ROUND ROCK, Texas (AP) — An assistant Texas high school football coach accused of ordering players to hit a referee who allegedly hurled racial slurs during a game has resigned, and the head coach may also face discipline, administrators said Thursday.
The two players who blindsided referee Robert Watts and knocked him down did not attend a fact-finding hearing in Austin over the Sept. 4 game. Those students, a senior and a sophomore, have been suspended to an alternative school.
John Jay High School head football coach Gary Gutierrez apologized to the University Interscholastic League, the state's governing board for high school sports, which could bring down hard sanctions against the coach and school but adjourned without taking any action.
Gutierrez said his former assistant, Mack Breed, told him he instructed players to go after Watts in the waning minutes of an increasingly heated game at Marble Falls.
"I think he violated the sanctity of what coaches are," Gutierrez said.
An attorney for Watts denied allegations that the referee told John Jay players to "speak English, this is America." Watts also denied using another profane racial slur.
The state association for Texas high school officials says it also found no evidence that Watts said those remarks. Gutierrez said he has no reason to doubt allegations from his players, who told their coaches earlier in the game that referees had been directing racial slurs at them.
Watts didn't attend the hearing, but Downs handed the board copies of family photos that show Watts at his wedding with his best man, who is black, and another of Watts' grandmother, who is from Mexico.
In a written statement to the board, Watts said he has post-concussion syndrome and anxiety disorder. He said one John Jay player told him after the hit, "You're in the way" and laughed.
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. Video from the game shows Rojas blindsiding Watts and Moreno diving on top of him. Watts was the umpire on the defensive side watching a play along the line of scrimmage.