The Texas high school football coach accused of ordering two of his players to slam a referee to the ground earlier this month has resigned.
Mack Breed admitted to his principal at John Jay High School that he ordered Michael Moreno and Javier Rojas to strike official Robert Watts in a game against Marble Falls on 4 September because, according to Breed, the official had used racist language and made a series of bad calls. Breed’s admission came in a letter signed by principal Robert Harris, which said Breed “directed the students to make the referee pay for his racial comments and calls.”
Breed’s attorney, James Reeves, said in a statement on Thursday that Breed was not solely to blame.
“Some people are unfairly blaming one man for everything that happened at that game,” Reeves said. “Mack Breed has spent three agonizing weeks contemplating his future since the fateful football game in which two players struck a referee. It has been a difficult road for Mack as he has stood silently watching the spectacle. He has replayed that game in his mind many times wondering how it all went wrong.”
Breed did not appear at a hearing on Thursday morning of the University Interscholastic League, of which John Jay High School is a part. The UIL was meeting to decide whether to hand down penalties against Rojas and Moreno, or against the entire team, including the coaching staff. The UIL also has the option of canceling the rest of Jay’s football season.
News of Breed’s resignation comes a day after 15-year-old Rojas and 17-year-old Moreno were told they would be suspended from school for 75 days, and told to attend an alternative high school in the Northside independent school district. The pair are eligible to return to John Jay high school for the spring semester.
The players’ lawyer, Jesse Hernandez, said: “We were hoping that maybe they’d make an exception to send them back to [Jay]. It’s definitely not the harshest punishment they could have given.”
Last week, Rojas and Moreno apologised for their ‘great regret’ in slamming Watts to the ground, but said they were directed to hit him by Breed. According to the players, Breed told them: “You need to hit him”. Moreno said of Breed: “His emotions just got mixed into it. He told us to do what we did.”
According to the principal’s statement filed on 10 September, Breed “wanted to take full responsibility for his actions” and told Harris he should have handled the situation himself. Jay players alleged Watts used the “n-word” to the players and said Watts told one player to “speak English” instead of Spanish during the game.
Watts’s attorney denied the allegations of racist abuse.
No criminal charges have been filed, but the Marble Falls police department is investigating the incident.
Northside ISD athletic director Stan Laing said the district has been “as transparent as we possibly can be”. The district placed Breed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
“We’re going to take care of our students first, but at the same time, if there has something that has been done that has been wrong, we have to address that accordingly,” Laing said. “We’ve been as transparent as we can possibly be from the very beginning on this.”
In a separate case that bears striking similarities to the incident in Texas, a football player in Tennessee has been suspended by the local school district after he was involved in a collision with a referee in a play last Friday night.
Malcolm Easley has been suspended indefinitely pending further investigation, after he collided with the field umpire in a game between Glencliff high school and Gallatin in the Nashville area.
Kyle Gill was the field umpire during the game and involved in the collision.
“I think it’s pretty obvious what went down,” Gill said.
Gill said that he had spoken to Easley just prior to the play.
“I had spoken to the player on the play before and he told me that I was in his way,” Gill said. “I asked him how long he’d been playing football and he had to realize that the referees are part of the field. I told him that he should have to avoid me and not the other way around. On the very next play, you saw what happened.”
The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association has chosen not to mete out any additional punishment, and said “there was not intent to target the official”, but Gill disagreed with that assessment.
“It looked pretty malicious to me,” Gill said. “I do think I was targeted.”