BOCA RATON — Florida Atlantic University’s head football coach and defensive coordinator suddenly resigned on Wednesday after school officials accused both men of using illegal drugs.
The resignations of FAU head coach Carl Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis were formally announced by Owls athletic director Pat Chun during a Wednesday afternoon press conference at FAU Stadium.
FAU campus police were called to escort Pelini and Rekstis from FAU’s football facility after they resigned. Chun said no arrests were made and no criminal charges are expected to be filed.
FAU officials said the school’s investigation into the drug use will continue, but Chun said no athletes were involved and the drug use occurred off campus.
“They tendered their resignations to me late this morning after I confronted both with reports relating to their use of illegal drugs,” Chun said. “They admitted to wrongdoings and they resigned on the spot.”
Neither Pelini nor Rekstis could be reached for comment, but Chun read a statement from Pelini at the press conference, saying: “I apologize for exercising poor judgment.”
The school was first alerted to the situation Monday, when Chun said he was approached by two whistleblowers, both of whom said they had evidence of drug use by the coaches.
Chun declined to name the whisteblowers or comment on the nature of the whistleblowers’ relationships with him or the school.
Chun and assistant athletic director Melissa Dawson investigated the allegations of drug use by the coaches, and when they uncovered what they said was more evidence, Chun called the university’s office of general counsel.
“The beauty of working in this organization is there’s no debate about doing the right thing. There was no haggling,” Chun said. “Once we had the acts verified, [interim university president] Dennis [Crudele] said that, ‘We have to do this, and we have to do this right now.’”
Both Pelini and Rekstis were present at FAU’s Wednesday morning practice, after which they were summoned to Chun’s office. The second-year athletic director said he was prepared to fire both with cause.
“It was an emotional meeting, but once I articulated all the facts I had, they tendered their resignation. There wasn’t a high level of debate,” Chun said.
Pelini was hired to be FAU’s second-ever coach in December 2011. He came to FAU from the University of Nebraska, where he was the team’s defensive coordinator, under his brother, Bo Pelini, from 2008-2011. The 48-year old native of Ohio leaves FAU with a 5-15 record.
Chun said that he called the police to FAU’s football facility to help escort Pelini and Rekstis from the building to help protect university property that was used in the investigation.
“There was no need, from a negative side [to have police present],” Chun said. “They were there to help us confiscate university property.”
FAU has four games remaining this season, and will need to win them all if the team wants to go to a bowl game for the first time since 2008. FAU hosts Tulane Saturday at 5 p.m.
Offensive coordinator Brian Wright will serve as FAU’s head coach for the remainder of the season. Linebackers coach Jovan Dewitt will move into Rekstis’ vacated role.
The decision to promote Wright, and not associate head coach Jeff Sims, into the interim role was Chun’s.
“You’re always making assessments on people. you’re always play the what-if game,” Chun said. “I have a great amount of faith in Brian, he’s a good man.”
Chun said he has already started the process of looking a new head football coach, but will not actively pursue one until the the investigation has ended.
Chun said that there was no consideration given to bringing back Howard Schnellenberger for the final four games of the season. Schnellenberger founded the FAU football program and was its only coach until he retired and Pelini was hired to replace him.
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