SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A Texas high school football coach acknowledged he directed two of his players to hit a referee during a game early this month, according to the school's principal.
In an internal school district statement, John Jay High School principal Robert Harris said assistant coach Mack Breed told him he directed the students to hit the referee because the ref had used racial slurs and had missed calls. Details from the statement were first reported Wednesday by ESPN.
The referee, Robert Watts, has denied using any slurs.
The coach "wanted to take full responsibility for his actions. Mr. Breed at one point during our conversation stated that he should have handled the referee himself," Harris wrote in his statement.
The two suspended students, Michael Moreno and Victor Rojas, appeared Wednesday at separate disciplinary hearings, which were closed to the public. Both were ordered to complete 75 days in alternative school before becoming eligible to return to their regular classes Jan. 15, according to their attorney, Jesse Hernandez. Their punishment had ranged from assignment to an alternative school to expulsion.
Speaking with reporters after Wednesday's hearing, Hernandez cited the Breed statement, saying that if the two players hadn't been directed by the coach and if the referee hadn't used such language, "they wouldn't have done this and they regret it."
Hernandez and Breed, who remains suspended from the district, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
During an appearance last week on ABC's "Good Morning, America," Moreno said he regretted hitting Watts and wanted to apologize. Rojas said he was just doing what he was told.
The two were suspended from the John Jay High School football team in San Antonio in the aftermath of the Sept. 4 game at Marble Falls. 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.
Northside is scheduled to present the findings from its investigation at a meeting Thursday in Round Rock of the state executive committee of the University Interscholastic League, which oversees Texas high school sports, said school district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez.