ROUND ROCK, Texas (AP) — A Texas high school football coach accused of ordering players to knock down a referee who allegedly hurled racial insults at the team has resigned, and state officials warned Thursday that punishments to others may be coming.
Former bosses for Mack Breed, who was an assistant coach at John Jay High in San Antonio, told a governing board they believe he ordered at least one player to retaliate against referee Robert Watts during the waning moments of a game on Sept. 4.
Video from the game shows two players lining up behind Watts, who was the umpire, and then blindsiding him from behind after the snap.
Breed did not attend the hearing near Austin of the University Interscholastic League, which oversees high school sports in Texas. His attorney released a lengthy statement that does not admit to telling the players to strike Watts but acknowledges that Breed made “some regrettable comments,” without listing them.
His attorney said witnesses have offered conflicting stories about what Breed said and that the account from one of the players who hit the referee has changed over time.
“In hindsight, Mack feels he could have handled the situation better,” attorney James Reeves said. “Mack never intended for the kids to hit or hurt the referee, but the result was the same. While Mack is moving forward, others have yet to accept responsibility for their roles.”
Watts did not attend the hearing but submitted a five-page written account of the game through his attorney, who also gave the board two family photos. One shows Watts at his wedding with his best man, who is black, and another is of Watts’ grandmother, who is from Mexico.
Attorney Jay Downs denied again to the board Thursday that Watts used racial slurs. He said one of the false accusations being floated is that Watts said “speak English, this is America” while John Jay players were talking to each other.
With Breed not in attendance, Gutierrez took most of the heat from the board, which could bring down hard sanctions against the coach and school. But partly because Breed, Watts and the players all did not attended the hearing, the board abstained from taking action and tentatively scheduled another meeting for October.
The board publicly warned Gutierrez, however, that he could be disciplined with probation and questioned the culture in his program.
“This is a big, big incident, and you own it as the head coach,” board member Gil Garza.
Watts said he has post-concussion syndrome and anxiety disorder. One John Jay player told him after the hit, “You’re in the way” and laughed, according to his written statement.
Earlier in the game, Watts said, another John Jay player had “smirked” at him after pushing him for “no apparent reason.” That player was later ejected, before Watts was hit.
Watts said he wound up with turf burn on his forehead, a cut next to his eye and a large red bruise on his arm.
The two suspended students, Michael Moreno and Victor Rojas, appeared Wednesday at separate disciplinary hearings, which were closed to the public.