UIL hearing into attack on Texas high school football official

UIL texas high school football

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The University Interscholastic League questioned the leadership of the San Antonio John Jay coaching staff and their inability to maintain control of their players during a hearing Wednesday.

The emergency hearing was called in the aftermath of an attack by two John Jay players on the umpire during Friday’s game against Marble Falls. The incident had received national attention and the video of the play has been viewed millions of times.

The UIL lauded the school district for the initial steps it has taken. The next hearing was scheduled for Sept. 23, but could be held later depending on the status of the investigation.

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“I didn’t see any leadership coming from the coaching staff. Those are the ones that our players should look up to.” UIL executive committee member Gil Garza said. “That’s where our leadership has to come from. I think that missing from this in all of this.”

Garza suggested John Jay coach Gary Gutierrez should have called timeout during the second half to talk to his players in the aftermath of the initial ejections. Two John Jay players were ejected before the incident when the official was tackled.

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Northside Independent School District Athletic Director Stan Laing said the players told the coaches what was happening on the field and that the coaches had control.

“This is a vital investigation,” committee chair Mike Motheral said. “You’ve had a couple of kids who did something egregious. You’ve taken the initial steps very well, we but we want to make sure we get to the root of all aspects. You will be coming back before this group at a time in the future.”

NISD Superintendent Dr.  Brian T. Woods said, “The onus on us to complete a thorough investigation and leave no stone unturned.”

In developments that emerged from the hearing:

Alleged racial slurs

Laing and Woods said Northside has taken statements from those involved regarding the alleged racial slurs by the umpire, but said those are unconfirmed at this time.

Mike Fitch, the executive director of the Texas Association of School Officials, said Northside has yet to file an official complaint. He said the allegations of racial slurs would be an ethics issue and would come immediately to him and  the head of the association in the district involved. Additional investigators could be brought on as needed.

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“We weren’t there so I don’t know,” Fitch said. “We haven’t gotten the statement from the other officials. Now having that knowledge that I didn’t have previously have, that will be a direct question.”

Fitch said he has requested the umpire’s schedule for this season and last season as part of the TASO probe.

Status of the players

The two players involved in the hit remain suspended from the team and school, pending a disciplinary hearing. The district did not offer a timeline for when that would happen, only saying “sooner rather than later.”

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The UIL also wanted to confirm that the players involved won’t play again until the investigation is complete. “There is no doubt about that,” Woods said.

Role of the umpire

Fitch acknowledged that the umpire was a fill-in on the usual crew that was assigned to the game. However, the umpire is a 14-year veteran.

“The umpire is in the best position to control the game,” Fitch said. “We encourage them to build that rapport. Many times hearing their voice and knowing that they are there might stop things that otherwise might have happened. It lets the players know we’re there and we’re watching.”

Fitch worked as an umpire during his officiating career and said he understands the key role that spot plays in the crew.

He also said he has been involved in games that have gotten out of control.

“We do our best to get control,” he said. “We do need the coaches’ help on that. That’s not totally our job.”

Members of the committee asked about different means for officials to keep control and how it seemed this game was spiraling away from the officials even before the incident.

“I have no direct knowledge (of earlier misconduct in the game),” he said. “We will talk to the coaches and the players. We can only control the 22 players on the field at the same time.”

Future of Jay athletics

The committee noted an outcry as to whether Jay should be allowed to continue to play sports.

“We’ve had those conversations,” Wood said. “Given what we know today, we don’t believe the actions of those two young men are representative of the student-athletes on the football team or the student body at a really fine high school. We don’t believe it is in the best interests of the students at the school to make that decision at this time. It doesn’t mean we’re not open to collecting different data to change our mind but we thought it was inappropriate and unreasonable at this time.”

Follow Josh Barnett on Twitter: @byjoshbarnett

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About the Author

Jeff Fisher
Jeff is an award-winning journalist and expert in the field of high school sports, underscored with his appearance on CNBC in 2010 to talk about the big business of high school football in America.Jeff turned to his passion for high school football into an entrepreneurial venture called High School Football America, a digital media company focused on producing original high school sports content for radio, television and the internet.Jeff is co-founder and editor-in-chief of High School Football America, which is a media partner with USA TODAY High School Sports.