By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The assistant San Antonio high school football coach thought to have ordered his players to blindside a referee during a game no longer works for the Texas school district that employed him, a school official told an investigation panel on Thursday.
John Jay High School secondary coach Mack Breed asked players to hit the official during the game, according to statements the school district has received in an incident captured on a video seen millions of times that also set off a national debate about violence on the playing field.
"Coach Breed made verbal statements after the game to some of his colleagues and to his head coach where he did indicate in various ways that he had directed students to make some kind of contact with the official," said Brian Woods, the superintendent of Northside Independent School District, which oversees John Jay.
Woods also told the hearing of the governing body for school sports in Texas, the University Interscholastic League, that Breed later changed his story. Breed is not expected to appear before the committee, which is looking into possible punishment, and has not spoken publicly about the incident.
The video clip of the game in September between John Jay and Marble Falls High School shows two John Jay defensive backs lining up behind the official, with one running into him from behind and the other driving into him just after he was knocked down.
The two players were ejected from the game, which John Jay lost 15-9.
"Our initial investigation was that Coach Breed had indicated to the two young men to make some kind of contact with the official, or to ‘make him pay.’ One of those young men confirms that, the other does not," he said.
John Jay players made statements that the official had made racial slurs against players from their team. No adult or coach has confirmed the accusations, Wood said at the hearing held outside of Austin.
The official, Robert Watts, who did not testify at the hearing, has strongly denied the allegations of making racial slurs, and Michael Fitch, executive director of the Texas Association of Sports Officials, added its investigation has not uncovered any evidence that such comments were made.
"No coach, no official, no adult, no opposing team player has provided any evidence of personal knowledge of a racial slur," Fitch said.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Editing by Eric Walsh)