Round Rock, Texas – Executive board members of the University Interscholastic League held an emergency meeting Wednesday morning to hear reports surrounding an incident in which two football players blindsided Robert Watts, a veteran referee.
“It is the most egregious event that I’ve ever witnessed in my forty years in public education,” UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt said of the incident that happened last Friday as Jay High faced Marble Falls on the road.
League officials commended Northside ISD for placing the involved athletes on indefinite suspension from school and did not issue any additional sanctions.
District officials and the executive director of the Texas Association of Sports Officials provided the committee with information about events precipitating the attack, including allegations that Watts flung racial slurs toward the Jay High athletes.
“We feel like we owe it to the young men who alleged racial comments were made to file a complaint such that TASO has the information to conduct their own independent investigation,” NISD Superintendent Brian T. Woods said.
TASO Executive Director Michael Fitch said he has yet to receive an official complaint.
Alan Goldberger, an attorney for Watts, told ESPN that the referee is “ … not a happy camper about being falsely accused.”
Jay High’s defensive backs coach Mack Breed, a 2004 Jay graduate, has been placed on administrative leave as part of NISD protocol. He is alleged to have said, “This guy needs to pay for cheating us,” before the occurrence.
The UIL made it clear the players’ actions are not justifiable under any circumstances.
Board member James Colbert, Jr. Superintendent of Harris County Education, said that athletes “reflect the leadership of their (coaches).”
However, Woods affirmed Jay Head Coach Gary Gutierrez is not in danger of losing his job.
But the committee questioned the type of environment Jay High administrators and coaches have created within the school’s athletic programs and will continue to examine the Mustang football team at multiple levels.
Breithaupt said referees reported that the behavior coming from Jay’s sidelines and the players in the game might indicate a larger issue.
“But we need more than just one game’s report to make that determination,” he said.
The UIL and TASO are also looking into how officials handled the game.
Fitch noted it is the job of officiating crews to manage games and to ensure the well-being of all participants. He has asked each umpire of the Jay versus Marble Falls contest to provide him a synopsis of what they witnessed from coaches, players and fellow officials.
The hearing brought up a new piece to the puzzle: Watts was a fill-in for the crew overseeing that particular contest.
Fill-ins are common due to a shortage of referees, but the fact Watts was not a regular member of that particular crew seemed far from a moot point.
Many UIL officials asked, “Why were the referees unable to diffuse a game heading toward destruction?”
Board member Gil Garza, athletic director for Dallas schools, said the game displayed massive amounts of penalty yardage and several ejections and was a “time bomb” waiting to go off.
Goldberger has called the attack on Watts a premeditated crime. The two athletes may face criminal charges of assaulting a school official.
The Marble Falls Police Department conducted preliminary interviews, including with Watts, and will hold a press conference Thursday.
For more than 9 million viewers of a YouTube video documenting the attack, this disheartening incidence may have been their first impression of Texas high school football.
It is an occurrence “that is no way indicative of what high school football is like in the state of Texas,” UIL Deputy Director Jamey Harrison said.
John Jay High School will continue its season this Friday with a matchup against Del Rio.
The UIL plans to hold another meeting on these issues later this month.