San Antonio referee targeted in on-field hit

An assistant football coach has been placed on paid leave for what a San Antonio-area school district spokesman says could have instigated a targeted hit on a referee.

Two high school football players could face criminal charges for an attack on a referee during a high school football game on Friday in Marble Falls. The players from John Jay High School in the Northside Independent School District have already been suspended pending a disciplinary hearing.

“The incident will be treated as an assault on a school official,” said Northside ISD spokesman Pascual Gonzales.

The football players are seen on video using a play from scrimmage to take down the referee. One player blindsided him while the other speared him with his helmet.

“The students allege that an assistant coach said, ‘That guy needs to pay for cheating us,’ or something to that effect," added Gonzales.

“I think it's just a sad reflection on how our society has, frankly, denigrated,” said Andy Kahan, best known for serving as a victim’s rights advocate in Houston. Kahan does believe the players should be charged with assault, but he’s also offering an opinion based on his experience being a high school referee.

“I've been a high school basketball ref going on for 28 years,” Kahan explained. “You hear little things that get out if hand, but I've never seen anything so blatant and so vicious, and, from when I looked at it, so obviously premeditated.”

Criminal charges are being considered by the Burnet County District Attorney’s Office. But there are other investigations too. The University Interscholastic League is investigating and Northside ISD has filed a complaint with the Texas Association of Sports Officials. The players claim the referee insulted them with a racial slur.

Meanwhile, there are calls to ban the players from playing football again.  But according to Albert Johnson, the Executive Director of the Positive Coaching Alliance of Houston, the incident shouldn’t be a career ender for a player or a coach. He says this is an important teachable moment.

“You sign up to coach, to teach the X’s and O’s, but more importantly to teach life skills,” said Johnson.

And, yes, there is a way to teach players to respect even officiating calls they don’t agree with.

“We often encourage our coaches to have officials out at practice, and essentially make a bad call, so kids can practice responding in a positive way,” Johnson said. “Those things are going to happen in the heat of the battle.”
Johnson says the Positive Coaching Alliance goal is to develop better athletes and better people. He says his group works in partnership with Houston and Fort Bend independent school districts.                

The UIL is holding a hearing on the incident Wednesday in Austin. Kahan says tough sanctions, and possible criminal charges, could be what’s needed to keep bad behavior on the field from becoming a trend.