Arkansas Court of Appeals sends former MHHS football coach’s lawsuit back to circuit court


A ruling by the Arkansas Court of Appeals has sent a lawsuit by a former Mountain Home High School football coach back to Baxter County Circuit Court. Bryan Mattox filed a lawsuit against the Mountain Home School District in March of 2020 after his contract as a coach with the district was terminated in December of 2019, but he was retained as a teacher.

Last week, the Arkansas Court of Appeals voted 4-2 to send the case back to circuit court to be heard.

Marshall Ney of the Friday, Eldredge and Clark Law Firm in Rogers is representing the school district in the lawsuit. He says the decision by the court of appeals doesn’t impact the ultimate merits of the dispute. The motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the district was on procedural grounds.


click to download audio

Ney says they will now wait for the case to be put back on the docket for another trial date.


click to download audio

Ney expects Judge David Laser from Craighead County to preside over the case as he did previously after local judges all recused themselves.

An interesting part of the dispute in the case is over the Arkansas Teacher Fair Dismissal Act. It was repealed as part of the LEARNS act of 2023, but was still a law in 2019 and is at the center of Mattox’s lawsuit.

The former Mountain Home head coach was relieved of his duties via a notice from the school district shortly after the 2019 season ended.

The notice informed Mattox he was being terminated due to the following:

– Not demonstrating successful leadership of the district’s football program;

– Not demonstrating acceptable progress;

– Losing the confidence of the district’s administration, students, parents and patrons;

– Failures materially interfering with the proper performance of his duties;

– Just and reasonable cause to terminate his stipend and extended contract.

Mattox’s teams went just 1-29 in three seasons, but the suit alleges winning football games is not a requirement of the head coach or his coaching staff.

According to the suit, the district’s head coach’s written job description says coaches are required to complete the online National Football High School Coaches Education (NFHSC) course “Fundamentals of Coaching.”

That course says coaches are teachers first and coaches second; students are students first and athletes second; and Mattox and the football coaching staff practiced those views.

The course explains winning on the professional level is required; winning in college has become expected but winning in high school is a pleasant byproduct. It also states: What coaches are really supposed to be doing is developing young people to be productive citizens; it is important to learn to win with class and lose with dignity, as there will be losses in life far greater than the game; reacting the same way to winning and losing is the quality most important because it stays with you for the rest of your life; and the coach’s job is to help develop academic, physical, social, personal and psychological student growth.

Mattox alleges the school breached his contract because the reasons cited for dismissal do not fall under the terms of Arkansas Code that states teachers can only be terminated under contract for a district-wide reduction in force; incompetent performance; conduct which materially interferes with continued performance of the teacher’s duties; repeated or material neglect of duty; or just and reasonable cause.

The suit goes on to state the district’s citation of the coaches win-loss record and/or points scored in various quarters does not constitute just reasonable cause for termination. It also cites the termination recommendation was prompted by the complaints of a few parents whose children were starters on the football team and an anonymous critique of the football team’s statistics and plays.

Mattox signed a contract to stay at Mountain Home for the 2020-21 school year, but later left after getting a job with the Wynne School District.

WebReadyTM Powered by WireReady® NSI