Shaky handoff?: Texas coach denies slipping ref post-game bribe

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A mysterious post-game handshake between a high school football coach and a referee was no bribe, officials insist, despite a Texas-sized Internet buzz that the greeting - caught on cellphone video, looked mighty suspicious.

Calhoun coach Richard Whitaker said he passed a lucky poker chip on to the referee in the lingering glad-hand, and denied claims he was paying the the official, following a 43-20 victory over B. F. Terry High School on Oct. 15. The handshake became the talk of Whitaker’s Sandcrabs players, his school and the Internet when a 10-second clip was posted on Twitter earlier this week. It has since been deleted.

“It’s amazing how things travel from social media,” Whitaker told The Dallas Morning News in an interview Tuesday. “That’s why we tell our guys you can’t put things out there you don’t know the truth about.”

“It’s amazing how things travel from social media.”

— Riuchard Whitaker, Calhoun football coach

The day after the interview, the Calhoun School District in Port Lavaca issued a statement refuting claims on the web that Whitaker slipped cash into the referee’s hands.

Whitaker confirmed he gave the ref a poker chip that had been handed to him by the Terry coach Tim Teykl, according to the statement.

“The poker chip was picked up off the field and passed around, in good humor, between both team’s head coaches,” the statement said. “The chip finally ended up with the game’s referee.

The district acknowledged that after the video of the exchange was posted online “allegations and rumors followed.”

“In regards to the exchange, (the Calhoun School District) denies any type of wrongdoing,” the district said in its statement.

The statement also quoted the game official who described what happened when he shook hands with Whitaker and Teykl on the 50-yard line.

“As I shook Coach Whitaker’s hand he put a poker chip in my hand that we shook with,” the unnamed ref said. “Both coaches told me good job and I was happy we had (an) exciting game on TV that was without incident. I thought nothing of it as it (was) just a normal chip and that night I had seen multiple chips on his sideline which I figured were part of something the band was doing for homecoming.”

A high school band, practicing on the field, used the poker chips, which have no value, as markers for where to stand and then failed to pick them up, The Houston Chronicle reported.

Whitaker told the paper that when he and Teykl chatted before the game, his rival saw a poker chip and picked it up.

“He said, ‘Here, this is for good luck,’” Whitaker said.

Whitaker said he was going to give the poker chip back to Teykl after the game but didn’t want to seem like he was rubbing it in after the 23-point win. So he gave it to the ref.

Calhoun’s next game is Friday night at home, and Whitaker says he is keeping his hands in his pockets.

“After this, I’m not going to shake anybody’s hand after the game,” he joked to the Morning Herald.