The father of a high school football player has admitted sharpening a buckle on the chin strap of his son's helmet before a game in which several opponents were cut, one badly enough to need 12 stitches.
Stephen Cito said he did it because game officials had failed to penalize players for roughing up his son in an earlier game, the Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday.
Officials stopped a game Oct. 12 between St. Pius and Albuquerque Academy after five Academy players were cut.
They then found that a buckle on St. Pius junior Mike Cito's helmet had an edge sharp enough to shred a magazine cover. Some Academy players said they believed St. Pius athletes knew about the buckle before the game was stopped.
Academy senior Joe Paquette, who needed 12 stitches to close a gash on his forearm, said several St. Pius players made indirect references to the buckle before the game was stopped.
Last Friday, the newspaper reported, the elder Cito admitted to Father Ronald G. Schwenzer, principal at St. Pius, that he had sharpened the buckle.
"He indicated that the previous week he felt his son was being tackled and getting pushed around unfairly and the referees said they didn't see anything," Schwenzer said. "This was his dad's solution to that."
Mike Cito was expelled Monday, after having previously been dismissed from the team.
Cito's parents appealed the expulsion, but the father's confession wasn't enough to warrant keeping the teenager in school.
"The son is 17 years old," Schwenzer said. "We're talking about an age of being able to reason. We still have to look at what the intent of this was."
Schwenzer said there was no evidence that St. Pius coaches, staff or other players knew about the buckle in advance.
The incident is being investigated by the New Mexico Activities Assn., the governing body for high school sports in the state, and by District Attorney Robert Schwartz.
"There's no such thing as stadium immunity," Schwartz said. "Just because you have a number on your back doesn't mean you shouldn't have one under your profile."