Update: ‘Illegal drug use’ prompted Carl Pelini’s resignation

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UPDATED 4:24 p.m. ET: At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, athletic director Pat Chun confirmed that head coach Carl Pelini, along with defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis, has resigned.  Chun also confirmed that the resignations occurred after the two coaches were confronted about reports of illegal drug use, which the AD said both admitted to.

It was previously reported that Pelini and Rekstis were in attendance at some type of gathering in which marijuana was being used.

Pelini apologized “for exercising poor judgement.”

While police escorted the two coaches from the football facility this morning, Chun stated that this situation was simply “an HR matter.”  No police, other than the escort, were involved.

Offensive coordinator Brian Wright will serve as the interim head coach.    Linebackers coach Jevan Dewitt will replace Rekstis as defensive coordinator.

Chun said that a national search is already underway for a permanent replacement.

Here’s the complete statement, attributed to Chun, released by the university:

“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.”

________________________

Based on one report, we’re back to one Pelini brother as a head coach at the FBS level.

ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy is reporting that Carl Pelini has stepped down as the head coach at FAU.  A press conference is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET today to announce the move.

It’s unclear if the decision to resign was voluntary on Pelini’s part or involuntary.  What is clear is that the resignation is effective immediately.

Pelini, the brother of Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, was in his second season with the Owls.  He went 3-9 his first season, with FAU tripping and stumbling its way to a 2-6 mark his second year and the football program’s first in Conference USA.

UPDATED 3:49 p.m. ET: Ahead of the press conference, there were a couple of interesting developments regarding Pelini’s resignation.

First, coachingsearch.com reported that “cops were at the FAU facility this morning;” for what reason is unclear.

Secondly, it was reported by Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com that Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis were in attendance at a “recent social event where pot was used & agreed to resign.”

It’s highly unlikely school officials will confirm publicly the reported developments, but stay tuned.

Arizona State will likely be without Merlin Robertson for Las Vegas Bowl

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Arizona State already knew they would be without its best player on the offensive side of the ball for the postseason.  Now, the Sun Devils will be without one of its top players on the other side of the ball for good measure.

Wednesday, Herm Edwards confirmed that linebacker Merlin Robertson will likely not play in Saturday’s Las Vegas Bowl matchup against MWC champ and 21st-ranked Fresno State.  According to the Arizona Republic, “Robertson did not make the trip to Las Vegas with the team because he is dealing with a family emergency which came up Monday, the day before the team left.”

Said Edwards, “It is too bad Merlin can’t be here with us, but he needs to be with his family.”

Robertson currently leads the Sun Devils in tackles (77), tackles for loss (8½) and sacks (five).  Earlier this month, Robertson was named as the Pac-12’s Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.

If Robertson is unable to go, redshirt junior Khaylan Kearse-Thomas would get the starting nod.  Kearse-Thomas is tied for fourth on the team with six tackles for loss.

Report: FIU RB Shawndarrius Phillips played entire 2018 season while being wanted on domestic violence warrant

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This isn’t a good look for Butch Davis or his Florida International football program — or law enforcement.  At all.

According to the Miami Herald, FIU running back Shawndarrius Phillips was arrested Wednesday for domestic battery by strangulation.  The arrest stemmed from a June incident involving an ex-girlfriend, for which an arrest warrant was issued Aug. 24 by a Broward County court.

WSVN-TV in Miami writes that “Phillips was set to leave for the Bahamas for a bowl game with the team when officers picked him up on an outstanding warrant.”

Phillips saw action in 11 of the Panthers’ 12 games this season, which means the true junior played the entire 2018 regular season while being wanted on a domestic violence charge.  Other than “we have no comment at this time,” an FIU spokesperson has declined to comment on the report, including whether or not the football program was aware of the situation prior to Wednesday’s arrest.

As noted by the Herald, and as is the case as of Friday morning, Phillips’ name is still listed on FIU’s official online roster.

The newspaper also detailed the events of June 17 that led to Phillips’ arrest this week:

[The ex-girlfriend] said a discussion about who she was dating a month after their breakup turned physical when Phillips, who lists at 5-foot-10 and 225 pounds, began choking her with his right hand.

As she struggled to speak or even breathe, she said, “Phillips got her on her feet and walked her back towards his couch until she fell back on the couch,” according to the affidavit.

Scratching his hand, she said, did no good and he remained atop her. She claimed Phillips got off her, saying, “Don’t you ever speak to me or my family again.” He then ordered her out, saying, “If you don’t leave, I’m going to break your jaw.”

Phillips’ 393 yards and four rushing touchdowns were both third on the Panthers this season.  His 117 yards in a 63-24 win over UMass Sept. 15 marked a career-high and was the first time he had passed the century mark in his three seasons.

Gus Malzahn: ‘Was never told I had to change my contract to keep my job’

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So much for that particular storyline.

Late last month, it was reported that Gus Malzahn would be forced to accept a reduced buyout$32 million per his contract — to remain for his seventh season as Auburn’s head football coach.  That report came just a day or so after Bob Stoops‘ name was attached to the job, which the retired former Oklahoma head coach vehemently pushed back against.

In his first meeting in front of the media since that speculation surfaced, Malzahn addressed the talk head-on and left no gray area as to his view of his situation on The Plains.

“A couple things I wanted to clear up that are out there,” the head coach said by way of al.com. “First of all, my contract has not changed one bit. I was never told I had to change my contract to keep my job. I have the support of our athletic director and president. There’s nobody hamstringing me from doing our job.”

In early November, athletic director Allan Greene publicly stated that Malzahn would be the Tigers’ head coach in 2019; this past Monday, in his first public comments since the reports surfaced, Greene reaffirmed his support.

“To confirm, Coach Malzahn is dedicated to this program and he has my support as we work together to move forward,” the AD said in a letter published on the school’s official athletics website. “Our discussions are ongoing, and we will focus on evolving in all facets of the program to achieve better and more consistent results.”

In six seasons at Auburn, Malzahn has posted a 52-27 record overall and a 28-20 mark in SEC play.  After making it to the BCS championship game in his first season, the Tigers have reached double-digits in wins just one season (10-4 in 2017).  After entering this year ranked in the Top 10, AU ended the regular season at 7-5.

Florida, USF tweak future series to move game at Raymond James Stadium up to 2021

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While we came awfully close to seeing Florida play an in-state squad from the AAC (ahem, UCF) this postseason, we’re guaranteed just such a matchup down the road when the Gators hook up with USF for a previously scheduled three-game series. While that 2-for-1 was put on the books back in May, it was just announced by the schools that they’re making a change already.

According to a release, the single game that USF is responsible for at Raymond James Stadium has been shifted up to 2021 instead of the 2023 date originally agreed upon. The pair of games at the Swamp in Gainesville will remain on the docket for 2022 and 2025 so this is just a slight tweak to the series.

The moves help the Gators fill out their (more near-term) future schedules a bit more as they have just a single opening in 2021 after the Bulls adjusted their end of the series. In-state foes USF and Florida State are, however, all that’s on the docket for Florida starting in 2022 and beyond so AD Scott Strickland has some work to do over the coming months and years on that front.

The flip side is that USF has quite the slate of difficult opponents in 2021, with the home-game in Tampa against Florida sandwiched between trips to BYU and N.C. State in the same season. The team does have one more non-conference opening that year, which you would assume would wind up being a lower-level school at home.