Florida Atlantic coach Carl Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis both resigned Wednesday after university officials said they acknowledged using illegal drugs.
FAU received information about the allegations of drug usage by the two coaches on Monday, said athletic director Patrick Chun. An investigation began immediately and Chun confronted the coaches on Wednesday, a day when law enforcement officials also visited the school’s athletic offices.
Pelini was the head coach at practice in the morning. By late afternoon, he was gone.
Pelini is a Cardinal Mooney High School graduate and former Austintown Fitch head coach, and is the brother of Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. Rekstis is a Cincinnati native who was a Youngstown State defensive back from 1987-90 and a former Penguins assistant under former YSU head coaches Jim Tressel and Jon Heacock.
“We hold ourselves to a standard here,” Chun said. “That behavior is unacceptable for a lot of reasons. Like I told our student-athletes today, we all have responsibilities. When you wear the logo of Florida Atlantic University, you wear it 24 hours a day. ... We hold you to a higher standard and you have to hold yourself to that standard. Decisions were made that ultimately hurt some people, and there’s consequences for those decisions.”
Chun said that as of now, neither Pelini nor Rekstis is facing any charges. The investigation is continuing, and Chun said that was limiting the amount of information he could publicly reveal, other than the drug usage happened off-campus, not at an official school event, not on the team’s most recent road trip and that no players were involved.
“Really anxious to find out what the hell is going in right now,” FAU defensive back Keith Reaser posted on Twitter.
Neither of the former coaches were permitted to address the team before leaving campus. Howard Schnellenberger, the program’s founder and longtime coach who still serves as an ambassador for the university, was at Chun’s news conference Wednesday, looking crestfallen and sitting in silence.
Offensive coordinator Brian Wright will serve as interim head coach for the Owls, who are 2-6 and play host to Tulane on Saturday. It’s undecided if Wright will also continue serving in the coordinator role. Players were told of the dismissals Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s been a blur, these 48 hours,” Chun said.
Pelini’s resignation was first reported by ESPN.com. Chun said the remainder of the coaching staff remains committed to the program.
“I apologize for exercising poor judgment,” Pelini said in a statement distributed by the school. “My greatest concerns at this time are for me family, the dedicated FAU players and my staff. I am confident that Pat Chun and the University administration will continue to move the program forward.”
Chun said two people came forward initially with information about the drug usage, sparking a need for an investigation. It moved swiftly, and FAU made the decision early Wednesday to confront the coaches after a morning practice. Police were summoned Wednesday, Chun said, “from a safety standpoint” to protect FAU property, but also indicated that the meetings with the coaches went professionally.
“Once confronted, they resigned,” Chun said.
Pelini was 5-15 at FAU, coming to the Owls after serving as defensive coordinator on his brother's staff at Nebraska. Even after Wednesday’s developments, Chun was complimentary of Carl Pelini and what he was building in Boca Raton, saying he left the program in better shape than when he found it, “in my opinion, at least,” Chun said.
Someone else will have to continue that task. FAU’s search for a permanent coach, Chun said, has begun.
“Number one, I’m concerned for our football team,” Chun said. “Obviously, I’m disappointed in Carl and Pete, but my thoughts are more about our kids and our assistant football coaches and what’s going through their minds. This is a tough deal for kids and we’ve got to help these kids process this. They all looked up to these two guys and that’s a tough place to be.”