MILFORD, VA., OCT. 30 -- John Watts had had enough. His Caroline County High School football team was on its way to its second straight losing season when the threats began. In the last few weeks, the incidents had gone beyond telephoned threats and now Watts has resigned as coach to ensure his "own safety."
The resignation had been scheduled to go into effect at the end of the season, but today Principal Dave Baker relieved Watts of his coaching responsibilites for the remaining two games.
Baker termed his action "an administrative decision," and would not elaborate, saying it dealt with a personnel matter and was confidential. But he did indicate that there was no effort to retain Watts's services.
Gary Chillcoat and Jimmy Blanton will share the coaching duties for the remainder of the season.
Watts refused to comment today. However, he said in Monday's Fredericksburg Free Lance Star that his decision to resign after three years as head coach was based on the team's 1-7 record this season, "verbal abuse and physical threats" from fans and strained relations with school administrators.
Watts was quoted as saying that fans have harassed him at games and called him at his home "not threatening to kill me, just to beat me up. I hope my resignation stops this."
According to Caroline Athletic Director Sam Frye, Watts said he was hit in the back of the neck during his team's game against James Monroe Friday night with a thrown spent cartridge from a rifle (which he turned over to Frye) and, while driving from the Caroline parking lot after the game, someone threw a rock at his car, cracking the windshield.
Apparently, the tension reached its apex in the James Monroe game. The game was forfeited by Caroline with 2:05 remaining in the first half after a fight broke out between the teams, with James Monroe leading, 14-7.
The fight is under investigation by the Virginia High School League.
According to Frye, Watts, who will remain as a science teacher at the school, notified him two weeks ago of phoned threats, "but couldn't pinpoint who it was. He never indicated how many phone calls he had received. Only that there had been one or more calls and they were threatening in nature."
Watts also made Frye aware of taunting from the stands the week before during Caroline's game against Powhatan, informing the athletic director there was a small group that was heckling him, apparently at halftime. But it wasn't until the James Monroe game that Frye and Baker were able to identify the members of the group.
Frye said the hecklers were older "relatives of some of the ballplayers, and some fans but not parents."
Frye notified a police officer at the game, and he and Baker went into the stands and informed the group that "unless this activity stopped, they would be ejected and banned from coming to further home games."
In 1988, Watts (9-20 career record at Caroline) coached the Cavaliers to the first playoff berth in the school's history with a 7-4 record. But injuries to some key players led to a dismal showing in 1989 as the team finished 1-9.