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Carl Pelini resigns as FAU football coach due to 'illegal drug use'

The FAU head coach and his defensive coordinator unexpectedly quit during the middle of the season. Now we sort of know why.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Update: At a Wednesday press conference, athletic director Pat Chun said head coach Carl Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis admitted "illegal drug use" to him after being confronted with evidence, then agreed to resign. Later on ESPN West Palm Beach radio, Chun said the resignation was immediate. "No other football staff or student-athletes were involved," says Chun, adding that all other coaches will remain on staff.

The two coaches were escorted away by police, but not arrested, and won't be able to address the team's players. Chun later said that the police escort is standard procedure for outgoing employees.

FAU's search for its next head coach is underway. Names being widely thrown around include Alabama assistant head coach Mario Cristobal, Cincinnati offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, and Miami offensive coordinator James Coley, all of whom have ties to South Florida, but there's been no reporting on candidates yet.

"I apologize for exercising poor judgment," Pelini said in a statement. "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."

Chun also released a statement:

It is with profound disappointment and sadness that I announce the resignation of Florida Atlantic University Head Football Coach Carl Pelini and Defensive Coordinator Pete Rekstis. They tendered their resignations to me late this morning after I confronted both coaches with reports relating to their use of illegal drugs.

On Monday, I was made aware of these concerns and I immediately reported the allegations to our General Counsel. The University acted quickly and decisively to follow up and take action that is in the best interests of our student-athletes and the University overall. I can assure you that we have no information that suggests anyone other than these two individuals engaged in these activities.

I am personally very saddened for our student-athletes, coaches and staff. I just met with the players a few moments ago and notified them of the news. As you could imagine, the reaction was shock, dismay and disbelief. What I do know is that the FAU football team is a resilient group of young men and they will work through this, and learn and grow from this experience. It is a heartbreaking day for us all.

I'd like to emphasize that nothing takes a higher priority than the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes. We will work to ensure that any student-athletes' questions and concerns are addressed. And let me reiterate, we have no information indicating any student-athletes were involved in any illegal activities.

Offensive Coordinator Brian Wright will serve as interim head coach, effective immediately. I have great confidence in his abilities to lead this football program. When I asked Brian to take this role he accepted it without hesitation. He is surrounded by eight assistant coaches that are 100 percent committed to our program and student-athletes.

Also worth noting:

Original story: Florida Atlantic head football coach Carl Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis resigned in the middle of the Owls' season Wednesday, with ESPN's Brett McMurphy reporting it's due to marijuana use. It's not clear whether the coaches themselves are accused of having used drugs.


A source said the coaches attended a recent social event where marijuana was used. Although this appears to be an isolated incident, all involved determined it was in the best interest of the program that the coaches resign, the source said.

To say the least, that's not the news most were expecting. From the scene right before FAU's announcement:

Pelini's resignation was reported earlier Wednesday, coming as a surprise just days before Florida Atlantic plays against C-USA contender Tulane. The Owls are 2-6 this season, and looked improved from their 3-9 mark in Pelini's first season last year. Two days prior to the news, Pelini gave his regular, weekly press conference.

Pelini was hired in 2012 as FAU's second-ever head football coach. Howard Schnellenberger started the program in 2001, and coached it through the 2011 season.

He came to Florida Atlantic from Nebraska, where he served as his brother Bo's defensive coordinator and defensive line coach. At Nebraska, he developed a reputation as a man with a quick temper. Florida Atlantic was Pelini's first collegiate head coaching position.

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