For family, he walked away from his baby. To outsiders, that seemed like the hard part. You give 31 years to a small town in a football state, become the face of a high school powerhouse and say goodbye. It’s got to hurt, right?
Mike Mauk won’t deny it. He won and won a ton at Kenton High School in Ohio.
Players saw him as a father-like figure. Some went on to play big-time college football. The town earlier this year rallied in his support in hopes of finding a way to keep him on board.
But Mike Mauk the coach is also Mike Mauk the dad.
Among his three children is Maty, the Missouri Tigers’ likely starting quarterback. Another is Eden, an Evangel University graduate who lives in the Springfield area and is about two weeks from giving birth.
If ever there was a time to start a new chapter, this year was it. And so here is Mauk, days from the Friday night lights flickering on as he leads the football program at Glendale High School.
“This weekend,” Mauk was saying ahead of Friday’s preseason jamboree at Lowe Stadium, “I’ll be able to go up and watch Maty in the scrimmage and be back that night, and we’ll be at church on Sunday. Those are things I’d never gotten to do if I was living where I was living.”
Who knows how this all plays out.
Mauk, 56, is now in a basketball town, at a basketball school, where the Glendale football program has enjoyed moderate success over the past decade but not much lately.
Glendale’s last winning season was four years ago when the current seniors were freshmen. A year ago, the Falcons finished 1-9, at a time when Mauk’s Kenton Wildcats reached the Ohio state semifinals and finished 13-1, the program’s 21st consecutive winning season.
It also turned out to be Mauk’s last season there.
In Ohio, a change in the way teacher pensions are paid out led to Mauk retiring last school year. In essence, had he not retired by July 1, he would have had to wait until 2018 to receive a 2 percent cost-of-living increase. Retirements after this year would be a five-year wait, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Mauk attempted to retire but stay on as athletic director and football coach, but the idea apparently didn’t gain traction with the Kenton school board, according to published reports. And so Mauk walked away.
Past student-athletes conducted an online petition for Kenton’s school board to keep him. “More importantly,” Logan Jones wrote, “he’s helped turn boys into men. He’s given boys who didn’t have much to fall back on a chance and hope to do something with their lives.”
“It wasn’t an easy thing. We had done something there that had never been done before,” said Mauk, who was 68-16 the past seven seasons — after opening with a 9-30 record in his first four seasons. “We were the smallest school in an eight-team league.”
Now he’s in basketball country, and knows what he’s in store for with a rebuild at Glendale. The athletic director of Springfield Public Schools, Mark Fisher, made certain Mauk was OK with the reality before recommending him to the school board.
For instance, Glendale’s defense does not return a starter.
“Anytime you interview a candidate, you have to be honest. You want to see if they know the whole story. And with Tyler (Overstreet) being involved in the process, we all could speak about the program,” Fisher said, referring to Glendale’s recent football coach and now-athletic director/vice principal.
Fortunately for Mauk, he has the all-important buy-in from seniors and an experienced quarterback in senior Alex Austin.
As senior lineman Grant Buhler put it, “You’re going to show up 30 minutes early because you don’t want to disappoint him.”
Chandler Collins, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound wide receiver, is optimistic. In a recent intrasquad scrimmage, Collins missed a key block and worried about getting an earful. He didn’t. Mauk, he said, teaches. He only reminded Chandler that he’ll draw the best corner cover man every night.
It allowed him to see his value.
“If you make a mistake, he’s going to let you know about it. But he’s a real reassuring guy,” Collins said. “He’s not trying to break anybody down.”
Senior defensive end Spencer Fulshaw concurred.
“He’s really calm with us, and that’s what I really like,” Fulshaw said.
Players are motivated anyway. Fulshaw talked about the 2011 Glendale team that featured All-USA Ozarks return specialist Trevor Vaughn and finished 8-2. That team lost 35-28 in overtime to powerhouse Lee’s Summit West in the second round of the Class 5 playoffs.
“We did look up to them,” Fulshaw said. “Now, we want to be the class of what Glendale can be. Sometimes seniors don’t get along with the underclassmen. That’s not that way here. We’ll cheer them on if they do good. We’ll let them know if they’re doing something wrong. They’re going to be a big part of Glendale in the next few years.”
A big task it could be. But Mauk is eager for the challenge.
“When you have natural ability, we’ve tried to get them to reach their full potential,” Mauk said. “You’ve got to be good in the classroom. And you definitely need good work habits. That’ll give you a chance to play on this team. You can’t coach size or how big a kid is going to be.
“But you can coach how good he could be.”
He’s been doing it for years.
Coach: Mike Mauk, first season
Last year: 1-9
Key players: OL Jake Luellan (jr., 6-2, 255); OL Eric Webb (sr., 5-11, 195); OL Grant Harris (so., 6-0, 210), OL Joey Tucker (sr., 5-10, 180), QB Alex Austin (sr., 6-3, 155), QB Trace Clinkenbeard (so., 5-11, 175), QB Josh Marion (jr., 6-3, 185), QB/CB Von Oeser (so., 5-8, 140), RBs Josh Buchanan (jr., 5-11, 195), Reuben Lopez (jr., 5-9, 150), WR Jeremy Almeida (so., 5-11, 155), RB Luke Montgomery (so., 5-11, 175), RB Ryan Wester (sr., 6-3, 170), WR/DB George Tinson (sr., 5-7, 150), WR Cole Keiser (sr., 6-1, 155), DL Spencer Fulshaw (sr., 6-2, 230), DL Nate Nagy (sr., 6-5, 210), DL Ian Marshall (so., 6-0, 190), DL Brett Davis (so., 5-11, 225), DL Detrick Tichner (jr., 6-0, 220), CB Colton Buster (sr., 5-11, 170), CB Alex Vaughn (sr., 5-8, 155), CB Nick Austin (so., 5-8, 155), CB Carson Liston (so., 5-11, 160), CB Chad Lakin (so., 5-6, 150), S Dakota Peterson (sr., 6-1, 160), S Eli Wells (so., 5-11, 175); LBs Kyle Doran (so., 5-10, 190), Alex Wood (sr., 6-3, 155), Harry Keiser (jr., 5-11, 150), George Hurt (jr., 5-9, 195).
Aug. 22 — vs. Joplin
Aug. 29 — at Hillcrest
Sept. 5 — at West Plains
Sept. 13 — at Lebanon
Sept. 18 — vs. Kickapoo
Sept. 25 — at Parkview
Oct. 3 — vs. Rolla
Oct. 10 — at Waynesville
Oct. 17 — vs. Camdenton