FAU assistant coach says he witnessed Pelini’s drug use
Carl Pelini’s surprising departure from Florida Atlantic took another turn Friday, when school officials released sworn affidavits from two people — including a member of Pelini’s staff — alleging that the football coach was seen using marijuana and cocaine.
Pelini, a Cardinal Mooney High School graduate and former Austintown Fitch head football coach, is the brother of Nebraska head football coach Bo Pelini.
FAU assistant coach Matt Edwards told officials that he witnessed Carl Pelini smoking marijuana in Key West, Fla., on Oct. 19, the Saturday of an off week for the Owls. That was echoed by another person, Allison Stewart, who also said she got a text message from the now-former Owls coach one day later in which he was “admitting that he uses drugs on occasion.”
Edwards remains on the staff, and is expected to be coaching Saturday when Florida Atlantic plays host to Tulane in Boca Raton, Fla. Brian Wright has replaced Pelini as head coach, on an interim basis.
The affidavits, both of which were notarized, state that they were provided at the request of Florida Atlantic athletic director Patrick Chun “to assist him with an investigation.” They were released by FAU officials on Friday after a public-records request.
Pelini’s contract specified that if he used “any narcotics, drugs, or other controlled substances” he could be subject to firing. Pelini resigned Wednesday after being confronted with the allegations, and since he wasn’t fired the school may be able to recoup $500,000 because the coach terminated the contract himself.
Earlier this week, Chun said Pelini acknowledged use of “illegal drugs” before he resigned.
Pelini’s resignation was effective immediately.
The resignation of defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis, who Chun said also acknowledged drug use when confronted with the allegations, is not effective until Dec. 31. It’s not clear what role Rekstis has with the university now, if any. He is no longer listed as a member of the Owls’ coaching staff.
Rekstis, who grew up in Cleveland, was a Youngstown State defensive back from 1987 to 1990 and a former Penguins assistant under former YSU head coaches Jim Tressel and Jon Heacock.
Edwards’ affidavit also said he witnessed Rekstis using marijuana and cocaine in the past year.
“I wanted to provide as much advance notice as possible to avoid disruption at the University,” Rekstis wrote in his resignation.
An email sent Friday to Brian Kopp, an attorney who sent FAU officials a statement from Pelini shortly before the head coach’s resignation was announced, was not immediately returned.
Pelini had a base annual salary of $472,500, according to FAU’s most recently released payroll data. Rekstis was making $145,000, and Edwards is making $90,272 annually.
Pelini was 5-15 in parts of two seasons at Florida Atlantic, including a 2-6 start this season.
Pelini played two seasons at Columbia University and was an assistant at Mooney and several other high schools and at Kansas State before leading the Fitch program from 2000 to 2002. He later was an assistant at Kansas State, Minnesota-Mankato and Nebraska.
Edwards is in his first season with FAU. He previously worked with Rekstis at Miami of Ohio, and Pelini raved about him when he brought him to Florida Atlantic, saying he was “blessed” to have him on staff and describing him as “a good person who genuinely cares about his players.”