2 top coaches from Valley quit over drug use

Staff/wire report


Florida Atlantic University head football coach Carl Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis both resigned Wednesday after university officials said they acknowledged using illegal drugs.

Pelini, a Cardinal Mooney High School graduate and former Austintown Fitch head football coach, is the brother of Nebraska head football coach Bo Pelini.

Rekstis, who grew up in Cleveland, was a Youngstown State defensive back from 1987-90 and a former Penguins assistant under former YSU head coaches Jim Tressel and Jon Heacock.

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 Wednesday, a day when law-enforcement officials also visited the school’s athletic offices.

Carl Pelini was the head coach at practice Wednesday morning. By late afternoon, he was gone.

“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.

Neither of the former coaches was 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.

Wright also is a former YSU assistant. He was a graduate assistant under Tressel in 1997 and served as the Penguins’ offensive coordinator under Heacock.

Heacock, now an assistant at Purdue, declined to comment on the resignations. But in a text, he described Wright as an “Excellent Coach and person!!”

Tressel and Bo Pelini did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday night.

FAU players were told of the dismissals Wednesday afternoon.

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 my 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.”

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 2000-02. He later was an assistant at Kansas State, Minnesota-Mankato and Nebraska.

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.

“Once confronted, they resigned,” Chun said.

Pelini was 5-15 at FAU, coming to the Owls after serving as defensive coordinator at Nebraska.

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