Philadelphia, PA – The argument for the legalization of marijuana has raged on for some time now and a once-defined line between supporters and detractors has softened of late, as individual states have passed legislation to not only decriminalize personal use, but in some cases (Colorado, Washington), legalize it altogether.
However, it is still illegal in the state of Florida, and in fact the Sunshine State has some of the toughest laws in the country regarding its use.
Whether you are on the right or left side of the argument is irrelevant, however, when looking at the recent unfortunate news to come out of Florida Atlantic.
Head coach Carl Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis are now former employees of the university as news broke of their illegal drug use at a recent "social event."
"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," said director of athletics Pat Chun at a press conference on Wednesday. "They tendered their resignations to me late this morning after I confronted both coaches with reports relating to their use of illegal drugs."
Florida Atlantic's football team is still in its infant stages, just 13 years in existence since its first foray into gridiron action in 2001. Under legend Howard Schnellenberger from then until 2011, FAU moved from an FCS independent (2001-03) to an FBS independent (2005), to the Sun Belt Conference (2005-2012) to its new home in Conference USA starting this year.
Four winning seasons (2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008) and a pair of bowl games (2007's New Orleans Bowl and 2008's Motor City Bowl) are the foundation Schnellenberger left for the Owls, before retiring in 2011.
Enter Pelini, who certainly had his work cut out for him, coming in after serving as defensive coordinator under his brother Bo at Nebraska. FAU went just 1-11 prior to Pelini's hiring in Schnellenberger's last season at the helm. Getting the right coach to lead the Owls into a new era was a must and Florida Atlantic thought it got its man in Pelini.
Unfortunately, Pelini's lack of judgment at a "social event" has rendered everyone's opinion regarding his hiring moot.
In light of Pelini's actions, Florida Atlantic had no choice but to take swift action.
"On Monday, I was made aware of these concerns and I immediately reported the allegations to our general counsel," Chun said. "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."
Offensive coordinator Brian Wright will lead the team as interim head coach going forward. Linebackers coach Jevan DeWitt will be elevated to defensive coordinator.
Chun is left with the arduous task of putting out the fire that Pelini and Rekstis set with their actions.
"I am personally very saddened for our student-athletes, coaches and staff," Chun said. "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."
A coach at any level is a sacred position and one that comes with a great deal of responsibility, as the molder and shaper of young minds. Whether it is a paying gig or not, the core values remain the same. What changes is the added responsibilities to an employer, a university, a conference and the community at large.
Getting the proverbial hand caught in the cookie jar is tolerated up to a certain level. Recruiting violations and illegal benefits are commonplace and don't usually prevent someone from getting a new coaching job. The same goes for alleged offenses as a disciplinarian (Bobby Knight, Mike Leach). Even using a position of power to engage in a tawdry affair (Bobby Petrino) won't tarnish a reputation enough to keep a coach unemployed, provided he wins games.
However, drug use may be where the line in the sand is drawn. It is probably the one area that could and should keep a coach from getting a new job.
A prepared statement by Pelini was read by Chun at the recent press conference.
"I apologize for exercising poor judgment. 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."
The reality is that Pelini's "poor judgment" has left Chun and the school with no choice but to move forward.
How long that process takes remains to be seen.