘likelihood' of malice

Back in September, Greene County Circuit Judge Derek Ankrom wrote:

“The Court finds, based on the evidence presented at the preliminary injunction hearing, there is a likelihood that Kickapoo High School, acting in concert and collusion with Springfield Public Schools and MSHSAA through Mr. (Josh) Scott, prompted the undertakings of MSHSAA and the ineligibility of Mabins with malice toward Glendale High School and its coaching staff.”

Scott is the Springfield Public Schools director of athletics. He also sits on the MSHSAA board. He recused himself on the vote to declare Mabins ineligible.

Mabins' lawyers contended that Kickapoo High retaliated against Mabins in large part because he said he wanted to transfer to Glendale because of a “toxic environment” of racism at Kickapoo that included “microaggressions” by members of the football coaching staff. Mabins is Black.

In addition, one allegation was that an assistant Kickapoo football coach — who has since left — reportedly asked Mabins if he was throwing the football to one particular receiver so much because they were “lovers.” That remark was acknowledged by Kickapoo Head Coach Nate Thomas during the September hearing.

Glendale removed two football coaches

According to testimony, Mabins started to see a therapist in January 2023. He transferred to Glendale in March that year. He had claimed “hardship” as the reason for his transfer. A “hardship” would have allowed him to play sports the next school year.

But Kickapoo officials argued that it was not a hardship, alleging that the real reason was because there was “undue influence” by Glendale football coaches who wanted Mabins to transfer to Glendale.

As part of all this, Springfield Public Schools removed Glendale head coach Mike Mauk and one of his sons, offensive coordinator Ben Mauk from the football program.

The school district and MSHSAA consistently have denied allegation that the attempt to deny Mabins eligibility had anything to do with his allegations of racism and everything to do with “undue influence.”

Judge cites U.S. Supreme Court ruling

Wichmer, in denying the request for attorneys' fees, wrote that a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court Case clearly decided that in order to win attorneys' fees one must first win a judgment on the merits of the case.

That never happened here, Wichmer wrote, because the preliminary injunction was only a preservation of the status quo.

How much money are we talking about in attorneys' fees and costs?

As I said, I don't know. The figures were redacted in court documents.

The amount of attorneys' fees and costs being sought is redacted in Greene County court documents.

I called Darline Mabins, Kylan's mother, and Jay Kirksey, Kylan's main attorney, and left messages asking for the figure. Neither replied by deadline.

In February, I reached out to Judge Wichmer to ask what the dollar figure was and to ask if the court had an unredacted version I could see or formally request to see.

I heard back from his court clerk, who wrote:

“The Court itself is not redacting any documents that are filed to the case. The redacted documents are filed by the [attorneys]. Judge Wichmer has instructed me to reach out to the Parties and have them address this issue. As soon as I have additional information, I will pass that on to you.”

I did not hear back before publication of this column.

This is Pokin Around column No. 186.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Hauxeda. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin