Carl Pelini Admits to Illegal Drug Use, Resigns from FAU, Will It Kill Program?

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterOctober 30, 2013

Former FAU head coach Carl Pelini
Former FAU head coach Carl Pelini

Southern Cal got the coaching carousel moving late in September when the Trojans fired Lane Kiffin after three-and-a-half years in L.A., and that carousel kept moving on Wednesday when Florida Atlantic coach Carl Pelni resigned after only 20 games at the helm.'s Brett McMurphy tweeted that Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis both resigned after an off-the-field issue came to light:

Source told @ESPN Carl Pelini & DC Pete Rekstis resign at FAU. They attended recent social event where pot was used & agreed to resign

Florida Atlantic athletic director Patrick Chun didn't confirm the specifics of the incident that led to Pelini's resignation, but did confirm the basis of McMurphy's report, according to Dieter Kurtenbach of the Sun Sentinel:

Pelini and Rekstis both admitted to what FAU athletic director Pat Chun called “illegal drug use.”

To add insult to injury—and unemployment—Pelini and Rekstis were escorted away from the FAU football facility by police, according to Kurtenbach.

Pelini released a statement apologizing for his actions, according to

I apologize for exercising poor judgment. My greatest concerns at this time are for me 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.

Former Florida Atlantic head coach Carl Pelini
Former Florida Atlantic head coach Carl Pelini

So where is forward?

A sudden change amid scandal is sometimes tougher for a smaller school to recover from, as opposed to places like USC and Ohio State where the program sells itself. 

Pelini was a putrid 5-15 overall at FAU, 2-6 this season and the Owls were fresh off of a 45-10 loss on the road to Auburn last weekend.

But Auburn was the proving grounds for someone who could become the next FAU head coach—former Auburn assistant coach Eddie Gran.

Gran is currently serving as Tommy Tuberville's offensive coordinator at Cincinnati and has spent time with Tuberville on the Plains and at Ole Miss in addition to stints as an assistant at Tennessee and Florida State.

He's the exact man FAU needs to move forward.

While Gran is known as a coach who can get the most out of his running backs, his connection to the South Florida region is what makes him particularly attractive. He has made a name for himself in coaching circles throughout his career for being an ace recruiter in the Sunshine State.

While FAU won't get the state's top talent, he certainly has the connections to secure a hefty portion of the middle tier that schools like FAU, FIU, South Florida and UCF rely on.

Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports agrees that Gran would be top candidate, and also threw out an Ohio State angle in a tweet on Wednesday:

Would think guys with #OhioSt ties to AD Pat Chun will have a shot at FAU vacancy as well as Cincy OC Eddie Gran who has lots of pull in SF.

Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, who was the head coach of the Buckeyes in 2011 after Jim Tressel resigned, could also emerge as one of the top contenders for the gig.

Former Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell
Former Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell/Getty Images

Another option would be former FIU head coach and current Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal.

Cristobal coached at FIU from 2007-12, before being dismissed shortly after last season. He's spent the majority of his career in South Florida, first as a player for the Miami Hurricanes and then as a coach with the program before taking the FIU job.

It's hard to imagine a scenario in which having experience on staff with current Tide head coach Nick Saban wouldn't help.

FAU can be successful, as long as it finds the right man for the job. 

FAU, which is right in the center of a fertile recruiting ground, is only 12 years old and just moved into its new FAU Stadium in 2011. The program joined Conference USA this year and while that doesn't necessarily raise eyebrows, it certainly can—and should—contend for the C-USA title considering the resources it has and the talent around the program.

As for Pelini, Carl and his brother Bo, the embattled head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, probably are in for a rough holiday season, as USA Today's Rachel Bachman tweeted:

Rule No. 1 at Pelini Thanksgiving: No talking about work.

Well played.