Carl Pelini Should Take the Fifth on Reported Lawsuit


I’m not a lawyer — there are no shortage of sports bloggers who fill that niche — but I don’t think I need to pass the state bar to know Carl Pelini suing his former FAU assistant coach, Matt Edwards. Sports Illustrated‘s Thayer Evans first reported the defamation suit.

Edwards notified administrators FAU administrators of the alleged drug use that led to Carl Pelini’s resignation, un-resignation and subsequent firing as the Owls head coach in October 2013. Oh, and did I mention this FAU mess also includes charges of a tawdry affair between Edwards and a booster.

Pelini’s case seems tailor-made for Saul Goodman. Unfortunately for Carl, Youngstown, Ohio, is a trek from Albuquerque, and a lawsuit that, on its face, appears to be predicated on the precedence of “snitches get stitches” only reflects poorly on Carl Pelini.

That’s in direct conflict with Pelini’s stated intention. He told Evans, “I feel like this is going to be an opportunity for me to go under oath and state the facts as they really happened.”

Pelini has a prime opportunity to focus exclusively on football and let the sordidness of FAU become a faded memory. Bo Pelini just this month tabbed his embattled brother as an assistant at Youngstown State, Bo’s landing spot after a bitter falling out with Nebraska and athletic director Shawn Eichorst.

Sports have an uncanny way of eliciting forgiveness. Public contrition expressed through the media, a small-program redemption tour and otherwise laying low is a formula for climbing back up the coaching ranks.

A track record of winning also helps, like Bobby Petrino. He was back as a head coach one year removed from his own soap opera at Arkansas, and heading a Power 5 program in two years.

Now, Carl Pelini hardly has the coaching cachet of Bobby Petrino, and given the severity of Pelini’s alleged transgressions, a return as a Div. I head coach might be out of the cards. But other past head coaches worked their way from ugly incidents into assistants’ roles with major programs.

Take Jim Leavitt, the former USF head coach fired for striking a player. Leavitt was hired as Colorado’s defensive coordinator this offseason, marking his return to the college game after six years away.

Carl Pelini has an example who rehabilitated his coaching career right in Pelini’s current stop, Youngstown State.

Former Kansas head coach Mark Mangino — himself a branch of the same coaching tree from which the Pelinis sprouted — spent the 2013 at Youngstown State. Mangino’s return from a four-year absence was quiet, save the occasional reminder of his humble turn in the wake of being fired at Kansas for verbally abusing players.

Mangino is now at Iowa State, back in the Big 12 as an offensive coordinator. Would Mangino have been an attractive candidate for Cyclones head coach Paul Rhoads if Mangino’s return to the coaching spotlight came with a rehashing of Mangino’s past and legal battle to clear his name?

It’s doubtful.

Of course, until I pass the Ohio bar, Carl Pelini has no reason to heed my legal advice. But precedent really does suggest he’s better off pleading the Fifth now that he’s back in coaching.